August 27, 2008
We’ll get to $$ matters in a future post.  Today:  Pitfalls of paying too much attention to what you think listeners want to hear.
In today’s NY Times  David Brooks writes about the ‘airlessness’  of designing  anything  — in his case, a presidential campaign – by adhering too closely  to  focus  group feedback.  Brooks warns Obama to  “ avoid the focus group over-managing that killed the passion out of men [like] Gore and Kerry.”
~ Do you tailor your work according to audience expectation?  To what extent?
 

In the arts we see this :  Two Russians  made an ironic  career of designing their pictures  according to majority wishes expressed by municipal focus groups, coming together to state what they’d  like to see in a picture:  Abraham Lincoln/George Washington;  a dog;  some water;  trees; etc.     The point wasn’t the pictures;  they were lame.  The point was the emptiness of trying to be “all things to all people”.  
In music, over and over,   I see  composers looking to erase the personal  in their work.   Is it still too painful  to express directly, without any kind of  protective, 
dis-avowing filter?       Or are these composers looking specifically to give back to listeners what the new-fashioned habits of listening seem to crave?
Perhaps guided by attention spans  of slightly greater than a gnat’s length,  a  revised  habit of listening has developed over the last 10 years.  It partakes  of the music,  dipping into a piece, then  letting attention wander for a bit , then dipping into it at some later point, etc.; and it  tends  to connect better with single-affect material,  and  — even more –  with music which does not  narrate, journey,  progress or even develop .
 
Quite different from the previous,  former-age pattern of intense connection in listening — tracking the music’s progress closely, pretty much attentive throughout.  Do   today’s audiences expect  some additional  visual/performance  complement,  some stimulus to another sense along with hearing? 
They seem nervous without that  (manifesting  ADD on a monumental scale).
 
[ In 2003 a photographer, snapping me for a photo to go with a newspaper profile,  remarked that his four-year-old daughter  got very nervous whenever there was silence in their home.  She just expected a bed of noise,  or some  background music to be present as  underscore -- not to be  focussed on --  but just there; and she was  tremendously uneasy when that underscore was gone.  ]
 

One Response to “Connecting Us Up #3 A: Market Intersections”
  1. Mark Winges says:

    “Do you tailor your work according to audience expectation?”

    Well, maybe a little. Considering I’m sometimes an audience member, I write music I’d like to hear.

    I do tailor my work to performer expectation some of the time.

    — Mark Winges

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