A Cunning Blog

Long words. Short words. Words that say something.

The eyes have it #2

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Following on from my SMH article here and my previous post, here’s Tim Calnin of the Australian Chamber Orchestra talking about music and vision in classical concerts. First, there’s the use of the big screen to magnify a small stage presence, in the same way as you might do at a sports event. Look out, back desk of violas, you’re in close-up!

That’s something we’re doing with one program in particular at the Sydney Opera House. We tried it out last year. It was our smallest program – the Trout Quintet. At Angel Place that program will be absolutely wonderful, perfect environment. But at Sydney Opera House, a 2700 seater hall, the experience for someone sitting way up at the back of the balcony is going to be quite compromised by the scale of the venue. We wanted to see whether it would work, and what the reaction from the public was. So we tried it for the Schubert concert last August and surveyed the audience and we got a really positive response.

Peter knows what he’s doing. He can follow a musical thread from one instrument to the next, really making sense of it. It was intelligently directed content. And because it went down well with subscribers we are going to do it again for our smallest program in the Opera Hosue this year. In a way that’s a quirk of programming chamber music in a large hall.

The Peter he is talking about is Peter Butler, who is one of the gurus of music video directing. He has directed a zillion productions, including many of the Opera Australia DVDs. He directed the YouTube Symphony Orchestra concert at the Sydney Opera House.

Film can help people hear structurally what is going on. What’s making that interesting noise? You open ears by showing people things. What’s more, unlike a rock concert, it is not personality driven. I don’t think anything on TV is as good as being there. Sport, ballet, opera, concerts – there’s a different vibe, it’s a different experience. But I do believe it should be hand in hand.

Peter is not a big fan of the montage concert – a music soundtrack with gorgeous photos as a backdrop.

I don’t think adding visuals to concerts is very successful. It turns the music into a soundtrack. Everyone has different imaginations. Even if it is really beautiful and well done, I resist.

So he’s obviously not going to be a big fan of this, a US photographer who has created packages of images and proposed programs, with all the hardware provided in one simple hire. James Westwater has even come up with a title for this genre: symphonic photochoreography.

Symphonic photochoreography is an innovative art form that engages audiences worldwide with evocative, multi-image photographic essays choreographed and performed live to selected works of classical music.

I particularly like the community-sourced photo presentation idea – quite, quite brilliant as a concept, although I agree with Peter Butler that I doubt it would serve the music. Danger, danger, heart strings will be tugged.

Next up, more from Tim Calnin and a look at the next step – fully integrated music/video compositions.

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Author: harryfiddler

Harriet Cunningham – aka @harryfiddler — is a freelance writer based in Sydney. Harriet wrote her first novel, about a runaway cat, at the age of 7. In the forty year gap between novel 1 and novel 2 she moved from London to Edinburgh to Sydney, ran an opera company, played violin on the opera house stage and sailed from Gove to Darwin. She is now a music critic and writer, best known as the critic who got banned by Opera Australia. She still hangs out at the Sydney Opera House, is still trying to get that novel published, and still plays the violin.

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