Category Archives: Music

A debate about Klinghoffer – the British way

This is the civilised debate that ENO held about The Death of Klinghoffer and the nature of art before Tom Morris’s staging opened here two years ago. The run itself was generally well received and passed without incident.Parterre has provided an audio…

Posted in Classical Pit

Ten things we should change at gigs

[Warning: you need your Sarcasm radar in working order for this one.]

We’ve been hearing an awful lot from people desperate to change classical concerts into…well, rock gigs. Places where there are big screens, drinks on tap, you stand all the way through and so forth. Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead is prime, and even the conductor Baldur Brönnimann suggests that tweeting and texting should be OK (believe me, it is bloody distracting if someone next to you is busy tapping on a bright screen while you’re trying to listen to The Art of Fugue).

So why don’t we hear anything about what’s wrong with pop, rock and crossover gigs? In my experience they are intimidating, confusing, cliquey, frustrating things. How could these be changed into pleasanter experiences, more accessible to the over-16s, a demographic that is seriously underrepresented at such events? We have to widen the scope of this audience to make it more inclusive, especially for the fastest-growing part of the population: older people.

1. Have more seating, raked, available for those of us who are vertically challenged and who therefore, in a mosh pit surrounded by tall people, can’t see a damn thing. It’s nice to get the weight off your toes from time to time, too and it’s also nice not to have to worry, in a crowd, about being squished.

2. Hold performances in smaller venues, rather than a stadium or arena, so that we don’t have to see the performers only on the big screen or at the size of a pin in the far distance. If you’re only experiencing visual and aural amplification, you’re not really experiencing the music, are you? It’s always a distortion.

3. Why so loud? Why, why, why, why, why? I’d like nothing better than to go and hear some of the more interesting singers live, like Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen or Madonna. But I value my hearing and I just don’t see why you have to risk damaging yourself.

4. Address the offputting atmospheres of the venues. Stadiums and arenas are soulless places. The O2, for instance, is like visiting a run-down 1960s swimming pool within an airport, even though it was only built for the millennium. Brighten them up. Give them a little bit of character. Still, the smaller and better ones can also be very intimidating to those of us who are not already intimately connected to this area of culture. All that cool steel, all those trendy young people – how are we supposed to know when to go in, when to applaud, what to wear?

5. Have better food available and don’t let people bring it in. Preponderance of burgers, chips, burritos and pizza does little for the odours around you, let alone the slurping noises. And if you have to let people take drinks in, make sure they don’t get actually drunk and try to encourage ways that they can be prevented from spilling the lager all over other audience members. Speaking of which, please improve ventilation of indoor venues. Crowds can really smell.

6. At outdoor venues like festivals, some shelter could be a nice idea, and mud should be kept at bay with boardwalks or paving.

7. Tickets for the big names are MUCH too expensive. It’s elitist!

8. Don’t even get me started on ladies’ loos, which seem totally inaccessible with queues of 2km, or might be dominated by dodgy plumbing, and you’ll probably find notices telling you not to even think about taking drugs in there – and therefore you suspect you might be observed by CCTV while you’re on the bog. (My favourite events, loo-wise, are Wagner operas: the lines are always longer at the men’s room.)

9. Let the performers be good. Singers need to be able to hold forth unaided by that pitch-autocorrect trick. Ideally, they should be able to sing without a microphone, should they wish to, and a range of expression in the voice is always a good thing, rather than simply yelling or, in the case of certain “crossover” easy-listening jobs, bleating out a croon, and if they’re doing songs everyone knows, with a backing band, they should know when to come in. Needless to say, miming to a recording makes a mockery of the entire exercise.

10. Make sure the transport is working. I was once trying to get back from Richmond on the night of a Beyoncé concert at Twickenham. It was a Sunday. South West Trains was down. The District Line was down. The Overground wasn’t working for some reason. It was chaos. Luckily I could walk home, but thousands couldn’t, and you didn’t want to see the bus queues, let alone wait in one.

In all, why not… just make pop events more like classical concerts? Then we can appreciate the music itself a bit more – rather than only the commercial claptrap around it. Anyway, mwahahaha, that is the music I like so I want everything, but everything, to function exactly the way it does, and I can’t possibly accept the idea that anyone else might prefer something else…

Posted in Classical Pit

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

To cheer us all up, here is the Muppets’ take on The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Warning: you’ll need a sense of humour for what follows, so if you don’t have one, please surf away now.

Posted in Classical Pit