Creating Music and Audiences

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One of the more popular composing projects in music classrooms is taking a video clip and assigning the students to compose music to accompany what they see on the screen. Such projects must be preceded by instruction on how to use musical elements and structure to convey, express, and represent emotions, images and even stories. This instruction might include the study of program music to hear how composers tell stories with instrumental music, romantic symphonic works to hear how composers express emotions with instrumental music, and contemporary film scores to hear and see how composers write music to aid in the telling of a story and in including the audience in the emotions the characters in the film are experiencing.

It is worth considering that while all of this is solid practice in educating students musically, people in an audience at a classical music concert have need of the same understandings. An audience needs to be able to engage with the music emotionally, intellectually, aesthetically and narratively, just as a composer must command music in these ways. Traditionally, audiences are left on their own to do this with only the aid of program notes and whatever musical experience they bring to the concert. For the well-seasoned concert goer, this is enough, but the oft-cited decline in audiences for live classical music concerts suggests that there are many potential concert goers who cannot or will not involve themselves with music a level deep enough to take in all that the performers and music have to offer.

Many remedies have been suggested to bring renewed and interested audiences to the classical music concert halls. These suggestions tend to center around either changes to the performance space or changes to the repertoire so that more will be attracted to the concerts. However, there is another approach–one that meets many music listeners where they are most familiar: the music video. Providing images projected on a screen while the orchestra or soloist is playing brings a new kind of stimulation and interest to the performance, and potentially guides or even makes explicit for the listener the emotional and narrative elements of the music. This form of presentation also lends itself to recorded music, as can be seen by the already highly successful run of popular music videos enjoyed by millions already.

There is a small group of classical music performers who are making an effort to broaden the appeal of their art by presenting it in music video format. Today I would like to introduce you to “Anna’s Video Blog.” Pianist Anna Sutyagina and colleagues present several videos of both well known and lesser known classical works. I particularly like the one of Beethoven’s “Pathetique Sonata.” I present it here for your enjoyment.

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