This Week in Classical Music with Randy Kinkel 06/17/18

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The Future of Classical Concerts?
The Music/Empathy Link.


It’s “This Week in Classical Music”; an update on what’s happening in  the classical music world;  I’m Randy Kinkel.

Classical concerts are steeped in tradition.  But one conductor says that’s not necessarily a good thing for modern audiences.

“The concert experience has become predictable,” composer and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen said recently. “I’m not talking about artistic quality or content-- but the ritual itself. It’s quite predictable — and, visually--boring, to be totally honest.”

Mr. Salonen was speaking at David Geffen Hall while preparing for “Foreign Bodies,” a one-night-only interdisciplinary extravaganza that marks the end of his three-year tenure as the LA Phil’s composer in residence.

On the program Salonen shares billing with the violin concerto by Daniel Bjarnason, a video installation by Tal Rosner and choreography by Wayne McGregor. the evening is a model for what Salonen thinks the 21st-century concert could — and should — be. “I’m not trying to say that every concert has to have all kinds of bells and whistles,” but orchestras must consider what audiences — especially young ones — want from a performance. the music, dance and video components in his new work, Mr. Salonen said, “inform each other, and it enriches the experience.”

He thinks 360-degree sound systems and virtual reality, which could put audiences in the center of the action and show “the mysterious ways” of the orchestra, are the next frontier.

“You can write a piece for a symphony orchestra, electronics, holograms, V.R. and 360-sound design, this kind of amalgam of highly trained live musicians mixing with state-of-the-art technology.”

People with higher empathy differ from others in the way their brains process music, according to a study by researchers at Southern Methodist University, Dallas and UCLA.

Highly empathic people process familiar music with greater involvement of the brain's social circuitry. They also get more pleasure out of their listening.

"This may indicate that music is being perceived weakly as a kind of social entity, as an imagined or virtual human presence," The SMU-UCLA study is the first to find evidence supporting a neural account of the music-empathy connection. Also, it is among the first to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to explore how empathy affects the way we perceive music.

The new study indicates that among higher-empathy people, at least, music is not solely a form of artistic expression.

"This tells us that over and above appreciating music as high art, music is about humans interacting with other humans and trying to understand and communicate with each other," he said.

The researchers reported their findings in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, in the article "Neurophysiological effects of trait empathy in music listening."


For more on these and other items and events, go to the website, K-B-A-C-H dot org; Be listening each week at this time for another update. Follow us on Facebook and twitter, and also listen every weekday at Noon for the Most Wanted Hour with Linda Cassidy, playing your top 100 classical hits.  I’m Randy Kinkel for KBACH’s “This Week in Classical Music”; Member supported 89.5 KBAQ Phoenix and HD, a service of Rio Salado College and Arizona State University.