I’ve been thinking about Charles Hazlewood’s article in Monday’s Guardian. He wrote about some open-air orchestral concerts he’s going to conduct in a field in Somerset, explaining that he wants to bring great music out of the intimidating concert hall and into a fun relaxing space. Good for him. I started my professional career doing something just like that with Domus in its geodesic tent, so in some ways I felt completely sympathetic to Charles’s views – until I came to the sentence:
‘I want people to hear really exciting music played by the best, but in a context where they can clap when they want to, chase their toddlers, drink beer, take photos, get lost in the music and generally be themselves.’
And this is where I have to differ. I’ve tried playing music in this kind of setting, and I don’t believe it works. For a start, the kind of music I play is not amplified. A performance of acoustic music can’t thrive when there are competing sound sources.
Secondly, and more importantly, I feel strongly that music is designed to draw us out of ourselves and let us enter another imaginative realm. Where that’s possible, listening to music can be a profound experience. But nobody can be drawn out of themselves if other members of the audience feel free to ‘chase their toddlers, drink beer, take photos and generally be themselves’. There’s so much of that going on all around us as it is. It’s an old paradox: feeling free to behave as you like often means that other people can’t behave as they like. If some people feel free to run about and be noisy, they deny others the possibility of falling silent, forgetting their surroundings and being drawn out of themselves by music. And I can’t believe that those who run about are going to get much out of it either.