|A bird, for no reason|
Some follow-up to the previous post, on what I would try to do were I Music Director of an orchestra in Utopia:
--in line with more concerts and an economy of abundance would be lower tickets prices
--the atmosphere at concert music concerts is daunting to some people, mostly people new to the experience, and I really don't know what the answer is. I like to dress up to go to concerts and, especially, the opera, but I have absolutely no problem with people who don't
--the applause issue is complicated beyond my poor powers to resolve it. Applauding after a solo in jazz is expected, and the rhythm section can vamp until the applause subsides, but there is no such vamping in concert music. And the shushing of clapping after movement is as distracting as the applause itself might be. Plus, there are many pieces with movements that seem to call for applause at their conclusions, so, as I said, I don't know the answer to that one
--other audience sound, such as talking, and other distraction, texting, etc. Concert music typically has a wider range of volume levels than do other kinds of music, and the "average" volume level of concert music in undoubtedly lower than most others, and if the audience is talking one may miss some music; common courtesy towards one's fellow concert-goers would seem to be in order
--the balance between being welcoming to new and inexperienced audiences and respecting the ability of others to experience the music in a focused way is not an easy thing to achieve
--theme concerts are, or can be, a very good thing. They can also be achingly precious, so tread lightly
--composer birthday concerts are too easy and too common, unless it's mine, and you take me out to dinner afterwards
Keith Chaffee, proprietor of the fine LA culture (non-pop and pop) blog In Which Our Hero, has asked, in another forum, what you would do if you were Music Director of the Utopia Symphony. Here's my answer:
--shorter concerts and more concerts (the concert music world operates economies of scarcity when they should operate economies of abundance)
--no big name soloists unless they play unusual (and by that I almost always mean "new") repertoire
--frequent premieres; even more frequent second performances
--local composers, especially if they are unaffiliated
--talk about the music from the stage, with examples
--as a general rule, talk about unusual pieces as if they are familiar (I can almost guarantee that they all have effects that everyone has heard before) and the familiar repertoire as if it were fucked up (because it is)
--I would have the occasional concert or semi-staged version of certain operas; it can make you hear them differently, which is always good (NOTE: Keith had said he would not have these, as the are being produced by the Utopia Opera Company)
--give the strings a rest every now and then; the wind/percussion repertoire is rich and expanding
--I'm not sure what you (NOTE: a different poster had called for such explorations) mean by exploring the boundaries between concert and folk music, so I won't comment
--no film music unless the film is being projected behind the orchestra
--no fucking pops; I mean it
Every day, Composers Circle showcases a different composer. Today (30 Sep 2013), I am the showcased composer. I appreciate the opportunity provided by this site.
But the real reason I'm drawing this attention to the site is to let you know that you can hear a piece by a different composer every day. What a great way to cover part of the waterfront of today's composers. In addition to the composer of the day, all of the pages are archived.
Today (29 May 2013) is the 100th anniversary of the first of performance of Le sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring, music by Igor Stravinsky, choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky, and scenic designs and costumes by Nicholas Roerich). The Rite has been a touchstone for artists (of all kinds) and audiences (both pro and con) ever since.
So much has been written and said about the Rite that to say anything at all about it is to risk cliché and truism. I'll jump in anyway, to say that every page of this score contains miracles and wonders of invention in every aspect of the art and craft of composition. In instrumentation (the instruments used) and orchestration (how they are used) this piece (and others, to be sure) sent the 20th century on its colorful way. The beginning of the score is an illustration of Stravinsky's imagination in this area--the high C with which the bassoon opens would not have the same yearning quality if played on an instrument (the clarinet, for instance) in whose range the note more comfortably lies.
Rhythm in the Rite gets discussed, analyzed, marveled at, and imitated. And deservedly so. Related to rhythm is form/structure. If rhythm is the interaction of sound with time on the local, micro level, form/structure is the interaction of sound with time, on a global or macro level. The Rite is a ballet that tells a story, so the form of the music must reflect that to a certain extent. Stravinsky builds his scenes through the repetition, in different instrumental guises, of short, immediately recognizable melodic fragments, over layered accompaniments. These usually build and build in intensity until they break off and the next section begins. Throughout his career, regardless of the surface style of his music, Stravinsky used this cinematic technique, like cross-cutting between stories.
There are a few pieces, movies, books, etc., which I almost wish I could go back and experience for the first time again. This is one of them.
 It's worth noting here a practical value of Stravinsky's innovation, and innovation in general. That high C was thought to be virtually impossible for the bassoon to play the way Stravinsky asked that it be played; today, any reasonably good high school bassoon player can sound it with ease.
 See the Symphonies of Wind Instruments (1920) for a more thorough-going use of this technique in a piece that is, on the surface, radically different from the Rite.
Here's an iPhone video of my nephew, Gordon Hicken, premiering my When Your Time is Orange earlier this month. Gordon, who gives a very fine performance here, assures me that a higher quality video is on its way.