June 12, 2009 at 5:40 PM
Note from Laurie: Hilary wrote this in response to an ArtsJournal blog by her publicist, Amanda Ameer, in which Amanda confessed that, while live-Tweeting a concert (for Twitter, and yes we are all still figuring out what exactly Twitter is!) "It seems I had missed a few things whilst clicking." So she asked Hilary: Is it okay to "Tweet" during a live performance, for the sake of spreading the news? Here is Hilary's answer:
I'm all for Tweeting and spreading the word, but not during performances. Between pieces, maybe, if you can stop when the music starts up again; while standing in line for the restroom, definitely; at intermission or on the train afterwards, definitely. The problem is that acoustic performers rely on the audience's attention and focus and can tell when the audience isn't mentally present. Your listening is part of our interpretive process. If you're not really listening, we're not getting the feedback of energy from the hall, and then we might as well be practicing for a bunch of people peering in the window. It's just not as interesting when the cycle of interpretation is broken.
If you are Tweeting, then you might as well check your emails, and then you might as well just turn on the camera and make a recording for YouTube, and then you might as well have a little chat online while you're at it, or play a game of Tetris or Scrabble, or write down ideas for that presentation you have to give next week. In that case, really, the question is, why are you here? Are you enjoying the beauty of the live concert experience, in which moments are fleeting and you have to get caught up in the flow because it will never be the same again?
There's also the distraction factor. The stage is a great vantage point and a prime spot of acoustical convergence. It may be possible for you to do multiple things at once, but the same may not be true of the performers and your fellow audience members. They may not be able to keep themselves from wondering what you're writing instead of just listening and concentrating on their own individual experiences. You may not be able to delve into your own listening experience if you're thinking about what other people should be thinking.
Finally, it seems to me that listeners make things difficult for themselves by observing themselves in the third person and putting their thoughts into a narrative before those thoughts can fully form. I feel that concerts can be a break from outside pressures and influences. For audience members, a concert should be like a vacation on a distant beach with a stack of good books. Comfortable seats. No one trying to call you. No one breaking into your trains of thought. No way to reach the outside world. Just a time to shut off and calm down and treat yourself to something truly wonderful. If we can't sit through a classical concert we pay decent money for, and we can't take two hours out of an evening to shut out everyone else's demands and opinions and thoughts, where does that leave us?
Leaves one with a conscience decision to turn off electronic devices leaving the outside world behind and to be swept away by the performance. Enjoying the brief time that all are brought together by the beauty of the music.
Not to mention, it's quite rude, don't you agree?
P.S.- Saw you @ Strathmore playing Higdon. I was the one in the yellow polo who asked about you, Jennifer Higdon and Marin Alsop all being females working in classical music... anyway, great performance. Though I didn't get a picture with you............ oh well. Can't wait to see you in concert again!
This person has to be nuts...probably texts while driving too...and this is the publicist??????????? Time to get a new one ...
Multitasking is a myth.
Interesting quote from this article:
“People don’t understand that attention is a finite resource, like money,” she said. “Do you want to invest your cognitive cash on endless Twittering or Net surfing or couch potatoing? You’re constantly making choices, and your choices determine your experience, just as William James said.”
Now, Sam, that's harsh! Are we talking about Hilary? Good publicist!
I understand Amanda's position, as a journalist. When I'm watching a concert that I will write about, I take copious notes, and I only hope it doesn't annoy the people around me. (Usually it's Robert next to me, and he understands!) I just write my impressions as they come to me, and I use the old-fashioned pen and paper.
In her case, she's trying out what is new, and at the moment, that's Twitter. Will Twitter be around in five years? Who knows! But probably some form of short-form, immediate reporting will be available, and in exploring this, we learn the possibilities. Does it work, to live-Tweet a concert? Maybe, maybe not. We are all still learning. You have to do some messy muddling to find out.
For that matter, people are still exploring what works best on the medium of the Internet in general -- it's not a book, it's not a newspaper, it's not a T.V. -- what works?
Would I want a publicist who is learning about all this new stuff? Yes!
This is a great blog. I recently had an experience at the Starling-Delay Symposium of this just happening. Mr. Perlman came up on stage driving his Amigo POV/scooter and I think there wasn't a person in the room that wasn't Tweeting, FBing, or You-tubing, including me. It was like suddenly the audience had become a pack of paparaazi's,a bunch of tourists looking at an attraction. Mr. Perlman was clearly annoyed and also the team that was helping him was too. I did feel guilty afterwards and sorry to Mr.Perlman.
I cannot get over the fact that ANYBODY would be doing anything but shut down the cell and just take in the performance!!!!! Tweeting, emailing, etc., afterwards!!!!! What Is The Deal????
Now, Sam, that's harsh!
