While attending a narrative-based performance requires concentration and memory in order to make sense of the work (Woodruff, 2008), the enjoyment of a classical concert as an event (rather than merely as a performance) can come from engaging with the music/performance and/or with one’s inner dialogue.
Lydia Goehr’s (1992) book The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works consolidates this idea by examining the rise of the ‘work concept’ in the late eighteenth century, especially through what she terms the ‘separability principle’, by which ‘it became the custom to speak of the arts as separated completely from the world of the ordinary, mundane, and everyday’. (Goehr, 1992: 157) This quote also demonstrates how going to concerts inevitably involves a degree of risk (cf. Radbourne et at., 2009). Unlike a recording or a film, it is impossible to read a review of the exact ‘product’ before you ‘buy’ it; but, counter-intuitively, expectations about the performance may be higher, generated by the anticipation of seeing a unique performance that is therefore a rarer commodity than more widely available mediatized products.
A description of enjoyment being shaped by ‘watching star performers, hearing new interpretations’ reiterates that live experience offers authenticity: it allows concert attenders to experience the work of performers whom they know they like, but in a live capacity: therefore witnessing performance quality in the most direct way possible, as well as being privy to a performance by a well-regarded player that will never be repeated exactly.
Attending live performances was important to the participants because it provides access to experiencing live sound, which increased the degree to which the listening experience was perceived as ‘holistic’. 13% of questionnaire respondents indicated that either the hall’s acoustics or the quality of live sound contributed to making concert attendance an enjoyable experience: Live music is what matters most in music appreciation. To hear live sound, well played in a good acoustic setting … ah! [Q117/Calum]
One respondent described ‘seeing and hearing world class performers capturing one’s whole being’, while another characterized live concerts as ‘an experience for the senses’.
These descriptions relate to recent research in music cognition which has found that when participants can both see and hear a performance (as opposed to visual-only or auditory-only conditions) higher levels of physiological arousal are observed, leading to the conclusion that ‘the interaction between the two sensory modalities conveyed by musical performances created an emergent property, a holistic perception that was greater than the sum of its parts’.
For audience members who do not seek a primarily auditory experience, visual details therefore enhance the concert experience: allowing audience members to regard performers as people. This idea relates to Becker’s assertion that a musical event is not just in the minds of the participants, it is in their bodies; like a vocal accent in speaking, emotion in relation to musical listening is personally manifested, but exists supra-individually.
Jordan, organist, with her husband, David Jordan, media artist of Pro-Motion
Music are the creators
and presenters of the dramatic story-driven organ and multimedia concert
experiences, From Sea to Shining Sea, Bach and Sons, and Around the
World in 80 Minutes.