Some time ago I read a Silicon Valley Business Journal piece about the Symphony Silicon Valley’s Live-to-Projection Lord of the Rings concerts. SSV President, Andrew Bales, expected to sell out the two full runs of the trilogy in their Center for the Performing Arts in San Jose. This would mean selling out 15,000 seats for the two cycle run, and if an early review in the San Jose Mercury News is any indication (11,000 tickets had already been sold), then it’s like that SSV came close to that goal.
Since I’ve been collecting data on Orchestras in the US I’ve come across a bewildering number of types. Contrary to the idea that a Modern Orchestra is just the culmination of a early-19th/mid-20th century Anglo-European styled large ensemble designed for repertoire requiring the large forces required by some of the most often played repertoire by these groups, the orchestra never stopped evolving. My previous post was about how the field is alive because it’s still constantly evolving. This post is a just a brief summary of how Orchestras have evolved since the early 20th century. For relevant links to my lists of some of the types of ensembles, just go to the navigation bar above.
A few weeks ago I read a clickbait piece on mic.com, “How The Music Industry Is Brainwashing You to Like Bad Pop Songs.” It linked to a study showing how the emotion centers of the brain light up in fMRIs when familiar tunes were played to the test subjects. This isn’t a particularly surprising result. The phenomenon has been well documented in psychological studies and is one of the most robust psychological phenomena around. The seminal research was done in a recall test using Chinese characters. It showed that test subjects could only recall characters they were shown previous at little better than chance levels, but when asked which characters the subjects liked, invariably the characters they were shown earlier were picked.
This is an aspect of human psychology that gives interesting ammo to both sides of the Classical Music Crisis debate. The idea that Pop music is somehow more relevant to contemporary culture loses some of its force when we realize that the constant bombardment of [Euro-American] pop tunes insures that a relatively big audience will “prefer” them to Classical Music, or Bollywood Music, or whatever genre happens to not be dominant in the US at the time. It’s simply a reflection of the “mere exposure effect.”
In my previous post about tools for the 21st Century Musician, I discussed improvisation as probably the most useful tool musicians can be using. In a way, technology is even more indispensable. Unless our voice is our primary or only instrument (and even then there are exceptions), then nearly everything we make music on is the result of some level of technology. Whether we’re talking about the technology of carved bone flutes and dried skins over a wooden frame, or the highly advanced craft that luthiers use to carve/mold stringed instruments, or the ability to build circuitry or program for electronic instruments or computers, there is always some level of technology involved in the making of musical instruments.
In a recent Telegraph piece by Hannah Furness we’re told that Peter Sellars has called for the end of Mass art forms
In a speech about the importance of art, Sellars argued the changing world had left consumers wanting a different experience from simple, traditional mass market.
Saying opera had an “irrational beauty” which is “incredibly powerful” in front of an audience, he added: “Meanwhile the new technology means you don’t to have an opera house to do an opera
“In fact, most young people don’t want to go to an opera house and it’s not how those people want to have a good time, to sit with 5,000 other people.
“In fact, what’s very exciting is some of the most exciting opera experience I’ve had is in a room with 15 other people, or 30 or 40 whatever, in an intimate situation.
As I’ve shown numerous times at this blog, the same can be said about large scale pop or stadium/arena rock shows as well as Sporting events which often take place in big stadiums. But does this mean the end of large scale mass entertainment or art forms? I’m not so sure.