Posts Tagged ‘audience’

cembalophilia? cembalophilia.

May 3, 2016

© Tilman Skowroneck 2016

The Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies, in partnership with the 2016 Berkeley Festival & Exhibition, organises “Cembalophilia: Hidden Histories of the Harpsichord”, a mini-festival with concerts and lectures, which will take place in the Berkeley City Club June 6-8, 2016 (see also the poster below for more information; I will participate in the Tribute to Alan Curtis).

I love the title “Cembalophilia.” Is this even a thing, one might wonder, and yes, be assured, it can be a thing. People do love good harpsichords and their repertoire, and good harpsichordists.

Often they don’t even know it, however, which may be why we usually play for smaller audiences than we feel we should. But this is also why – as I may have written before – after a recital audience members always come forward and want to learn more about the harpsichord on stage. “I had no idea there was so much variation in this instrument!” we frequently hear at that point.

Another recent harpsichord mini-festival in Göteborg, Sweden (see this entry)  has convinced me of two things:

First, it is and remains worthwhile to invest energy, time (and money) in live events that showcase harpsichords and their players. A harpsichord is not just a historically appropriate choice for a given repertoire. A good harpsichord offers an astonishingly wide range of expressive possibilities; it can be a friend and ally to the player, and it can move audiences to tears.

Second, all this needs to be said, and not only done by playing. Some people imagine that harpsichord lovers actually feel they need to defend  their instrument. But a fighty attitude is not what I have in mind here. Gone are the angry days, when the historical harpsichord had to battle against the revival harpsichord of a 20th-century design; and also the Bachian conflict between piano lovers and harpsichord lovers has become stale, mostly thanks to the great amount of excellent, serious and unfazed Bach players on both sides. The real “enemy” these days, it seems to me, is the audiences’ increasing loss of interest in live performances, which for our instrument especially is a sad thing: harpsichords do not sound very convincing out of a laptop speaker. So we must keep telling people that it is the laptop speaker that’s bad, not our instrument; that they should come to the next concert instead.


Cembalophilla_03.jpg

lecturing or entertainment?

June 13, 2011

© Tilman Skowroneck 2011

Fellow wordpressers know this, of course: somewhere in the functions that only can be accessed by the blog owner there is a little window that lists all the search terms that people used for finding one’s blog. Last week, someone found my website by searching for the words nobody needs a harpsichord.

Of course, one cannot but wonder what circumstance prompted someone to type these words of wisdom into a search window. But words of wisdom they are, at least almost: we, the harpsichordists, have to make a dedicated effort of making our music accessible to listeners who often didn’t even know that they needed us. It is possible; the ubiquitous manifestations of (positive, to be clear) surprise after a recital (“I didn’t know a harpsichord could sound like that!”) are ample proof that a single person playing old music on a box with strings and plectra can, in fact, provide true listening pleasure to audiences.

The harpsichordist largely depends on getting the entire package of her or his recital across “as is.” Dancing, for example, funny costumes, grimaces, dramatic monologues, cigar juggling or walking on one’s hands don’t really do the trick to make a harpsichord recital more palatable to the audiences. The times that the use of an “exotic” instrument in itself worked like a hat trick are long gone. (more…)

you- and other -tubes

June 10, 2010

A post-lunch attack of ego-googling (we all do it, why not admit it) a few minutes ago brought forward a selection of material stored in various other locations that clearly has been borrowed from this very website. So, for example, some helpful spirit uploaded my versions of the anonymous “Barafostus’ Dream”, Morley’s “Nancy” and Fux’s “Ciaccona” on Youtube, correctly identifying me as the performer but omitting the source. Since (as I have explained in an earlier post) the original CD that contained these pieces has a specific sound profile due to poor filtering of some kind, I am quite positive the material was copied from my “Recordings” page on this blog.

I am aware of the mechanics of open-access publishing, and I wouldn’t like my comment here to be seen as a complaint. I will mention nevertheless that the material here, albeit freely available, is (naturally) my property. I sign for it, I have to answer for it, and hence, it is under my personal copyright. The least you can do if your mouse-finger itches to drag and drop things from here to somewhere else is to properly cite the source and mention the date you accessed it. If you’re unsure about how to do this, drop me a line and I’ll assist you.

This applies to all content, no matter whether it’s pictures, text, text snippets, or bits of music.

Thanks for your (to be anticipated) consideration.

talking to the audience

March 19, 2008

…and demonstrating historical keyboard actions

Public outreach is a term that does very well in academia these days. It guarantees that one’s research, one’s department, or even one’s university will be there tomorrow. If we want to make people appreciate our work and open their purses in our favor, we have to go to places where these people are and we have to learn to talk their language.

Musicians have known this for quite some time. Even for someone with good references, it is pretty much more difficult to get funding for a cute concert idea than it is for an established researcher to get a stipend for a snazzy research project. We have learned to talk about our work. We have also learned to deal with the old problem that one may not use too many words to tell an audience that what they never knew before one started talking is in fact very interesting.

This took me some getting used to. (more…)

remembering school concerts

December 4, 2007

Where in the world would one encounter a traverso player who performs larger solo sections from Vivaldi’s “Il Cardellino” at 9:00 in the morning for an audience of 80? Where can we see a fight between two rooster-dressed Baroque violinists who simultaneously play an adapted version of Biber’s Battaglia? How does one arrive at the unbelievable record of having tried to publicly perform the first half of Rameau’s La Poule on a pentagonal Virginal (but giving up because of being interrupted by a bunch of unruly chickens) approximately 750 times?. How many baroque musicians have been allowed, no: expected to snore on stage while their colleagues performed Vivaldi’s Winter? What institution allows a harpsichordist to experiment with various fingerings in the fast bits of the fifth Brandenburg concerto’s cadenza on stage, ten or eleven times a week?

For all these treats, you need to be in a Swedish basic school (more…)

concert coughs

November 21, 2007

Yesterday I contributed with 73 chords and a few unisono passages to the Borås Orkesterförening jubilee concert with guest star Barbara Hendricks. Otherwise it was a very nice concert as well. Especially Berlioz’s Op. 7 (“Les nuits d’été”) was stunningly beautifully performed and very moving. The soloist’s utter concentration in creating a soft and intimate drama in this sequence of works was honored by an astonishingly silent audience. It is November, after all, and more than a thousand people had come to listen (this must be the absolute record for a classical concert in this area).

The few coughers that made themselves heard, however, make me wonder about the psychological workings of concert coughing.

Some time in the mid-eighties, someone’s patience in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw snapped. An orchestral concert was preceded by the following public announcement: various maestros had been complaining about the inflation of audience noises, and would everyone be so very kind to refrain from coughing. Unexpectedly, the audience did not cough very much on that evening

Why ‘unexpectedly’? (more…)