Masters student Rebecca Hutter attended two concerts on the opening night of the Bristol Proms, one in near-darkness, the other with overhead visuals. Which worked best? Here’s her assessment for Slipped Disc.
Listening with no eyes.. and then with twenty.
On Monday night the audience at the Bristol Old Vic experienced two very different concerts; one pitch-dark, the following with multiple cameras. From a choral concert in total darkness to a pianist who was totally exposed from all angles, the concerts could not have been more diverse, yet the same question remained in my head throughout; how does sight really affect the way we listen? And, how often do we really get the opportunity to listen to music without getting distracted by what we are seeing?
The majority of the Fitzhardinge Consort
This was certainly the case in the choral performance on Monday night. Not only did the amateur singers achieve a truly beautiful blend, the atmosphere in The Pit of The Bristol Old Vic was something I have never experienced in a concert before. As an audience, we were able to focus entirely on the sounds we were hearing, and were not distracted by factors of little significance, such as a second alto turning their page early or a tenor with a missing button his shirt. The result was truly electric and the silence after each piece signified the lasting impression the choir had made on the audience. (Or, perhaps it highlighted the insecurity of audience members not knowing when to clap when unable to see the reaction of others?)
In the following concert we were exposed to the complete opposite, with cameras surrounding the young pianist from every angle. During the concert, projections of Jan Lisiecki were projected on to a screen on stage, with every camera shot imaginable; from the hammers inside the piano to birds-eye view of the stage. The concept was certainly very intriguing, but unfortunately we did not quite get to see enough of the shots from the many cameras that had been so carefully installed. Having been presented with the idea that we would be watching the performer from every angle, I had hoped for constant images from each camera; with close up shots of his left hand runs simultaneously
Being able to see nothing and being able to see (almost) everything certainly affected the way in which the music sounded. Although on this occasion my preference was with the former, I hope that performers continue to experiment with these very different, but equally compelling, concepts. If nothing else, it seems to be appealing to new and younger concertgoers as well as encouraging regular attendees to reevaluate the way in which they listen.