Richard Morrison, the Times music critic, had an eye-popping experience in New York. At a Philharmonic concert, he relates in BBC Music magazine, ‘audience members were allowed – nay, encouraged – to “live blog” or “live tweet” comments to each other, or their “followers” in the world outside, during the performances.’
Indeed they were, and we have read much about it elsewhere. What struck me here, though, was Morrison’s use of verbs and inverted commas to signify his distance – nay, disdain – from the ghastly modern practices he encountered. The idea that tweeting could be allowed, let alone encouraged in the sacred space of a concert hall is intolerable to a traditional listener.
His horror was aptly conveyed by a headline – Should an audience be allowed to tweet and blog during a concert? – that says all you need to know about the persistence of patrician, nay authoritarian, attitudes in 21st century classical music.
Most concert halls, the moment you enter, do not let you forget who’s boss. Go here, do that, switch off, please don’t, be considerate. You may cough between movements and discreetly fart, but do not applaud until signalled to do so and above all do not signify your response on an electronic device until you have departed the premises, preferably until you have read the authoritative review next morning in a respectable newspaper and have been told what you are supposed to think.
Small wonder that the coming generation refuses to accept classical music as part of its cultural spectrum. This is an art form that must urgently change its language, its top-down mode of address, if it is to have any kind of audience in the future.
LATE EXTRA: Perhaps concert halls need to consider separate seating for electronics users. If, like me, you might resent being distracted by someone tweeting in a concert, you should be able to book a n on-tweet seat, just as you can book a non-smoking floor in most hotels