How the Lion Learned to Moonwalk
And Other Stories on How to Design for Classical Music Experiences
TABLE OF CONTENTS | 1. Introduction | 2. Weaving Audience Engagement | 3. Creating Visual Design and Meaningful Audience Experiences | 4. Teddy in Space | 5. Shadow Play | 6. The World Online Orchestra | 7. Joystick | 8. A Concert with Striking Force | 9. Lots of Brass, Lots of Colors | 10. Opus Lux | 11. Epilogue
CHAPTER 1. This text was originally published on pages 7–11 in the book ‘How the Lion Learned to Moonwalk’, which summarizes the Designing Classical Music Experiences project.
Introduction: How the Lion Learned to Moonwalk
Live classical music is facing considerable challenges. Many philharmonic orchestras across Europe have seen sizeable cuts in funding, and a few have even been closed down. For the orchestras that survive, issues relating to diversity – e.g., musical, generational, socioeconomic, and ethnic – are central. A diversity of voices within the organization is also an important concern. How can philharmonic orchestras, organizations that are heavily rooted in the past, become more democratic and better connected to the societies they are situated in? Making connections is about building new relationships and alliances. To achieve that, you must scrutinize traditional relationships such as that between art and audience, between art and organization, and between past and present.
These issues have been explored in the Designing Classical Music Experiences project. Through collaboration across institutional borders and knowledge domains, the project’s ambitions were to develop new spatial and mediated audience experiences; to reach new audiences in the Øresund Region; to develop new innovation processes through which cultural institutions, academia, audiences, and media companies can collaborate; and to develop new business models. The vision was nothing less than to democratize classical music. The project partners aimed to fulfill these ambitions through studying what others have done, by openly sharing current concerns, and through collaboratively developing and carrying through experiments and productions that would yield new knowledge and durable practices.
One of the premises of the project has been to involve musicians, designers, researchers, students, audience members – and many others – in the design- and development processes. Another premise has been to enhance and extend the concert experience through visualizations and other types of visual arts, where concepts and methods related to ’liveness’ have been central.
These conclusions are suggestions how one may think and act when designing for classical music experiences, and when creating new formats and relationships. They are the result of evaluations where all partners in the project participated and based on empirical findings presented in research papers written by the academic partners in the project.
- It is time to try new strategies in order to reach more diverse audiences. We need to stop talking only about “teaching the audience how to appreciate classical music”; instead, we must invite diverse groups of people to jointly explore how classical music can be made more relevant for them.
- The will to change must come from inside the cultural institution, involving all parts of an organization. Change is hard and frightening, sometimes even disruptive, and there needs to be awareness in every function of the cultural organization what its role is, or will be.
- Involving musicians is very important. The majority of people in a philharmonic orchestra are, after all, musicians. Yet, for various reasons, they are rarely asked to contribute. Working with ‘orchestra engagement’ is thus important because it puts issues of artistic integrity on the table.
- A way to make sure that development processes are well anchored in the organization is to establish a ‘task force’. It can be comprised of representatives of each function of the organization, including musicians, and its role is to enroll other people into the process.
- Audiences are willing to commit and can contribute considerably to cultural institutions if the conditions are right. Long-term engagement and processes characterized by mutual learning are conditions that must be fulfilled.
- Both within the cultural institutions and in their relation to other actors and communities, we need to acknowledge that frictions and constructive differences are assets, not problems. Solutions to problems often arise in the intersection of diverse interests.
- Building projects and relationships must be allowed to run over longer time periods. This leaves room for experiments and enables you to invite more people with complementary skills into the development process as it proceeds.
- Not all audience involvement is about co-creating the artistic experience. The level of audience involvement ranges from mere listening to enabling the audience members to substantially take control of the artistic experience. What lies in between are more moderate ways of involving the audience, and it is important to know when it is appropriate to use a particular level of involvement, when to use another, and when and how to mix them.
- Audiences do not necessarily want simplified or more comfortable experiences. They respect and appreciate the competence of cultural institutions and they want the music to be taken seriously.
- Audiences appreciate open-ended concert- and media formats. The music should be at the center of attention, and the formats should be open enough so as not to force a preferred way of listening through, for example, a one-directional learning format.
- Audiences appreciate the opportunity to experience the music ‘differently’ by recomposing, embodying, and animating the music.
- All audience members have ideas of what one is ‘allowed’ to do in a concert hall. In particular, this seems to apply to concertgoers who rarely visit the concert hall; more frequent visitors seem to have a greater tolerance for artistic expressions and aesthetics that are ‘outside the box’. When testing new concepts and formats, it may be wise to choose arenas that are more open for experimentation, such as the foyer, a town square, or online.
