Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Get Carter

What a great discussion going on over at Classical Notes! There is also another posting at New Music Box.
This is my response to Don Lee's post:
Don and his non-broadcasting friend bring up an interesting point, that a "concert performance engaged him in a way that a radio broadcast of the piece would not have done."
There are several questions to about why this was more engaging...is it the visual side to music making or seeing the performer? Is it sitting in a wonderful hall with fine acoustics? Is it knowing you're one of many audience members enjoying the music?
Also, how often do you "put down the op-ed pages, turn up the radio and just listen?" with any radio broadcast: music or news?
Is radio meant to be background or foreground? Is it art or business?
Let's take a piece from the early 20th Century not as challenging as the Messiaen or Carter, Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos as an example. If you listen to it on the radio or from your cd/ipod/musical device, you'll hear the notes played by performers X & Y with Z orchestra. Yet you won't see the interaction of the brilliant orchestration of Poulenc when pianist X plays with the violins on the right side of the stage and pianist Y play with the cellos on the left side of the stage. It really is stunning to see, besides hearing it. So should you only enjoy the Poulenc in a live performance and not a recording? You may not be as engaged by it.
Violinist Joshua Bell is currently on tour with a recital, and soon to be playing on tour with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. He is a performer who communicates brilliantly on his recordings, yet seeing him play live is another level. His recital partner on the current tour, Jeremy Denk is someone who is constantly communicating with Bell on stage. Yet both shouldn't be missed on recording or the radio, or in the hall.
I truly believe if radio stations played Carter as much as they play Stamitz, Mozart and Vivaldi that it would not be the case that a 14 minute piano & orchestra work by Elliott would be more engaging in the concert hall, or while reading the business ads of the Star Tribune. Engaging music is engaging music.
We should always ask ourselves why. Why is live music engaging on Performance Today? Why is the programming engaging from the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra? Why is a break engaing on Classical 24? Why interview a composer for Composing Thoughts? If it is not engaging, why isn't it? Perhaps it is not the music. I'll take Carter anyday over Vivaldi.
[pictured above right, Poulenc; pictured above left, Carter]

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