Thursday, 29 December 2011

Political theatre

This is an interesting article about contemporary political theatre. The author argues that at the moment there is a tendency to present the same (generally left wing) view of contemporary events in the many plays that portray them, whether the subject is the riots or Enron. This gives the generally middle class audiences for these plays a comfortable ride that isn't really challenging.

I certainly think there are valid points here that also apply to music, especially forms like opera. It seems true that at the moment political theatre isn't as challenging as it could be but on the other hand at least these plays, along with productions such as 'Anna Nicole' show that contemporary art is being produced and appreciated.

It seems to me that it would be a good thing if more productions really challenged their audience to think more, and dealt more with the ambiguities and tensions in the events they depict, rather than forcing one interpretation of events on the audience. There are those who would disagree and say that if you agree with the views in the plays then they are playing an important and active role. However, it does seem as if things are getting a bit stale, and in my opinion challenging people through ambiguity is potentially more powerful than pushing one side of the argument anyway.

Political theatre's final curtain - Reviews - Theatre & Dance - The Independent

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Conducting

This is quite an interesting article on some (definitely not all) of the basic challenges of conducting. People often wonder what it is conductors actually do, and I think having a go is a great way of finding out. The author puts it quite well, as a conductor really acts as an overall guiding force for an ensemble. This is especially so in amateur ensembles, which may still play to a very high standard but need more guidance in order to pull together the different strands of a performance. Of course there are plenty of thing that aren't mentioned, mainly rehearsal technique and issues to do with organisation and management. Issues such as trying to keep people happy during rehearsals, organising rehearsals, choosing the right repertoire for the group (in terms of variety and difficulty), and keeping everyone motivated and working as as a team can be as difficult as the conducting itself, which normally involves a lot more music than is featured in this article anyway! It is very easy to have a go at conducting as most players have an idea of the basic gestures involved, but very hard to do it well. It's a very wide ranging discipline - people skills and organisation are just as important as musicality - and this article highlights some of those issues. g

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Music in tunnels

This is a good article about how classical music is reaching out to new audiences just by putting on concerts and recitals in different venues. It's amazing how using a different atmosphere to traditional concert halls makes the same music more appealing. Hopefully these initiatives will continue and take things even further, they're certainly needed.

David Lister: In a warren of tunnels under Waterloo station, a revolution in classical music is stirring