Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ten Things That Make No Difference Whatsoever To Music, and Things That Do

There's another heap of faff about all this going around, so here are a few...


1. What the conductor wears. As long as he/she does a good job and looks OK. Friend of mine tells me he refuses to wear those popular-alternative-to-white-tie Nehru jackets because they remind him of the Russian mafia.
2. What the orchestra wears. As long as they do a good job and look OK. And people generally look a lot better in evening dress than got up as stage-hands in all-black. They are a team and they should look like one. Saying they shouldn't is as well-informed as saying footballers should be able to wear what they like on the pitch, rather than ugly shorts and outmoded t-shirts in colours that don't suit them.
3. What the audience wears, as long as it doesn't smell.
4. Whether people can take drinks into the hall.
5. Where Valery Gergiev or Simon Rattle will be principal conductor next.
6. Whether the soloist prefers not to wear shoes.
7. What the soloist looks like, ie "hot or not" - as long as he/she is the finest musician there is.
8. Whether the orchestra smiles and throws itself around while playing. It may look fun, remember, but most of that music needs a high level of virtuosity and concentration, and you don't expect a brain surgeon to grin and jig about while he's doing his job, do you?
9. Imagining that none of these things have ever been addressed. They have. They are being addressed constantly, in many of the country's top orchestras. Go to The Rest is Noise and you'll find Vladimir Jurowski talking most eloquently and approachably to the crowd. Go to the OAE and all sorts happens - just wait and see what they're about to do with Vivaldi's best-known piece. Plus go to either and what do you find? Full halls and standing ovations and audiences of all ages shouting for more. You should have heard the reception for the Richard Strauss concert that opened The Rest is Noise the other day! It's just that you have to go there to experience this before you mouth off about it.
10. Writing or reading all that faff yet again. Save yourself the time and go to a good concert instead.


1. Communication. If a conductor or soloist is good at speaking to the audience, people enjoy this. If he/she isn't, then they shouldn't have to, because it can be embarrassing.
2. Good and safe public transport so that people can get home easily afterwards. Parking is also useful.
3. Plenty of choice, and good ambiences, for pre and post-concert food, drink and socialising. A concert is a complete evening out for many.
4. Mobile phones. Bloody mobile phones. Switch them off!
5. Lighting. Not fancy stuff, just low, so that we have to read first and listen during. That's how I prefer it, anyway. It improves concentration.
6. Someone needs to remind orchestras, sometimes, that they're performing the minute they're on the platform. Yawning, slouching and yakking don't make a great impression. Having so said, see above, no.8.
7. Venues that are pleasant, welcoming, comfortable to sit in, well managed, not too cold, not too hot and reasonably atmospheric have an edge over places that are not.
8. How deeply and how well the musicians understand and convey what they are playing.
9. Good acoustics.
10. Going to some.