June 2009

To Tweet, or Not To Tweet?

June 12, 2009 10:40

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?

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