We know the enemy of the live concert experience: the cell phone. Right?
When left in the wrong mode, its chirrupy ring tone can destroy a perfect moment. Its bright screen is a visual annoyance in a darkened hall. Its distractions can take someone completely out of the moment - missing the entire concert and all the people present. And when someone tries to take photo or video at a concert -- that's simply been wrong forever.
But can the cell phone's considerable ability to communicate be harnessed for good?
Recently I attended a concert by a relatively new group called Kaleidescope Chamber Orchestra, which is taking a different approach. Instead of disallowing cell phones and forbidding pictures and recording, they are completely embracing it.
Here is their cheerful invitation: "Yes, we actually love it when people take photos and videos during concerts, tagging musicians and friends at the concert, and sharing them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and elsewhere! ...this is one of the best ways we can continue to build our audience. However, please refrain from flash photography and remember to silence your phones!"
Whoa! Wait, I can take video of your concert? It's exactly what I did, but I'm too old-fashioned to just post it; I asked the soloist afterwards if it was okay.
If this practice becomes widespread, what will happen? Would the widespread presence of classical concert videos make people more likely to just watch them online instead of in the hall? Or would they generate the desire for people to come see it live? How much would it interrupt the concert experience?
Also, is this a problem for soloists? Live performances are tricky and uncontrollable. What if a soloist is having a bad night? Then there will be recordings out there with missed notes, etc.
Or would it actually help all of us, to understand that real, live music-making involves real, live people, not recording-studio perfection. Would we start to re-appreciate the in-the-moment excitement, with its attendant imperfections, of live music-making?
I think it's worth exploring all these possibilities, and soon. The digital age is not about to stop in its tracks, and the classical world might be able to find some real ways to benefit by thoughtfully bringing these new technologies into the concert experience.
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