(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.