Q:Hi Sally! Looking forward to seeing you perform with Philip Glass in a couple of weeks!
You’re coming to the concert? Oh yay! Please come and say hullo after the show. That’d be ace.
Q:Sally, Thanks for the tip on London Grammar. Had not heard (of) them and am enjoying their KEXP set as I write. How to introduce classical music to a new audience? I grew up with classical in the house, but it didn't take for many years. When I got into contemporary classical, it was because it resonated with other musics, most prominently, electronica, e.g., Portico Quartet. But I agree that the youngest crowds are likely out of reach. The post-rock crowd would seem the best beachhead to claim.
So glad you like London Grammar. They are ace!
Re the ‘youngest crowds’… I actually don’t think it has anything to do with age as such. That is, I’m quite privileged to know plenty of young people who love classical music! But I do think it has a deal to do with experience. Not exposure, but experience. I once heard someone say that it has to do with having an emotional experience with classical music, or indeed any other artform. As a classical musician, I see it as my job to bring that emotional experience to as many people as I can. Am doing my best in my own little corner of the world *grin*
How is it possible that I’m overwhelmed and underwhelmed by something at the same time?!?!
They want to grow the youth audience for classical music so juxtapose the music with a youth pop culture reference. OK, I get it. But I do often wonder exactly why initiatives such as these seem to want to target the kind of youth audience that watches/listens to Miley Cyrus and Rihanna. I suspect that they are too tough a market to crack. On the other hand, there are plenty of highly educated, intelligent, curious people out there who are not classical music fans but they listen to the smarter end of pop music… like, I dunno, London Grammar or Bjork or Rufus Wainright. Now, I am convinced that if classical music world learnt to effectively communicate with those people, we would increase our audience. Music videos don’t have to be so highly sexualised and vaguely exploitative to be popular. (Gotye+Kimbra anyone?)
Also, it is not only young people who are not listening to classical music. There are plenty of older folk who prefer Jimi Hendrix or The Beatles or Pink Floyd or y’know, the music of their own youth to Beethoven and Mozart. Are those people won over by classical music + soft porn? Only as far as the porn itself. I doubt they’re rushing out to buy Dvorak.
This week, I got my very favourite review I’ve ever received and it was from a self professed “musical novice”.
Generally when you’re a classical performer, the reviews you get are from specialist classical music writers. This is all well and good but there is a certain sense of preaching-to-the-converted about it. After all, who’s going to read those reviews? Only people already interested in classical music which doesn’t give much help to those performers like myself who are keen to expand our audience further.
So I was pretty chuffed when this review appeared. After I read the review, I immediately backtracked. What were the things that I said in my publicity materials and in my press release to garner the interest of a ‘novice’? Basically it was two very simple things.
1. I framed the event in terms of something that means a great deal to at least 50% of the population - feminism.
2. I spoke in a vernacular kind of way, without the use of musical jargon.
And it worked! It made me smile all over my face to read the words she used to describe the music (“Uplifting, complex, intriguing”) and also my presentation (“Articulate, charming, passionate”). It meant much more to me than a musicology-trained critic’s analysis.
I want all the world to know how great classical music is, how great classical music by women composers is. It’s all about communication, speaking to those who’ve never had a classical music experience in a language they can understand. This does not mean ‘dumbing down’, as there are plenty of smart, educated, curious people out there who are not classical music fans. It means classical music world making connections with these people. Classical musicians need to respect the tastes, the experiences, the intelligence of those from ‘outside’ and invite them into the experience. That’s gotta help expand our audience.
Green trees, oil on canvas by Glennda Blyth (she’s my partner, I’m super proud of her!)Anyway, this hangs on the wall quite close to my workspace. It helped inspire me whilst I was writing the prologue text for my new Dr. Seuss inspired composition for the Leichhardt Espresso Chorus. It’s a kind of eco allegory and is shaping up quite nicely.
Picture this paradise now, if you will,
A great verdant forest, so calm and tranquil
Fine tuned ecosystems that balance just right
The crawlers, the creepers, the ones blessed with flight
All living together as happy as Larry
There’s no need to rush. There’s no cause to tarry.
Each knows his place in the great scheme of things
He may take what he likes, as long as he brings
Back to the forest a gift of his own
You can trust here that you’re never ever alone.