Media and technologies
- When developing new concepts and formats, don’t start with a particular technology. The types of devices or media platforms used should rather be a means to an end. The decision whether to use digital technologies or, for example, physical cut-and-paste workshops, can be made when you know who your audience is and what end you are aiming for.
- Communication doesn’t need to be pitch-perfect. Mediated communication is a great tool for building and maintaining relationships with the members of an audience. But, the traditional ways of reaching the audience – through press releases and other types of planned communication – need to be complemented with communication that is more frequent, less ‘planned’, and more tailored to particular target groups. Timing, types of content, and editorship are central issues to consider. It is also important to think about when to use a particular kind of communication, for example, when to use online media and when to meet face to face.
- Classical music experiences can be extended in time by running activities that take place before, during, and after a concert or event. This builds momentum and anticipation, and it is a vehicle for maintaining relationships with audiences over longer time periods.
- After-the-event activities and actions should have high priority. Engaging audience members in the development process should be seen as an investment in a relationship. Quite often, unfortunately, this relationship ends when the concert ends. It is important to have follow-up strategies, such as evaluations or meetings to discuss what the next step is.
Overview of the book
The above conclusions are developed further in the chapters of this book. Chapters 2 and 3, in the first section of the book, account for two perspectives on how to work with live classical music and audiences from a designer’s point of view.
Chapter 2 tells a story of the complexities you face when working with audience engagement: How the institutions, the arts, the audiences, the media, and our societies are intertwined in one another, and what this implies.
Chapter 3 shares insights about how to work with new and meaningful audience experiences by utilizing technologies and visual arts.
Chapters 4–10, in the second section of the book, give detailed accounts of the most high-profiled case studies the project has worked with. Most of them explore how to extend a concert experience in both space and time, but the means for doing so are quite different.
Chapter 4, Teddy in Space, looks into how children – through a symphonic sequencer – may ’recompose’ one of the pieces played at a Malmö Symphony Orchestra family concert.
Chapter 5, Shadow Play, explores how children are involved in co-creating a scenography by adding ’shadow figures’ after having listened to classical music. The ’shadows’ are then used in a video-projected scenography, created by design students, at a Royal Danish Theatre family concert.
Chapter 6 describes how Copenhagen Phil’s World Online Orchestra invites online audiences to interactively explore the inner workings of an excerpt of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 by combining different parts of the orchestra.
Chapter 7, Joystick, investigates how a game-music concert format – run by Malmö Symphony Orchestra – can work closer to a gaming community on planning, communicating, and running the event.
Chapter 8, the Musik2Go percussion concert (run by the Royal Danish Theatre), describes how bodily sounds and movements through interactive installations and visuals may complement and enhance a concert experience.
Chapter 9, the Musik2Go brass concert (run by the Royal Danish Theatre), describes foyer installations that explore how colors and music might be related, and how – during the live concert – the members of the audience can influence the visual expression.
Chapter 10, Opus Lux, explores how concertgoers can express emotions through a collaborative feedback tool, which enables the audience to be part of creating a collective light installation.
Chapter 11 is an epilogue where it is argued that working collaboratively across institutional borders and knowledge domains – on a long-term basis and with a diversity of stakeholders and audiences – can be the modus operandi for any cultural institution that sees itself as a reflective contributor to society.
Creating new values
As mentioned above, one of the ambitions of the project was to develop new business models. The project has continuously had discussions about what values are important to a cultural institution, and how cultural activities can and should be measured and evaluated. Currently, the institutions are assessed and valued predominantly on the basis of audience numbers and financial results. These values, however, say little about the qualitative values that the cultural institutions contribute to. Audience experiences, community benefit, and so-called non-use values – such as individual willingness to pay for maintaining a resource even if there is little likelihood of the individual ever using it – are other kinds of values that could be given higher priority.
Through experiments and concrete productions, the project has explored what opportunities philharmonic orchestras have to renew themselves – with the aim of making live classical music relevant to new audience groups. This may result in a wider demand for classical music, but also in acceptance of the fact that these institutions are publicly funded—a non-use value.
The project has found it difficult to apply conventional business models (for example, the so-called business model canvas) since cultural institutions are guided by other value systems. However, the results of the project show that co-production with external stakeholders – whose skills are complementary to those of the institution – can result in new concepts, processes, services, products, and productions. These new partnerships can, thus, create new contexts and platforms where the orchestras can be of service to new audiences, but also create value for other cultural-sector industries and associations. To conclude, an ongoing discussion on ‘values’ in the cultural sector is important because it may help create a better understanding of how to think about business models, evaluations, and the ‘criteria for success’ that govern publicly funded cultural institutions.