Saturday, 12 June 2010

On a new sense of programming (part 1)

It's one of those things you don't get proper training in when going through a Conservatory or University education: concert programming.
To be frank, it has been a while since I did any research on this topic, but a few concepts immediately pop up in my mind.

A program with a theme. Having a theme is a great way to unify a program. This can be an obvious theme (e.g. a collection of Bach suites) or a more adventurous one (e.g. music inspired by "fire", "wind", "London", "1849", and so on).

Another important concept in programming is that of sandwiching "high brow" (read: harder or less accessible works) with "medium or low brow" (read: works enjoyable by general public, e.g. those without a special interest in art music). Although nowadays many critics have criticized this technique as "forcing" less likable works onto an audience, I still believe it has a place in the overall programming process (more to follow on this in a follow up post).

Now I need to come back on what I said earlier, because I did run into a programming "question" once (once only, yes) during my UBC D.M.A. program, when preparing for my final saxophone comprehensive exam (before entering candidacy). The question went something like this:
Prepare two programs; one for a recital in New York Carnegie Hall, and one for a small local chamber music series in Kamloops (B.C.).
Now, the question itself suggests that I should have come up with two different programs, right? Many musicians would support the idea that, because the New York audience is going to be more culturally advanced than the Kelowna audience, one will need to compromise the Kelowna concert with a more suitable, "audience friendly" (whatever that means) program. Right?

I beg to differ, and here's why.

I don't think the New York audience is going to be significantly more advanced than a rural audience. Agreed, urban centres are generally more exposed to cultural activities (think concerts) than rural communities, but times have changed the rural disadvantage, substantially.

During the 19th century Canadian rural communities did of course have a considerable disadvantage compared to urban cities. This difference in cultural savviness was greatly diminished through the advent of gramophone (1900s), radio (1920s), and television (1940s).

Throughout the last century anyone with an interest in serious, non-commercial (read: "classical") music has been able to educate themselves by using the earlier mentioned technologies. And things got even better: most rural communities have now access to high speed internet, making the cultural divide even smaller. And the internet has more to offer than even the biggest city ever will, ranging from downloadable mp3s, to YouTube/Vimeo communities, streaming webcasts, and access to speciality "classical" radio (and podcasts) from around the globe.

Think about that, the next time you program for a rural community. And do some effort (schmooze) to get feedback on your new sense of programming. I can assure you that you will be surprised on the savviness of your audience; I have been, many times ;)

To be continued...

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