Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length

Evolution of the classical listening experience

Quote
Public concerts didn’t become widespread until after 1800, and well into the nineteenth century they took the form of “miscellanies”—eclectic affairs at which all kinds of music were played before audiences that seldom sat still or quieted down.

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/musical/2008/09/08/080908crmu_music_ross?currentPage=all

Interesting study on the evolution of the classical experience.

Yes. I've heard this before, specially from people who wants to turn all classical into an Andre Rieu show.

I'm not aware of the exact level of boisterousness during the 'aristocratic, pre-bourgeois' times of classical, in any case, I'm glad to hear no clap.

Ross followed this article with another interesting one specifically on the history of applauses within classical performances. I'm personally ambivalent about this issue. In a way, I do think that there is a part of the répertoire that is better served with an almost absolute silence from the audience. I went to a performance of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde earlier this year where not only did the public manage to stay entirely silent during the whole, lenghty composition, but where the conductor was also able to keep this silence for what seemed like an eternity, long after the very last note had been played, thereby decupling the effect of this staggering music. It was a phenomenal performance though, the conductor and the orchestra had earned this magical moment that just couldn't have been possible had the audience been chatting and clapping all the way through it.

But then, I do also have a problem with what I consider to be an excessive and unecessary reverence toward works that don't exactly warrant it. I don't have any issues with people applauding or shouting between the movements or after the cadenza of a romantic concerto for instance, as long as the praises are well deserved and don't become dogmatically applied to every single run-through of the work. Because that's the issue here, classical music has been held on a pedestal for so long now that people are just too intimidated by its reputation to follow their gut feeling after they listen to a work, so they foregoe their own opinions and mimic the crowd's reaction instead. Thing is, the crowd's even more clueless than they are, so you end up with an ovation that's more often than not proportional to the reputation of the performer instead of to the quality of the performance.

I don't have any issues with people applauding or shouting between the movements

This is what I find to be the most monstrous destruction of the purpose of music on the part of the audience. I can tolerate (but not enjoy) the applause at the beginning and the end of a performance and at the causation and cessation of an intermission but when it is applied between movements it ruins whatever spirit that was meant to carry through more than a single piece. It becomes a set of individual and unrelated musical works.  A concerto becomes three works, not a work in three parts.

Read the article I mentionned again, these kind of exhuberent behaviours were not only tolerated but also expected and embraced by the composers themselves. On the contrary, if there's anything lost through this interaction between the audience and the performers, it was meant to be lost because thought unappropriate for the circumstances.

And you're overdramatizing the effect that these disruptions actually have on one's appreciation and understanding of the music. A one minute interruption between contrasting movements shouldn't cause you to lose all your concentration.

I consider listening to music a form of meditation. I find unnecessary noise to detract from the overall experience. Yes listening to a work with applause in between movements can be enjoyable, just as listening to Beethoven on a small cheap portable radio but I find it more pleasurable to hear a work uninterrupted and Beethoven from a live orchestra. If one listened to Burzum's Hvis Lyset Tar Oss with the television on and un-muted in the background I could still enjoy it but it would be hard to open yourself fully to the work.

I do not care what the conventions were of the past or of the present for there are indeed modern practices that I do greatly dislike. I certainly do understand that the protocols of modern performance are worlds apart from earlier times but that does not mean I have to respect past practices. Like Glen Gould I have come to grow a strong antagonism to the audience. He chose to stop performing live and he focused on recording. I chose to stop attending performances and to listen to recordings.

I consider listening to music a form of meditation.

Something similar happened during Middle Ages. The liturgical, sacred purpose of music made it contemplative, in opposition to the festivity of profane music. Even though folk music has an impact across the History of formal, western music, the reverential approach through liturgy is an essential trait that distinguished even the stylistic development of classical music.

Quote


By around 1900, a portion of the public had embraced the idea that certain works should be heard in rapt silence. An Encyclopedia Britannica article in the pre-World War I period, which Howard Shanet quotes in his history of the New York Philharmonic (p. 144), observes: “The reverential spirit which abolished applause in church has tended to spread to the theatre and the concert-room, largely under the influence of the quasi-religious atmosphere of the Wagner performances at Baireuth"

[...]

If I want to contemplate the music in perfect silence, I can listen at home. In the concert hall, I want a communal experience, and applause is one way I feel the presence of fellow listeners, form a common bond with them. The elimination of applause and other passionate gestures turns concerts into yet another solitary, private activity.

http://www.therestisnoise.com/2005/02/applause_a_rest.html


Thanks humanism for secularizing classical music.


That was a very interesting article. I especially liked the part where it said that classical music was not a Buddhist ritual as silence seems to make it so but entertainment where people are free to express their enjoyment. While it may not be a Buddhist ritual the classical music I enjoy invokes the same sorts of mindfulness and concentration that befits a Buddhist ritual.

Thanks humanism for secularizing classical music.
What a silly thing to say. That's exactly his point here, if you're into music only for the religious aspect of it, the possibility to embrace this facet of the musical experience is even more accessible now than ever before with the advent of high quality recordings.

