Anna Murray's 500 Words

Anna Murray

Anna Murray's 500 Words

Anna Murray, a composer and musician and former editor with The Journal of Music, has contributed to the Irish Times’ ‘500 Words of January’ guest blog series. In the article, Murray writes about the shadow of the concert hall aesthetic on contemporary musicians, and her attempts to escape it.

I’m lucky that my career requires me to spend most of my time involved in new music gigs. Even if it didn’t, I would probably find a way to get involved anyway. Whether playing, organising or just spectating, there’s an excitement in experiencing brand new music in the tiniest of venues that watching top orchestras playing the canonic greats in the grandest concert halls can’t compete with.

The problem’s not new, but the more concerts I’m involved in, the more obvious it becomes how much the old concert hall aesthetic still leaves a shadow on the most bright and brilliant of new music performance. Formal music-making doesn’t need to be choked by formality: audiences have changed — and so must our concerts.

I am a classical composer. I also play in an indie band. To me there’s no difference; I’m just a musician. The difference lies in the context, most specifically the audience – even though they’re often the same. At a Manhattan Syndrome gig, the crowd are comfortable in their surroundings, they talk, they show their appreciation. At a classical gig, there is no sound, no audience feedback, no signs of appreciation or displeasure, only the same polite clap after each piece. One audience, two behaviours. The nature of classical performance is different of course, and should be treated as such, but should that be to the exclusion of the audience-performer interaction that makes pop and rock so vibrant?

Published on 8 January 2013

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