" Is it ok to sit clicking away at a backlighted electronic device in a concert hall during a performance by someone who employs me to publicize said performance'? Need she ask?...Isn't the answer pretty darn obvious? Is it ok to sit in the front row and chew and "pop" bubble gum?
Nicely...I'm with Hilary on this. But if she actually has to explain it to the publicist,I might certainly be thinking ...inteview time
Pragmatically, I'm with Royce on this one. Leave all electronic communications off or better yet outside the hall or leave yourself.
I too think it's absurd that anyone would be doing anything other than sitting quietly and respectfully during a concert.
Yes, by all means, Tweet, Twitter, Text and Chat during a concert--Perfectically acceptably to do so if you are sitting on the couch, home alone.
The anticipation. Saving up for the ticket. Dressing up. The exquisit treat. The excitement of seeing a live performance by someone who has trained for years and years and who has reached the rare air of excellance in his or her art--THAT is enough. Who cares what your opinion is during a performance.
Use the time after the concert to have a glass of wine and meet with your friends. Do you remember what it is like talking face to face? The concert experience is all that.
I admit I'm really addicted to my iPhone (or iCrack as some people call it), I'm on it constantly, checking email, texting, surfing the internet, but never at a concert!!
I agree with Sam completey, it's rude.
Judging by the comments above, many of us would blow a gasket if we attended a performance even 100 years ago, never mind in Mozart's time, or before. I say relax, and let people absorb the music and the atmosphere as they feel best. They won't be back if they didn't enjoy it.
Doubly, I think Hilary needs to read Joy Calico's "Brecht at the Opera" before answering this question. Specifically Calico's thoughts on estrangement.
I don't understand why this subject was even brought up. Apparently some people are inconsiderate and ill-mannered enough to do it. That doesn't mean it is debatable.
I, too, was at the concert at Strathmore in which Hilary Hahn played the concerto written for her by Jennifer Higdon, and I also attended the Q & A session afterwards, when Hilary Hahn, Jennifer Higdon, and Marin Alsop answered questions from the audience. This is the second such Q & A session by Ms. Alsop and Ms. Higdon which I've attended. I think these are absolutely great! The audience gets to see and hear the main characters of the show as real people, often with good senses of humor. I've learned so much about music during these sessions. I often tell my students about what I've heard. I like to write about the Q & A sessions in my blog because these are really special events that are only heard by those present. I often take notes at these discussions, and I don't feel that I'm being inconsiderate of others present because this is not a musical performance. Besides, I'm old fashioned; I use pen and pencil. My behavior during the musical performance is completely different. I listen with my whole being. However, I can listen on more than one level. In addition to enjoying the music, I often ask myself why am I enjoying this so much? What makes it so special for me? If I want to gather my thoughts so that I can share them with people on v.com, I take notes, with pen and paper, fast and furiously during the intermission and after the concert.
I don't know if you remember but I was the person in the yellow polo who asked Marin, Hilary and Jennifer what it was like to collaborate with other women on the Higdon project!!!!!!!!!! The world just keeps getting smaller and smaller!
Also, for anyone interested.... I was the one who asked that question he talks about @ the end of the article:
Michael, I interpreted your comment, possibly incorrectly, as showing disbelief that three women could be so successful in musical careers. It sounded like outdated prejudice to me. Please let us know what you really meant.
Well, the original blog was about Tweeting at a concert called "Bang on a Can." That's a little bit different than Tweeting while Hilary's playing the Higdon. But I'm still glad Amanda asked Hilary the question, because though it seems obvious to all of us, I think it needed to be said, and that Hilary said it well: Tweeting at a classical performance is disruptive.
Tweeting at "Bang on a Can," or at an amplified rock performance? Doesn't seem like quite as big a deal, though you might miss some of the action while you are distracted.
>For audience members, a concert should be like a vacation on a distant beach with a stack of good books. Comfortable seats. No one trying to call you. No one breaking into your trains of thought. No way to reach the outside world. Just a time to shut off and calm down and treat yourself to something truly wonderful.
Pauline--- not at all. During the performance of Dvorak 5, (after the Higdon) an image popped into my head. After the performance of the concerto, Marin, Hilary and Jennifer held hands and took a bow- and that was what sparked my question. Could a collaboration such as this one- female conductor, composer, performer have existed 20 years ago? My question was what did it mean to each of the three ladies on the stage that there was this amount of female involvement, considering classical music is still ( I guess) male dominated?
I hope that clears it up.
P.S. - Pretty much all of my favorite violinists are women- Hilary Hahn, Janine Jansen, Anne-Sophie Mutter.
Thanks for the clarification, Michael. It makes sense. Marin Alsop is the first female conductor of a major symphony orchestra in the U.S. Fighting prejudice is always a struggle, but these three women, especially Marin Alsop, have been quite successful.
Ah but of course! She is one of the best, and a joy to watch her conduct.
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