800 Very Unsquare Feet New York Times, November 30
What this story says:
In Malibu, there’s a store called Free City Supershop, run by a fashion professional named Nina Garduno. “Is it a camping store?” the story asks (and it’s a very vivid, focused story, I might add, written by Cathy Horyn). “Ms. Garduno sells customized teepees, with one on display near the entrance.”
“Is it a bike shop? She sells vintage and new bicycles, each one refitted and custom-painted so that no two are alike. ”Is it a clothing store? Ms. Garduno sells hand-printed T-shirts and sweat pants that she produces herself, the block type reminiscent of the style, if not the spirit, of a concert handbill.”
Free City Supershop is also a place where people come to hang out. There’s free orange juice for everyone.”‘Surfers will come in and just load their pockets with oranges.’ [Ms. Garduno] grinned. ‘It’s totally great.’”
This is a high-end clothing (or whatever) store; some of the t-shirts sell for $200. But it’s also comfortable. And that’s the point. That’s the key both to the store and to the article about it:
…for something to be perceived as authentic, that value has to be communicated cleanly through every detail – from the quality of the wash, if it’s a T-shirt, to the integrity of the physical environment. This is the almost visceral sense you get when you enter Free City. Not to sound crunchy, but you feel the love.
Yet if fashion executives were to look beyond the granola rhetoric of Laurel Canyon circa 1975, beyond the $140 T-shirts with mystical-sounding phrases like “Texas Tokyo,” they may be forced to admit that Ms. Garduno is in fact very instinctual, that her ideas are prescient. They may even have to ask why the fashion industry has not been able to create a new shopping experience equal in its fun and sense of surprise to that of Whole Foods or Apple, but which is available in 800 square feet in a strip mall in Malibu.
Why this is important:
Has anyone in classical music created anything with the creativity and sense of surprise of Whole Foods or Apple?
Has anyone created a concert experience whose authenticity is “communicated cleanly through every detail”?
We especially haven’t done the latter. The program book, for instance, at most performances, gives the game away. It tends to look like a community newspaper. Very sweet, very sincere, but not anywhere near the artistic level the music is supposed to be at.
Of course, some people will tell me that the music is what’s important, not the setting, not the sizzle, not the accessories. To which I can only reply that classical music already has ambience and accessories. Concert halls are built in standard ways, and convey a sense of formal luxury (spacious at best, pretentious at worst). Musicians wear formal clothes. Etc. We all know the drill. How does all of this help the music? What kind of performance does it encourage?
And how would we want concerts to look and feel, if we designed them from the ground up, with no preconceptions, starting only from the music?