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Wordless Music

What Indie and Classical Can Learn From Each Other

Dsc00682 Having spent more than a fair amount of time  over the past few weeks attending both classical and rock concerts, I've started thinking about the differences and similarities between the two - they have far more in common than you might think - and how each experience might be improved with just a little cross-learning. Here are my Top Ten for each:


The experience of seeing a great orchestra or chamber group perform live is a potentially powerful, even religious experience. Unfortunately, most concert halls have all the energy of a geriatric home, and are just as sterile. Here are some things the folks at Lincoln Center and Carnegie might want to try:

  1. Lose the tuxes and replace them with something more contemporary (i.e., black suits and shirts)
  2. Supplement the sound with invisible amps so that listeners in the rear of the orchestra and balcony have the same aural experience as those in the $100+ seats
  3. Offer open seating at select concerts
  4. Allow patrons to take pictures during curtain calls and at intermission (without flash)
  5. Dim the house lights and use stage lighting, or even projections
  6. Generate buzz through blogs, message boards and other forms of word-of-mouth marketing
  7. Encourage applause between movements
  8. Play more non-dead composers
  9. Sell CDs for no more than $10
  10. Ditch the stagehands


There is nothing like the rush one gets from being surrounded by hundreds, even thousands of screaming fans in the throes of a full-on sonic blast from a really great live band. But a genre that's only been around 40 years still has a lot to learn about providing a truly quality concert experience:

  1. Improve sightlines
  2. Serve edible food and drink
  3. Provide clean toilets (and lots of them)
  4. Find ways to cut down set change time (i.e., dual-stages)
  5. Issue programs via mobile/podcast so audiences know what they're hearing
  6. Get your levels right before you start playing
  7. Be reasonable with the volume: our eardrums don't need to bleed
  8. Allow people to purchase tickets on subscription, with exchange privileges
  9. Only use projections if they make sense
  10. No onstage whining about how shitty your show is

Just a few thought starters - would love to hear any other suggestions folks might have.

Speaking of cross-pollination: I'm heading up to the Church of St. Paul the Apostle on West 60th St. for the latest installment in the Wordless Music Series, featuring Icelandic band Mum, Montreal's Torngat and cellist Jihyun Kim, playing music by Ligeti and Bach. Tickets $20 at the door.