Our pal Frank Oteri has written a contribution for Take A Friend to the Orchestra, and it’s up today.  Frank describes taking his friend Joe Ornstein to the ACO concert at Zankel Hall a few weeks ago.  Ornstein is smart and funny and pulls no punches–it’s a good read.  “People who go to the three-B concerts are snobs generally speaking. And if they aren’t, I don’t know what the hell they’re doing there.”  I actually met Joe at that concert and we had a lovely chat during intermission.

My own essay on the structural differences between the popular music experience and the classical music experience and how those differences make recruiting new audience members difficult can be found here.

Bill Harris, an expert on organizational systems, wrote a fascinating systems analysis of the potential effectiveness of programs like TAFTO.  You can, and should, get your geek on here.

And back on April 4, Leonard Slatkin spun a couple of yarns that illustrate the importance of putting on truly inspirational concerts if you really care about finding new audiences.

That’s just a sampling–there’s other good stuff too.

3 thoughts on “TAFTO Highlights So Far”
  1. Gah, sorry about the unclosed HTML tag and the missing bit I was responding to (about reverence hindering socialization at concerts). Any chance of this fine establishment getting a preview button?

  2. People who go to the three-B concerts are snobs generally speaking. And if they aren’t, I don’t know what the hell they’re doing there

    Bullshit. Total, complete, utter bullshit. My dad, a working class man who spent most of his working life in the Air Force is the antithesis of a snob. He loves the 3 B’s –a lot– and some of the times I’ve seen him at his happiest is at a routine subcription concert of the Los Angeles Philharmonic where they play a Beethoven symphony really well (not often under Salonen but still! 🙂 in the old days of Giulini…) He still talks about a Beethoven 9th (conductor lost to the mists of time) from the 70’s that we went to. Here’s a radical thought for Joe Ornstein: people like the 3 B’s because it’s good music and they want to hear it live because, as he says, there’s nothing like hearing music live. Jeebus, give me snobbery over reverse snobbery any day.

    I read your very interesting pop/classical article and while I agree in broad outlines, there’s a big old elephant in the room that you gloss over in your take on the “complex ecosystem” of pop music: record company support. Every one of those acts that you mention are creations of the pop music industry, they simply would not be at the level they are at –or even at the level of playing 2,000 seat theatres– without the weight of a major record company behind them.

    I spent a ton time in the late 70’s and early 80’s going to clubs here in Los Angeles to hear the cool punk and new wave bands –god X and Bad Religion were amazing in those days– but almost every one of the of the bands I heard then died on the vine if they didn’t get signed by a label, even one of the small independent ones like Slash or SST. I knew some of the musicians and bands broke up all the time because they reached a certain level and, without record company support, weren’t going to move beyond that.

    It’s different now with MySpace and all that, but even the bands that are held up as the wave of the blog/MySpace future such as the Arctic Monkeys and CYHSY! eventually sign with labels and started sucking on the record label teat. Touring rock bands are very, very expensive operations to keep afloat and that’s what’s going to be interesting to see, how bands deal with the implosion of the old model. Hint: they’re going to pine for the days of 7 albums in 7 years deals.

    *sigh* Nothing personal here, I see coments like this (or variations on that theme) all the time, and I simply shake my head. It has nothing to do with reverence, not a thing! It’s very simply to do with the fact that almost all classical concert music has wide dynamic contrasts. It’s easy to socialize in a club where the music is a constant loud roar –like you said, you go outside or hang at the bar– but there’s only one alternative at Disney Hall and the like: people walking around, talking and so forth while the music is playing. That’s simply unacceptable! It’s not because I’m sitting in a tux in my $150 seat after having quaffed a flute of $80 champagne–it’s to do with not interfering with the enjoyment of patrons who are there to listen intently to the music. That’s it, it’s not a nefarious plot by us Beethoven fans to oppress the newbie.

    I went to a Slatkin conducted concert here recently of *shudder* Reich */shudder* > Liszt (piano concerto in Eb) > The Planets. It was as predictable as the sunrise: whenever the music would get quiet (and there’s lots of quiet bits in the Holst), that would be the cue for someone to start talking or opening up a candy VERY LOUDLY. It’s very jarring, it breaks the concentration that one needs to fully appreciate the nuances of the piece and performance and it’s bloody rude! I even had to give a death glare to my bored friend because he kept rustling his programme and turning pages VERY LOUDLY.

