I like classical music. I’m not crazy about it. I’ve always thought of it as nice, harmless and not that sexy – like me at school. But after getting to experience #ConcertLab’s latest idea to revitalise how people listen to classical music, I’ve changed my mind.
Walking into a performance of Beethoven’s Eroica (it’s ok, I shamefully hadn’t heard of it either), I found an orchestra dotted around the room on raised platforms like sculptures at a museum. Each of them, instruments in hand, were facing the conductor. And as the lights dimmed and the music began, I found myself right in the middle of them all.
#ConcertLab is a series of classical concerts conceived by the people at Southbank Sinfonia aimed at experimenting with how people listen to classical music. And instead of putting us 100 metres away, in tight chairs next to our own personal wine laden aristocrat (I don’t go to many classical concerts, I assume this is how they work), we were invited to walk around throughout the performance, giving us the control to experience the music however we wanted.
The simple act of letting me walk around the orchestra as they were playing completely changed things, I couldn’t understand why experiencing classical music hadn’t been done like this before. Instead of passively spectating a bunch of very talented people do something I didn’t fully understand, #ConcertLab put me at the mixing desk. I could decide what to turn up and down, I could decide how to listen to the piece as it was happening, I could control what I was hearing. And it made the music spectacular.
The differences from a traditional classical concert didn’t stop there. Beethoven wrote Eroica as he was dealing with his hearing fading, eventually to complete deafness. Between each movement of Eroica, excerpts from Beethoven’s letters of distress to his brothers were played to the crowd and signed on screen.
The problem with classical music is that it doesn’t give any context. It’s tough to get. It seems up-tight. It doesn’t sound like it was made for us. #ConcertLab are doing the exact opposite. They set the context, then make us a part of it.
So like I said, #ConcertLab have changed my mind on classical music. And I think they’ll do the same to you.
Words by Usman Mohammed
Images by Farzana Gafoor