‘Talking to the audience’ seminar

4th March 2012 | Concerts, Musings | 2 comments

The Guildhall School of Music and Drama in Silk St, Barbican, is running a seminar and ’round table discussion’ on Friday 9th March from 5.30-7pm. The topic is ‘Talking to the audience’. It’s part of the ‘Understanding audiences’ series.

Is talking to the audience a good thing? Does it help to de-mystify an event which some listeners claim to find intimidating? Does it make life difficult for the person who’s about to play? Or does it actually help the performer to acknowledge and bond with the audience? Is talking to the audience just a form of fashionable ‘outreach’ not much welcomed by either side? I’m one of several people who will be giving a short presentation on the subject before the topic is thrown open to the floor.

These events are usually attended mostly by music students and teachers, but they’re open to the general public, and since the whole series is about ‘understanding audiences’, it would be great if more of them would attend. Tickets are free, but booking is required. To book your place, email: research@gsmd.ac.uk




  1. peter

    Our culture, these last 400 years, has become obsessed with text and writing. We find it hard to imagine other ways of thinking – eg, through drawing and images, through music, or through dance. Indeed, our formal education system privileges writing over other forms of thinking, to the great detriment of music and of art and even of mathematics. Can you get a PhD in music performance just by performing, and not also by writing a long dissertation, for example?

    Within mathematics, too, there is a tension between algebraic thinking (which, like language, is a form of symbol manipulation) and geometric thinking, which is manipulation of images and visual objects. There is nothing inferior about visual thinking. Those of us who think more readily with images or with sounds need to rage against the social hegemony of text. Let us have musical performances without speeches, without explication, without talk.

    • Susan Tomes

      Very interesting points, Peter – though in the case of talking to audiences, I think it’s perhaps not so much a case of ‘privileging the written word’ as that audiences can’t help relating easily to the spoken word, as it’s so much more familiar to them than music. Having tried to play concerts both with and without speaking, I’ve certainly noticed that people respond warmly to any effort to communicate with them in spoken language, and often seem more willing to try and get something out of the music if they feel they’ve formed some kind of connection with the musician. There are always those who will get maximum value from the music alone, but I’m guessing they are in the minority.


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