Magnus Lindberg on Kraft + Einstürzende Neubauten

My tweet right after the concert on Thursday: “Magnus Lindberg’s Kraft: some very beautiful passages + intriguing spatial effects amidst a joyously chaotic maelstrom of sound.”

It’s a fascinating piece and a gutsy one for the New York Philharmonic to present. I do question the wisdom of programming it alongside Joshua Bell playing the Sibelius Violin Concerto. It threw some of the more conservative ticket-holders a curveball, as they had no idea (unless they’re checked out the promo videos on YouTube) what the Lindberg had in store for them.

There were far more than the “handful” of walkouts Anthony Tommasini noted in his otherwise superlative review in the New York Times. From where we were sitting in the Third Tier of Fisher Hall, we had a birds-eye view of a steady exodus of disgruntled patrons: perhaps 10-15%.

On Friday, I talked about the walkout phenomena with my analytical studies class. One issue we discussed was the notion that many orchestras seem to have of “one audience” vs. the possible lifesaving way forward of cultivating “many audiences.” The former notion seems pretty entrenched at the Phil. I’m glad to see that Alan Gilbert and some of the folks in the press office are exploring ways to curate and cultivate multiple kinds of music-making at the NYPO and leverage social media to find new audience sources. Last year, Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre was a terrific example of that.

But Thursday’s concert seemed to me to be a holdover of the former way of thinking. Get people to come to hear Joshua Bell, and then have the conductor give a lecture explaining why they should like a loud piece with oxygen tanks and multiple gongs in the midst of the audience. I don’t entirely blame the folks who stormed out for being upset, although I do wish they’d taken the hint and left after the concerto if they weren’t up for an adventure.

Still, for those who stayed, it was quite an adventure. Here’s Lindberg discussing the piece.

How often does a promo video (and indeed, program booklet) from the NY Philharmonic namecheck experimental industrial postpunk collective Einstürzende Neubauten? This is perhaps the first time! But one can really see the connections between the group’s aesthetic and Magnus Lindberg’s Kraft in the videos below: check out their percussion setup!

There’s one more performance of Kraft on Tuesday. If you’re in New York, I heartily recommend checking it out!

5 thoughts on “Magnus Lindberg on Kraft + Einstürzende Neubauten

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  2. Nice review. But surely people’s motives for leaving early are many and various; are you sure that ‘disgruntled’ patrons ‘stormed out’ or did people just leave?

    Although the shock of the new probably does drive many people away, as paying patrons in a Capitalist society it is their right to leave, at their discretion, and actually I applaud them for getting as far as they did; eating all of your dinner just because it’s on the plate is not a healthy habit,

    I myself have left concerts early to catch a train or to deal with a knee cramp, but there have been far more times that I have left a performance because I simply did not want to hear the piece through to the end. Is that wrong?

  3. Paul,

    There was an uncomfortable amount of storming out. It didn’t appear to be people trying to catch a train.

    I’m not suggesting that walkouts are never appropriate, nor am I casting aspersions on you for attending to knee cramps. But I do tend to think that the behavior is often rude and distracting. It’s disrespectful to the performers and an imposition on fellow ticket holders. If one has another engagement, perhaps they should leave before the last piece.

  4. No offense taken, and none intended on my part either.

    Three cheers for art that actually reaches the audience, even if it only motivates them to leave. At the premiere of John Adams’ A Flowering Tree’ here in San Francisco at least 50% of the audience didn’t make it back after intermission. It was great that they were paying attention, at least!

    I think you are saying that if you commit to the piece, you should sit through the whole thing, medical emergencies and whatnot notwithstanding, As a parallel example, children should be encouraged to try unusual and exotic foods over time, and not to spit them out immediately, otherwise they will miss out on a wide variety of flavors and tastes that they ought to grow to appreciate.

    But the bottom line is that the Capitalist system entitles the ticket-buyer the decision whether and when to leave. It certainly might be disruptive of the other audience members, but that is the nature of concert hall architecture, and not the fault of the patron. The design of the building prevents easy egress; one is punished for trying to leave early.

    I don’t hold with the ‘respect’ argument. Whether it is ‘disrespectful to the performers’ is akin to thinking that by declining your dessert at Le Bernardin you are insulting the kitchen staff. The performers have been paid plenty for doing their job, you can go home if you have had enough.

    It must have added a frisson of extra percussion to see some NYPhil patrons at their passive aggressive best. I wish I could have seen/heard it!

    What is your model for 21st century concert culture? For me, the 18th Century German church format must change or it will be death to the artform outside of certain very large metropolitan centers. People sitting in rows in silence? It will be looked on as a quaint anachronism in a few years, perhaps even before I am dead. I say, let people vote with their feet, let audiences get used to listening over the noise of their disgruntled seat mates, and let composers stop assuming that the audience isn’t going to walk out on them.

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