5 thoughts on “Do Audiences Listen More Critically to New Works?

  1. Mark Seeley says:

    I agree.
    A few years ago when I was attending a concert at Severance Hall in Cleveland, OH. I heard a world premiere of a work by Sir Harrison Birtwistle. I believe it was a piece entitled “Shadow of Night.” It was a pretty thorny work. And it was juxaposed with Beethoven’s 7th. The Birtwistle seemingly set me up for a very satisfying Beethoven. Birtwistle kind of cleaned my ears out.
    One of my favorite listening experiences is playing Hindemith’s Kammermusik along with Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. Hindemith helps me gain a more satisfying hearing of Bach.

  2. Rachel, I fear your suspicion is correct more often than not. Isn’t that a shame? So many listeners are too apt to approach masterworks are like a pair of old slippers. I suppose that is fine in certain circumstances. Some days are made for comfortable slippers. However, on days when we have the energy to bring fresh ears to familiar music, surprises are waiting for even the most seasoned listener – particularly in a live performance. To plumb the depths of music by Beethoven and many, many others takes more than a lifetime.
    It takes more effort to bring ourselves to new music – there can be so much to assimilate in that first hearing. Depending on the listener’s personality, background, mood and energy level at that first hearing, they may hear it only on an emotional level, an intellectual level, or spiritual level…or some combination of the above.
    It really is the magic of live perforance…combining all the variables in the working out of the forever unique equation of that particular night’s musicians, audience, composer and composition. It will never happen quite the same way ever, ever again.

  3. Rachel Jeffreys says:

    Two very good posts from Mark Seeley and Charles Roberts — my favorite lines are:
    “…cleaned my ears out”
    (words I’ve heard before about “thorny” music);
    and “…[having] the energy to bring fresh ears to familiar music.”
    The Hindemith/Bach comment seems to echo Joan Tower exactly.
    Thank you both for writing.

  4. Theories are great, but the bottom line is, regardless of “old” or “new” music you must commit youself to listen.
    There is always something new to hear with the “old”.
    The “new” is to have the desire to open yourself, ears and emotion, to hearing the individual instruments, sections and the spymphony of it all. That is where the fun and enjoyment lies.

  5. Joel Bader says:

    I used to listen to a public radio station which preferred to play the so-called “old chestnuts”. Eventually, for many reasons, I dumped that station and tried purchasing recordings from such labels as BIS, Naxos and First Edition, seeing if they would appeal to me. Often they did and I did not regret buying them. (Ironically, my locally public station had introduced me to the BIS label, through its recordings of the symphonies of Eduard Tubin. I think that classical music stations, performances and other venues which endeavor to introduce classical music to the public should dump the “old chestnuts” and try works by Eduard Tubin, Stenhammar, Alan Hovhaness, George Frederick McKay, Hugo Alfven and Darius Milhaud. (Some of their works are familiar, but those composers created many works which are little-known to the public.)

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