What we’re missing most

What we’re missing most


norman lebrecht

April 03, 2020

Mail is pouring in at Slippedisc Towers from innumerable readers who are sharing their experiences of loss in these isolated times.

What are they missing most? Obviously, musicians are miss rehearsal, performance and audiences. Music, theatre and ballet are the sociable arts. Writers and painters are fairly accustomed to isolation. Maestros don’t know what to do on their own, except sleep.

What are audiences missing? To judge by our mailbag, the ritual of concertgoing, seeing the same faces in the same places, sharing a common life-enhancing convocation.

What is the music business missing? Everything. No cash-flow, no security, not much future direction.

Beyond these crippling deprivations, we’re seeing signs of shortening attention spans.

One home-based video might go wildly viral, but the next one won’t. A cute idea might catch the moment, but it will be gone by afternoon.

We’re looking to be surprised, but we don’t know how to build on an intriguing sensation.

We’re looking for guidance, but who can we trust?

This is a short sample of impressions of the first two weeks from the thousands of comments that reach us.

Feel free to add more.



  • Greg Bottini says:

    The live music-going experience, for sure. I have thousands upon thousands of recordings at home, which I’ve been delving into like crazy (partly a lot of Beethoven, thanks to your series, Norman) but listening on the ol’ hi-fi is just not the same as hearing live music as part of an audience.
    Also, hanging out at my local vinyl record shop and chatting with the owners and other customers. Shout out to Noise Records on Balboa in SF!

  • John Borstlap says:

    For musicians, this should be a period to re-examin the values on which music life is run.

    Do we need another Beethoven cycle, with numerous 3rds, 5ths and 9ths? Do we want concert life continue as a niche museum culture, where it is all about the performers and no longer about the music – because the music doesn’t surprise us any longer? Do we want concerts which merely duplicate our CD collections and want to compete with them? Is there not more music in-between the canonic names of history which would be most interesting to hear once in a while? It would take time and people with interest to explore possible unknown repertoire. Some orchestras do exactly that, like the Kölner Akademie, but shouldn’t there be many more initiatives like this?


    And what about contemporary music…. does concert life take sufficiently seriously the interesting research of Robert Reilly’s “Surprised by Beauty” or Herbert Pauls’ “Two centurie in one”? Probably orchestral staff simply never heard of it.



    Obviously, THIS is the time to explore the website of think tank Future Symphony Institute, which is full of ideas, and often very different from the usual mores of concert life: