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Don't diss audiences!
#2956129 03/10/20 02:50 PM
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“….the quality and general culture of audiences has diminished in equal measure……The average listener of today has hardly the faintest idea about what he is hearing. He neither knows anything about new music, nor can he differentiate between outstanding, moderately good and poor performances.”

Sir András Schiff, The Telegraph, 8 March


Yep, the good knight despises the people who provides for his living. Nothing new there, if you've heard or read his many previous pronouncements on the subject. Snooty and arrogant musicians like him are part of the reason why the hoi polloi who have not had the benefit of a music education are turned off from even trying out classical music. And classical music could soon die out if more professional musicians have his kind of patronising attitude (as opposed to say, Lang Lang's).

Which is why I find this article - from a musician, as well as listener - a breath of fresh air:

https://crosseyedpianist.com/2020/03/10/dont-diss-audiences-theyre-doing-their-best/

I've often posted in PW that when I perform (whether in a formal setting, or on a public piano in a train station), I just want my audiences (who aren't classical music buffs) to simply enjoy the music - not "appreciate" it. Why do they need to know about Sonata Form, or even - heaven forbid - understand exposition/development/recapitulation/coda, just because I'm playing a sonata? If they ask, I'll explain - without using any musical jargon. It doesn't matter if they don't then go and read up wiki - or The New Grove - about it. If they enjoyed it enough to want to listen to more of the composer, or to classical music in general, I've succeeded in my principal aim, and happy that I've 'converted' them to our cause: that classical music is to be enjoyed, not endured, nor "earned". And that you don't have to be 'learned' to enjoy it. And - most of all - it's for everyone, not elites.

And that there's a lot, lot more to 'classical' piano music than just Für Elise (which I never play), though I don't perform only the pieces that are immediately appealing in my recitals: I mix and match a wide variety, from the sweetly melodic to the spikily abrasive, to show the wide range inherent in classical music. Of course, as a true amateur whistle, I perform for the love of music, which means that I only play the music I love.

So, do you agree with the article - or with the great Sir András? smirk


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Don't diss audiences!
bennevis #2956463 03/11/20 04:25 PM
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I don't think Schiff is arrogant. Most of the audience today is not concerned with how good the melody/harmony/rhythm/structure are. They are looking for something else in the music and they judge it by different standards than what we used to. That's not arrogance, it's more a rant of him, maybe frustration.

I do agree with you that the performer should be concerned with making the audience enjoy the music, regardless of its technical definition and structure, and that this can be a key to attract more people to such music.

And I think Schiff agrees with that as well. I had hard time appreciating Bach's keyboard music until I heard Schiff's recording of WTC. Looking back, I know this happened because he played it in a way that has made this music more accessible to me. I can now listen to probably any recording of Bach, and he became my favorite composer. But I don't know if that could happen without Schiff.

Re: Don't diss audiences!
bennevis #2956484 03/11/20 05:35 PM
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bennevis, I agree with you.

Putting down the audience is not attractive; a negative attitude from the performer is not something most concert-goers dress up, get out of the house, park the car, and pay money to imbibe.

The competent artist--- strictly in my own opinion--- lifts the audience members up into the world that the composer's genius and vision, and the performers ability, can show us. They make us feel, they make us see the world from another point of view; they show us the greatness of love, and the brilliant and divine gift of talent, brought forth and purified by long and dedicated effort.

If they flop, or fall short... we can see the art in that, too. In fact, the great artists get out on the high wire and try things. News flash: they don't always work.

All this may not be immediately evident during a live performance. I say that we experience, without necessarily understanding the fullness of the effort. But, "a rising tide lifts all boats." An authentic talent will speak to the genius audience segment, as well as the member who may lack the depth of knowledge, yet still feels the intention. A mediocre talent still has the backing of the composer's vision. And, who's to say some audience members might feel less uncomfortable with a performer closer to their own ability?

The author of that hit piece needs to speak to a professional, who can help him or her allow a more positive attitude toward life, toward music, and toward audiences. I don't say it as a putdown. In this crazy world, we have to work to maintain our own healthy emotional balance. I tell people that there are hands outstretched to help them, from all directions--- all they have to do is to take just one.

And put on that Lang-Lang recording.


Clef

Re: Don't diss audiences!
Jeff Clef #2956498 03/11/20 06:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Jeff Clef
bennevis, I agree with you.

