The future must bring things which are considered blasphemous like... an atmosphere where people can come and go and even talk perhaps.. and certainly leave in the middle of a movement if they feel like it.That prediction from Jonathan Harvey takes us down an interesting path. One in four Americans over the age of 12 listen to music on iPods and similar digital music players and 37% of those mobile players are owned by 18 to 34 year olds. Those statistics simply confirm what we already know, music and movement are becoming inseparable, particularly among the younger generation. Yet classical music remains an essentially static artform. From the back seat of many concert hall, which is all some young people can afford these days, the musicians are distant motionless dots and the sound lacks slam.
Music and movement go back a long way. Classical music has its roots in medieval dance and David Munrow's Two Renaissance Dance Bands was central to the popular revival of early music in the 1970s. Haydn instructed his musicians to move off the platform during his 'Farewell' Symphony. The title of this post comes from my earliest memories of music appreciation, a class called 'music and movement' at my primary school in the 1950s which was doubtless influenced by G.I. Gurdjieff and Sokol exercises. Chamber music ensemble Domus and other free thinkers have experimented with mobile concert halls. Marching bands continue to combine music and movement. While in the digital age the musicGPS app can capture the mobile soundtrack of your life.
Yet music and movement rarely meet in bricks and mortar concert halls. Surely audiences need to see as well as feel the music? Are there lessons to be learnt from the success of classical music on DVD? Should there be a Jumbotron behind the orchestra and video screens in the seatbacks? Or should the seats be ripped out altogether to allow audiences to experiment with different viewpoints? And whoa! - hold that comment about classical music surviving perfectly well in the past without people walking about, and hear me out.
There is one very successful classical music event that has enshrined music and movement not only in its format but also in its title for more than one hundred years. It is also known as "the world's greatest music festival". Yes, it is the BBC Promenade Concerts. The middle word in that title, and the one which differentiates the annual season from almost every other concert series, is defined as "amble: a leisurely walk (usually in some public place)". Henry Wood challenged silly conventions back in 1895 when he freed classical audiences from the tyranny of the seat. See him doing it here.
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