That was a very interesting article. I especially liked the part where it said that classical music was not a Buddhist ritual as silence seems to make it so but entertainment where people are free to express their enjoyment. While it may not be a Buddhist ritual the classical music I enjoy invokes the same sorts of mindfulness and concentration that befits a Buddhist ritual.
Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto. That's the piece associated with the mention of Buddhist monuments in the article I first mentionned. Does this 'invokes the same sorts of mindfulness and concentration that befits a Buddhist ritual' to you? Sure doesn't to me and neither does any of the romantic concerti that I'm familiar with, and there's really nothing surprising with this because that's just not what they're meant to evoke.

Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto. That's the piece associated with the mention of Buddhist monuments in the article I first mentionned. Does this 'invokes the same sorts of mindfulness and concentration that befits a Buddhist ritual' to you? Sure doesn't to me and neither does any of the romantic concerti that I'm familiar with, and there's really nothing surprising with this because that's just not what they're meant to evoke.

Not all classical music is the same, something on which I am sure we agree. I find most to have some charms and I can accept the goals of much of it but I only reverently follow a small group that hasten my way to satiety. This is why I for the most part avoid the Romantics with the exception of the Schumann, Brahms, the vocal works by Mendelssohn and Chopin (I consider Beethoven and Schubert to be part of the late classical period which is why they were not included in the previous list).

Just as there are analogues between certain ascetic Christian practices and certain ascetic Buddhist practices so to do I think that much or the west’s sacred music is suitable for the use in attaining Buddhist goals. It would be more accurate for me to say Buddhist virtues rather than goals since I do not believe in such things as Nirvana or the many spirits and gods that are assumed to exist by some sects but rather their worldly aims such as magnanimity, humility, satiety and anti-materialism.

However this has now gone off topic. There certainly is no objective measure to say which performance practice is greater but for the aims that I possess silence is by far preferable to boisterous noise.

Thanks humanism for secularizing classical music.
What a silly thing to say. That's exactly his point here, if you're into music only for the religious aspect of it, the possibility to embrace this facet of the musical experience is even more accessible now than ever before with the advent of high quality recordings.

Cool, we all agree that silence is the ideal state for religious contemplation. I ask you, what's left in classical music without this religious substance? Humanism. (The work of some romantics is highly religious in spite of its latter arrival in History, specially from those fully differentiated from the "classical" period; it's not surprising that Wagner's admirers noticed this state of affairs).

High quality recordings never equate live performance.

Not all classical music is the same, something on which I am sure we agree. I find most to have some charms and I can accept the goals of much of it but I only reverently follow a small group that hasten my way to satiety.
That's what I've been trying to get through, not all classical music is meant to be followed reverently. I realise that I'm probably twisting your intent by saying this (i.e. you don't even make that claim to begin with, and by reverently, you most likely mean the ones that you prefer rather than the ones that you venerate, if I can express myself this crudely) but it's something that's important to understand, I think.

That's what bothers me most about attending performances, often the reaction of the crowd doesn't match what's happening on the stage, at all. People treat composers like Liszt or Beethoven with a reverence and a restraint that'd be far more appropriate to Bruckner or Bach, which goes to show that they just haven't understood anything about the music at all.

And I should probably add that you're touching something pretty interesting with your second paragraph. That's another thing that bothers me with classical music as a whole: people give too much importance to the context surrounding a work, often to the detriment of the actual musical content. Celibidache's made very clear in my mind that Bruckner's music has some affinities with the Buddhist conception of the world, his ultra slow and ponderous approach isn't my favourite (I like my Bruckner pretty muscular overall, I tend to find his destructive and heroic side very appealing), but his ways are nonetheless defendable and they've allowed me to learn something about the composer that you just can’t get from reading about the failures of his personal life.


Cool, we all agree that silence is the ideal state for religious contemplation. I ask you, what's left in classical music without this religious substance? Humanism. (The work of some romantics is highly religious in spite of its latter arrival in History, specially from those fully differentiated from the "classical" period; it's not surprising that Wagner's admirers noticed this state of affairs).
The intellectual and the unabashedly physical, emotional aspect. Call that humanism if you'd like, I call them unavoidable facets of the human experience.

High quality recordings never equate live performance.
Great studio recordings can lend a clarity to the music that's almost impossible to match live. Obviously you do end up losing some of the spontaneity and a part of the sheer excitement that comes with seeing the actual performance, but then the two aren't mutually exclusive. There's advantages and inconvenient to both the live and the not live, which is why I see no reason to avoid either.

Cool, we all agree that silence is the ideal state for religious contemplation. I ask you, what's left in classical music without this religious substance? Humanism. (The work of some romantics is highly religious in spite of its latter arrival in History, specially from those fully differentiated from the "classical" period; it's not surprising that Wagner's admirers noticed this state of affairs).
The intellectual and the unabashedly physical, emotional aspect. Call that humanism if you'd like, I call them unavoidable facets of the human experience.

High quality recordings never equate live performance.
Great studio recordings can lend a clarity to the music that's almost impossible to match live. Obviously you do end up losing some of the spontaneity and a part of the sheer excitement that comes with seeing the actual performance, but then the two aren't mutually exclusive. There's advantages and inconvenient to both the live and the not live, which is why I see no reason to avoid either.

I'm not against boisterousness on music, a lot of folk music is about it, even death metal gigs, and they're not precisely humanist.  But I can't understand classical music without a religious approach, it goes against its spirit, and it was obviously in hand with the becoming humanization of modernism and the desacralization of aristocratic arts. Sorry if I overdramatized, but I have zero tolerance for 'noise' in classical.