Putting down the audience is not attractive; a negative attitude from the performer is not something most concert-goers dress up, get out of the house, park the car, and pay money to imbibe.

The competent artist--- strictly in my own opinion--- lifts the audience members up into the world that the composer's genius and vision, and the performers ability, can show us. They make us feel, they make us see the world from another point of view; they show us the greatness of love, and the brilliant and divine gift of talent, brought forth and purified by long and dedicated effort.

If they flop, or fall short... we can see the art in that, too. In fact, the great artists get out on the high wire and try things.

Schiff should take a leaf out of one of his favourite composer's books. (He's recorded & performed the complete Mozart piano sonatas and concertos).

Mozart loved it when people went around the streets of Prague singing and whistling tunes from Le nozze di Figaro. Did he get annoyed that his operatic arias were taken out of context and sung (probably quite badly and without the right lyrics) like pop songs? Not in the least: he revelled in the fact that his tunes were enjoyed by the hoi polloi.
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And put on that Lang-Lang recording.

Most certainly!

I remember his 'Lang Lang Inspires' concert in London (where several kids played on the concert grand for the huge audience, and he was merely the compère). The audience started applauding prematurely in one child's performance of Chopin's C# minor Nocturne "Lento con gran espressione" (you probably know where in the piece). Lang Lang merely turned his head to the audience, smiled and put a finger to his lips - and the audience understood, and stopped immediately.

Sir András - if he ever deigned to host such a children's concert where he wasn't the star (which of course he wouldn't) - would have ranted and raved at the 'stupidity and ignorance' of the audience for not knowing that the piece hadn't yet finished.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Don't diss audiences!
bennevis #2956509 03/11/20 07:45 PM
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Lol Andras Schiff - supplying us with entertainment by making a complete puritanical wally out of himself, as usual. Don't go a-changin' Mr. Schiff.

Now, let's escort Mr. Schiff to the nearest techno club and let's see whether he "understands" what he's hearing...

I must admit though, the audiences often annoy me at piano recitals with their coughing and what not, but then, if I want a pure listening experience, I'll stay at home and bang on the headphones.

I would also wager that if one has to "understand" the music to fully appreciate it, then this perhaps raises questions about the music itself. Also, what does one mean by "understand" it? On what level? Can I only appreciate a Schubert Impromptu if I have first listened to all of Schubert's vocal works?

Ridiculous sanctimonious pomposity by Schiff, but then any advertising is good advertising, right?

Re: Don't diss audiences!
Zaphod #2956523 03/11/20 09:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Zaphod
Ridiculous sanctimonious pomposity by Schiff, but then any advertising is good advertising, right?
Schiff's comments have nothing to do with advertising.

Re: Don't diss audiences!
bennevis #2956547 03/12/20 12:39 AM
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The problem with the internet is that people can post anything and it will be taken as facts. Schiff did not do an interview with The Telegraph in which he made that statement. The claim was that the quote was taken from Schiff's memoir. But the memoir is not yet published so we have no idea in what context it was said, or even whether or not the quote will actually be in the book when it comes out. Even if those words are in the book, everytime someone quotes something and you see these dots "...." in between, that means parts and phrases are missing.

And frankly what was said is actually true: the audience mostly doesn't know a great deal about music. That's stating a fact. It doesn't mean he despises his audience. That we should feel "dissed", was one person's (writer of the Telegraph article) take on it. The sentiment was then passed on to the writer of the crossedeyedpianist website. And now it's on Piano World. But who has actually seen the book? I prefer to think for myself. I don't need a journalist or blogger to tell me how I should feel.

Re: Don't diss audiences!
wszxbcl #2956566 03/12/20 04:11 AM
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Originally Posted by wszxbcl
The problem with the internet is that people can post anything and it will be taken as facts. Schiff did not do an interview with The Telegraph in which he made that statement. The claim was that the quote was taken from Schiff's memoir. But the memoir is not yet published so we have no idea in what context it was said, or even whether or not the quote will actually be in the book when it comes out. Even if those words are in the book, everytime someone quotes something and you see these dots "...." in between, that means parts and phrases are missing.



I think that is typical of the modern communication style, that people jump on a few extracted sentences out of their context from a book that is not yet published to start a controversy. Whatever Schiff wanted to say, or meant to say is not important, whether that is judgemental or simply stating facts or something else does not matter, it is just a convenient topic for making a buzz.

