When you imagine going to a classical/art music concert, you probably picture a big concert hall full of audience members in fancy outfits all focused on the stage while the performers fill the otherwise silent space with their music. But it isn’t always like that.
I recently went to a performance that was not in a concert hall but in a pub. The Wonder Inn, to be exact. The performance, Soul’s Path (a collaboration between the Vonnegut Collective and Matrafisc Dance Company), took us on a journey through the spaces of the building. It was a fantastic evening and gave me lots to think about, but the main one I’m going to discuss here is how the experience was changed by the choice of venue. Of course, it’s not just about the music – dance was involved too. However, music is what I know so that’s what I’ll write about! If anyone has any thoughts on the dance side of things, I’d love to hear them.
When I arrived, I made some notes about the experience before the start of the performance on my phone. Yes, okay, this was partly because I was on my own in a social setting; who hasn’t used the ‘I’m typing something very important on my phone’ ploy to avoid this awkwardness? But I’m glad that I did because it’s been good to look back and remind myself. Here is what I wrote:
The program says “The journey starts the moment you step inside”. This is indeed a different atmosphere to a concert hall. There’s jazzy music, a bar, people chatting and the couple opposite me are drinking red wine and eating carrot cake. The lighting is low and there are umbrellas suspended from the ceiling intertwined with yellow fairy lights. It’s certainly not the kind of place you’d expect to go to hear a Beethoven symphony (if only because the orchestra wouldn’t fit!).
When I arrived, I was given one instruction: follow the violinist. She led us from one space to the next, guiding us through the performance. This meant that, as an audience member, I felt more like an active part of the experience than I do when I’m sitting in the dark in a concert hall. We were physically moving through the space and the violinist was interacting with us through her facial expressions, movement and music. This was an aspect of the performance that I enjoyed a lot. However, I realised just how much I concentrate when I’m listening at a concert. With the moving around and the visual aspect of the dancing, I found it difficult to really listen. I would like to go to another similar concert (perhaps the same collaboration next year) and practice listening with attention and viewing with attention.
While we were moving around The Wonder Inn, sounds from other spaces crept into the performance. People chatting in the pub downstairs and traffic noises added themselves to the music. In a concert hall, where the space has been built to prevent outside noises from intruding on the performance, this would not happen. I don’t know if this was an intentional part of the performance but I found it interesting. My favourite example of this was near the beginning of the performance. A bus pulled up outside the open front door just as the violin began to play, resulting in an accidental duet between the sweet sound of the violin and the low rumbles and sighs of the bus. Somebody jumped up to close the door, obviously seeing these noises as a distraction. But I quite like accepting these accidental moments as part of the music, especially if I’m in a place where it’s inevitable.
So, those are some of my thoughts on Soul’s Path. If you get a chance to go to something like this, I’d recommend it just to see what it’s like. You might find it’s not for you and you’d prefer to sit and absorb the music, but maybe you’ll enjoy hearing music in a different space.
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