I’d heard good things about Lincoln Center’s Tully Scope festival, but hadn’t gotten to any of the concerts. So I made sure to go to the last one, this past Friday, where two long pieces by Heiner Goebbels were played by two substantial British ensembles, the London Sinfonietta and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
And — leaving aside for the moment anything about the music — the wonder, epiphany, and piece of the future was (crossing my fingers) the audience. Here we had a substantial chunk of new classical music, and the fairly full house was full of people I didn’t recognize as the standard New York new music audience.
Tentative conclusion (especially after talking to several people from the new music scene, and to someone on the Lincoln Center staff) — there’s an audience in New York willing to try things out in classical music, to go to concerts without knowing quite what they’re going to be, and then to react in the simplest way: “Do I like this?”
I’ve certainly seen a non-specialist new music audience before (and I’ve blogged about it), at Bang on a Can’s annual marathon (blogged here and here), and at a wonder/epiphany Wordless Music orchestra concert a few years ago (blogged here). Clearly, if you present things in the right way, hundreds, maybe even thousands of people who aren’t normally the new music audience will show up.
These concerts happened in past years, and things may have developed since then. I’m eager to hear about new developments! But still I think I’ve learned a couple of important things from these past concerts I’ve raved about so much.
For instance, what’s the right way to present things? That is, to get a new, young audience to come?
Well, Wordless Music played an orchestra piece by Jonny Greenwood, Radiohead’s lead guitarist, and Radiohead fans came, cheering not just the Greenwood piece (which was terrific), but music by John Adams and Gavin Bryars. Bang on a Can stages its marathon in June, right on the Hudson River, in a spectacular open indoor space, the Winter Garden, surrounded by restaurants and shopping. No admission charge. People are in the area, hear the music, drop by to see what it is, and stay, sometimes for hours. Plus the marathon is part of a larger festival.
All of which is fine, but I’ve been frustrated because, for the most part, others haven’t — as far as I can see — tried to find this audience, and get it to come to still more concerts, involve it in new kinds of programming. It really should be possible. When the Brooklyn Philharmonia, a few years ago, put on concerts with Grizzly Bear, full houses of new. younger people showed up.
But now Lincoln Center seems to have found its own way to do this. More tomorrow.