Category Archives: Tully Scope 2011

Name That Theme: Figuring Out Tully Scope

Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times keeps, well, complaining that he can’t figure out the “theme” of the recent Tully Scope festival here in New York. “But the theme of the festival was hard to discern,” he writes, referring back to the opening event in his enthusiastic review of the final concert (which I blogged about here).  “And at its conclusion the theme of Tully Scope still seemed amorphous,” he continues later.  In his review of the opening event he says,

I cannot figure out what the point of this festival is supposed to be. In a program note Jane Moss, the vice president for programming at Lincoln Center, writes that TullyScope is “an international bazaar,” a “discovery of all that is wonderful about New York’s musical life.” It is also, she adds, “about a very special new musical home at Lincoln Center.” Fair enough, but terribly vague.

Sigh.

Maybe it’s a generational thing. Somehow I doubt Mr. Tommasini uses the shuffle feature on his iPod (if he has one) to experience a randomly-ordered, surprising-filled juxtaposition of music. If he did, this may have made more sense to him.

There wasn’t a central, organizing musical focus, like the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Manifest Legacy: Beethoven and Brahms series, which ran concurrently with Tully Scope in the same hall.  You might say that it was a festival “about nothing,” as the now-ancient sitcom Seinfeld (set in New York) was often described.  Which means, that like Seinfeld, it was a festival about everything.  A kind of musical buffet in which one could sample all sorts of new things.  The lack of a central musical point was the point.  It was a celebration of musical diversity. New music, old music.  Superstars like Emmanuel Ax and Jordi Savall.  New York-based up-and-comers like Tyondai Braxton and Brooklyn Rider.

Closing his review of the final concert, he does hit on what I think some of we older music-types may miss the significance of:

After the concert, as with all the Tully Scope events, the audience gathered in the lobby and mingled, given glasses of sparkling wine. You were surrounded by animated conversations about the music. Lincoln Center should find a way to keep this welcome innovation of Tully Scope going.

Absolutely.  As Greg Sandow points out in his post on the final concert,

People normally go out at night to have an experience. They want to do something that’ll be fun, or meaningful, something they think they’ll enjoy, that will mean something to them.

Yes, yes, yes.  This added so much to the experience.  I ended up meeting and chatting with someone after every concert I attended, which would not have happened without the space or without the free drink.  In a comment on Greg’s post, Linda writes,

This is what “The Experience Economy” is all about. People (especially in the sought after 25-40 age group) want to buy into a complete experience, preferably one in which they can interact with other people, rather than be passive “receivers.”

The other aspect of the “complete experience,” which the reviews I’ve seen have overlooked, is Tully Scope’s fascinating use of staging and lighting design.  I keep commenting on it in my blog posts because I’m realizing it’s so important and so many of us interested in the future of classical music aren’t thinking (enough) about it.  What I’ve really gotten during my time here in New York is that concerts are much more visual than people my age (50+) tend to realize, or would like to be the case.  For younger audiences, the visual is an important component of the complete experience.

People who just want to hear good music can stay home and listen to the inexhaustible supply of nearly a century’s worth of extraordinary recordings.  Complete, interactive experiences that are humanizing and foster human connection need to engage more than just the ears. If, of course, you want more than a handful of people to attend.

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Filed under Alice Tully Hall, future of classical music, Greg Sandow, Lincoln Center, Tully Scope 2011

Tully Scope: As Good to Watch as It Was to Listen To

(Been traveling, mostly without Internet access.  How did NY concert life get along without me in attendance?)

Last thing I attended in NY was the final Tully Scope concert, featuring music of Heiner Goebbels.  Fascinating, eclectic music performed by not one but two orchestras, the London Sinfonetta and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the latter on (at least mostly) period instruments, both conducted by Anu Tali. [Update: NY Times (Tomasini) review here.]

I ended up, pretty much by chance, sitting with Greg Sandow.  As he wrote about here and here, he was quite excited by the size and mix of the audience, and impressed by the eclecticism of the series. Greg writes that it was the Festival, not the artists themselves, that Lincoln Center marketed.

They didn’t advertise programming or stars, didn’t stress the names of the performers or the composers whose music they were going to play. They marketed the festival. Which for me is crucial. People normally go out at night to have an experience. They want to do something that’ll be fun, or meaningful, something they think they’ll enjoy, that will mean something to them.

Greg’s on the money there, although I’d disagree about the advertising.  They marketed the festival and the individual artists.  My own take is that it was a pretty even mix of both.  Certainly many–perhaps all–of the individual performers/groups have their own, significant followings.  Emanuel Ax certainly has his fan base, and Tyondai Braxton, for example, has another. The promo emails I received, especially the ones advertising 50%-off tickets available at the Rubenstein Atrium, and posters I saw featured the performers and composers, as did the Google ads that appear at the top of my email.  What seems to have worked here is that the followings got mashed up.

I picked the more non-traditional events to attend, since that’s my particular interest right now, but by the end of the series I wished I’d been to all the concerts and experienced the entire mix.  As the festival progressed, and perhaps before it began, there may have been many of us who having been to one great event, decided to trust that the others would be worthwhile as well, even if the concert wasn’t one we’d usually pick on its own.  As the followings got intermingled, probably each of us found him or herself a new fan of someone they hadn’t heard (or heard of) before. It was the entire “mash-up” (as Jane Moss, the Vice President for Programming called it in her program note) that was the thing.

I’ve called [le] poisson rouge a “shuffle venue,” where some people go just to be there, because it’s a cool place and they trust that whatever/whoever is playing will be good. (“Shuffle” coming from the iPod function where different, often unrelated, tracks are played in random order in a way that beings often interesting and pleasant surprises and juxtapositions.)

Tully Scope was what you might call a shuffle series:  a seemingly random mix of widely divergent, terrific performances, which you just wanted to hear–and see–all of.

The gorgeous Tully lobby is a great place to hang out–that’s so important in these changing times.  Free glass of sparkling wine after the concerts, creating a party atmosphere.  And tickets just $20, once one was purchased at full price, a great incentive to buy a package.  Didn’t do that?  There were half-price tickets for many of the events available on the day of the performance.  So it was affordable.

The very different staging and lighting designs for each event were engaging and, to me, delightful.  It was like a different hall for each event.  The final Goebbels concert had a two-tiered stage, with strings on the stage and winds, brass, and percussion on connected risers the width of the stage about 3 feet high.  Quite striking.  So were the lighting cues, which made heavy use of different colors, spotlights, fading, etc., even floor lamps.

This was not just people playing and/or singing on a stage.  This was an event where the visual aspect, the theatrical aspect, was embraced in a significant way.

We are increasingly creatures of YouTube, for better or worse. We live in not just a music iPod culture, but a video iPod culture.  Audiences under forty, and especially under thirty–who are so crucial to develop–want, even need, visual stimulation and engagement.  The folks at Tully did a great job, among other things, of providing that.

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Filed under Alice Tully Hall, audeince building, Festivals/Series, Greg Sandow, Heiner Goebbels, innovative marketing, Le Poisson Rouge, Lincoln Center, Shuffle Venues/Series, Tully Scope 2011