Re: Don't diss audiences!
bennevis #2956581 03/12/20 07:05 AM
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Andras Schiff is right. Most people today have no experience in listening to music that's more complex then 3-5 chords. To enjoy more complex music, you must have heard it before more then once to becone accostumed to it, this is what is meant with "learning" and "appreciating". Sometimes people will go to a concert just because it's a night out, having had nothing to do wit the music they are about to hear.

Re: Don't diss audiences!
bennevis #2956740 03/12/20 06:34 PM
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Originally Posted by ErfurtBob
Andras Schiff is right. Most people today have no experience in listening to music that's more complex then 3-5 chords. To enjoy more complex music, you must have heard it before more then once to becone accostumed to it, this is what is meant with "learning" and "appreciating". Sometimes people will go to a concert just because it's a night out, having had nothing to do wit the music they are about to hear.


Which is their right as the audience. It would be best if artists learned that it is their job to convince the audience, even if the audience is inexperienced.


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Re: Don't diss audiences!
bennevis #2956930 03/13/20 03:22 PM
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I can imagine that this uneducated audience is a problem for the artist, because he can not present them the things he wants; instead he needs to lower himself to the level of the crowd in order to make any contact at all.

It's like being a 3 star chef but the visitors only want fries. You serve them because you need to make a living...


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Re: Don't diss audiences!
wouter79 #2956932 03/13/20 03:28 PM
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Originally Posted by wouter79
I can imagine that this uneducated audience is a problem for the artist, because he can not present them the things he wants; instead he needs to lower himself to the level of the crowd in order to make any contact at all.

It's like being a 3 star chef but the visitors only want fries. You serve them because you need to make a living...


I didn’t know that beautiful music would need to be ‘dumbed down’ for an audience or that a performer would consider how musically educated the audience was in choosing his interpretation. I doubt that many would think this way.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Re: Don't diss audiences!
bennevis #2956944 03/13/20 05:01 PM
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From the very short extracts quoted in the Telegraph, I understand that Schiff is comparing modern audience with that of Schumann time. If that is correct, I think that to a large extent this comparison, whether it is accurate or not, is anyway flawed for different reasons. First, it is common to idealize the past, often times for no good reason. Then at the time of Schumann, classical music was not classical, it was modern and it makes a big difference.

Finally access to music is extremely wide today. There are multiple medias, YT and others that allow people to listen to all sorts of music. So modern audience is completely different from what it was. From a restricted group it has grown to a much larger one, quite heterogeneous, with some people very aware of what is classical music and others very occasional listeners. It is impossible for an occasional listener, in addition if not playing of any instrument, to evaluate if the interpretation is good or not. He or she can decide if he likes it but it would be quite difficult to evaluate how it rates on the scale of other interpretations and why. That is just how it is.

I do not know what Schiff wanted to say exactly, but as a professional concert pianist, his point of view is from the inside of the classical pro world. That comes with its share of disappointments and issues to deal with, like any profession. Lets see what he writes in his book.

Re: Don't diss audiences!
wouter79 #2956953 03/13/20 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by wouter79
I can imagine that this uneducated audience is a problem for the artist, because he can not present them the things he wants; instead he needs to lower himself to the level of the crowd in order to make any contact at all.

It's like being a 3 star chef but the visitors only want fries. You serve them because you need to make a living...
Not really. Schiff generally gives programs that would be called "very serious" like all Bach, all Beethoven, and all Schubert recitals. He has long been a big enough star to program exaftly what he wants to play.

Re: Don't diss audiences!
bennevis #2956959 03/13/20 06:17 PM
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I have little sympathy for Schiff's position. If he is so concerned about the quality of his audiences, what is he doing about it apart from complaining?

At the piano recitals I attend, the impression I have is that the audiences are quite educated and aware. They are at least smart enough to find their way to the recital hall.

Perhaps Sir Schiff should be more concerned with the age of his audiences. Is it just me, or do others notice that the demographic that attends classical concerts is pretty elderly.

In a very thought-provoking article entitled "The lost art of listening"", Anna Goldsworthy discusses this issue. She points out that the average age of concert attendees in America in 1937 was 30. In Australia for the years 2009-10, the biggest age group attending was the 65-70 group.

The reasons for this are of course many and varied. The world of 2020 is very different from that of 1937. But it is still a worry.

Re: Don't diss audiences!
CharlesXX #2957000 03/14/20 02:41 AM
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Originally Posted by CharlesXX
I have little sympathy for Schiff's position. If he is so concerned about the quality of his audiences, what is he doing about it apart from complaining?