    Ah, my bored friend, a first-time classical concert goer. I did my own TAFTO with him. I offered to make a CD of the pieces before hand so he could at least get a feel for the music. “Nah, that’s OK, I want to hear it with fresh ears”. So when I asked why he was bored afterward, he nearly caused my jaw to hit the floor: “There’s too much music! I didn’t know any of it, so my mind wandered”. He then said “I didn’t know what was going on, I didn’t know if it was a good performance or not”. I sneered at him “Well, you dumb bastard, I offered 3 months ago to make you a CD of the pieces that were going to be played, but you didn’t want it. Maybe if you’d taken that CD, and done like I said and put it on while you washed dishes or worked out, you’d have absorbed the music naturally, you’d have at least recognized the tunes, you wouldn’t have been doing all that nonsense with the programme”.

    At that point, my friend found the tops of his shoes were the most interesting thing in the world.

    With ticket prices as high as they are, the audience must either be relatively wealthy, have an interest in classical music that is both broad and deep or be willing to risk not liking part of the program

    Ah, my other pet peeve, the whinge about ticket prices. Conversation with Bored Friend when I was going to buy the tickets.

    Me: I’ll get us the cheap seats, $39.
    Him: That’s cheap?!?!
    Me: How much did you pay for your Lakers ticket two weeks ago?
    Him: About $85, after the Ticketmaster charges.
    Me: How much did you spend on food and beer?
    Him: About $40.
    Me: So, you have no qualms about paying $125 to see the Lakers play the crappy Grizzlies, a game you could have watched at home, but $40 for a concert is excessive?
    Him: Um, well……

    Yes, this is ultimately about spending priorties and classical concerts not being on the radar, but it’s not helped by people like you being alarmist about prices, when tickets are pretty much in line with decent tickets to an NBA/NHL/NFL game or a Broadway-type play.

    To sit in a seat at a Lakers game that doesn’t make Kobe Bryant look like an ant, you have these choices: $220, 190, 135 and 98. That’s for a team that plays 41 home games a year, a good % of which are against teams that the Lakers should be paying *us* to watch! Yes, Bsoton Celtics, I’m looking right at you.

  3. Thank you so much Galen. This is really moving writing about classical music. I wonder if what Slatskin is doing is essentially introducing some good pedagogy into his concerts. It’s nice to know what the composer was like, what he was thinking when wrote the work, the programme of the piece, and to interact with that a little. I enjoy those kind of concerts myself, and I’m much more knowledgable about the history of classical music than most people.

    As someone who loves classical music, it seems to me that the problem is 1) getting people exposed to the art form in the first place. 2) Giving people a framework to listen to the piece in that relates to their previous experiences with music.

    You might be surprised, but in Dayton, things are happening in the classical music community. There has been a real attempt to draw crowds and have them drink coffee while they listen to the music, small chamber concerts with cheap tickets and brief explanations of the works, and actually, we’ve had a couple of setbacks but people are interested.

    We have the Vanguard series out here too, and we’re drawing maybe 40 people, but they’re hearing music that rarely gets played, and some contemporary compositions as well.

    See, I’m the eternal optimist. I think that people want to listen to classical music, and do if they just get the right experience and availability. If my town is supporting chamber music, things can’t be all that bad. I know it’s disappointing that someone like Justin Timberlake makes a fortune for singing a few scraps of notes, and can draw crowds that we can’t even imagine, but people just need to hang in there.

    Another thing I believe is important is that when a popular artist makes music that’s good, we need to recognize them. Philip Glass did a really good thing when he orchestrated “Icct Hedral” by Aphex Twin. That’s a really good composition, and suddenly a bunch of people that never listened to classical music are hearing their music being respected by our community.

    Take Alison Krauss, extremely talented. People love Alison Krauss. It’s great music. Instead of people saying, oh all that crappy popular music, people need to say, well I prefer classical music, but Alison Krauss is really talented. When you tell people the music they love is no good, that’s going to turn them off to the music you want them to hear.

    Well I’m writing a book. Thanks again Galen. It’s the power of positive thinking. Instead of negativity, you try to come up with solutions.

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