That's the problem. We don't know from just the quote whether or not he is complaining. People read into things whatever they imagine people would do. Maybe Schiff's quote was him giving reasons why we should do something about it.

Who knows? I should think if he was going to write something highly controversial, his publicist or agent or record company would have stopped it going to print. I don't even know how much of the actual writing of these bios are done by the musicians themselves.

Re: Don't diss audiences!
CharlesXX #2957009 03/14/20 04:41 AM
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Originally Posted by CharlesXX
I have little sympathy for Schiff's position. If he is so concerned about the quality of his audiences, what is he doing about it apart from complaining?


He has given a lot of lectures. Those on the Beethoven Sonatas can be found on Youtube.

Re: Don't diss audiences!
bennevis #2957030 03/14/20 07:30 AM
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Schiff is full of it. If there’s one thing I I can’t stand, it’s ungrateful people. He ought to repay the people who pay for his lifestyle.

Re: Don't diss audiences!
bennevis #2957034 03/14/20 07:47 AM
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Well, in my little corner of the world, I'm doing what I can to educate future audiences. My little 6th and 7th graders enjoy my 9-week Music Appreciation course. I can't do a lot in 9 weeks except expose them to "classical music's greatest hits" while teaching them about Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Mozart, Beethoven, Paganini, Chopin, Liszt, Berlioz, Tchaikovsky, Holst, Beach, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Joplin, Sousa, Copland, Gershwin, Bernstein, and John Williams. (I'm sure I missed a few, I'm thinking from memory.)

And OK, I know some of you are going... hey, you said CLASSICAL music... BUT I'm able to use some of the more recent ones to point out how they also composed using form, motives, etc. Plus, when I do a "composer of the day" who is unrelated to the period being studied, it's often one whose music they're quite familiar with (like Joplin or Williams) - it piques their interest, makes them feel validated in enjoying what they enjoy, and also keen to see the relevance to the music of the past.

By the time their Composer Google Slideshow Project rolls around, they are really excited to learn and teach their classmates about a composer of their own. I have a list of 83 to choose from, ranging from Monteverdi to Hildur Gudnadottir. I figured they'd all be trying to do movie composers, but that's not the case. While every class period has a few who choose people like Alan Silvestri, most people choose someone from the Baroque through Romantic eras. The girl students are always excited to learn about female composers, like Francesca Caccini, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (my personal fave), and Clara Schumann (my hero).


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Re: Don't diss audiences!
coaster #2957055 03/14/20 09:20 AM
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Originally Posted by coaster
Well, in my little corner of the world, I'm doing what I can to educate future audiences. My little 6th and 7th graders enjoy my 9-week Music Appreciation course. I can't do a lot in 9 weeks except expose them to "classical music's greatest hits" while teaching them about Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Mozart, Beethoven, Paganini, Chopin, Liszt, Berlioz, Tchaikovsky, Holst, Beach, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Joplin, Sousa, Copland, Gershwin, Bernstein, and John Williams. (I'm sure I missed a few, I'm thinking from memory.)

And OK, I know some of you are going... hey, you said CLASSICAL music... BUT I'm able to use some of the more recent ones to point out how they also composed using form, motives, etc. Plus, when I do a "composer of the day" who is unrelated to the period being studied, it's often one whose music they're quite familiar with (like Joplin or Williams) - it piques their interest, makes them feel validated in enjoying what they enjoy, and also keen to see the relevance to the music of the past.

By the time their Composer Google Slideshow Project rolls around, they are really excited to learn and teach their classmates about a composer of their own. I have a list of 83 to choose from, ranging from Monteverdi to Hildur Gudnadottir. I figured they'd all be trying to do movie composers, but that's not the case. While every class period has a few who choose people like Alan Silvestri, most people choose someone from the Baroque through Romantic eras. The girl students are always excited to learn about female composers, like Francesca Caccini, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (my personal fave), and Clara Schumann (my hero).

Your students and school district are lucky to have you as a teacher. Why can’t other school districts have informative and interesting music curriculum? We live in one of the best school districts in our state and the music curriculum is sadly lacking. The 5th and 6th graders learn to play marimba for half the year. By 7th grade there is no music except for band and maybe choir. In high school the offerings are band, guitar, 1 semester of music theory, all optional. At no time are kids taught to read music and there is very little singing, even in the younger grades. How sad is that?





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