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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

Question: Is a composer's audience the performer or the concertgoer?

By John Terauds on January 12, 2014

(Matt Groening illustration)
(Matt Groening illustration)

On Tuesday, I’ll be speaking at one of the regular composers’ forums organised by University of Toronto composition profs Christos Hatzis and Norbert Palej for their students.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds

I thought it would be interesting to discuss who they think their true audience is going to be when they have to make a living at writing music.

Will it be performers — who commission new works — or concertgoers — the people who buy tickets to hear new music?

And how do arts council granting guidelines and the quirks of moneyed patrons and foundations skew the equation?

This is a very complex dynamic — one that’s different for each commission. As a character in a Stephen Sondheim musical sings, “Art isn’t easy.”

I’d love to know how you see this balance in advance of my rendezvous. Please add your 2.75 cents to the discussion.

Update: An Eloquent Answer

Canadian composer Andrew Staniland pointed me in the direction of a very recent post by American composer Dan Visconti in New Music Box that elegantly tackles this thorny little question.

My favourite paragraph:

Alfred Hitchcock used to say that he wanted to play the audience of his films “like a piano.” He did not compose his great works in a vacuum, but rather with a careful and shrewd understanding of how each creative decision helped to shape a different experience for the viewer. To update this idea to a mantra that composers can call their own, it’s worth remembering that the most worthy and challenging instrument of all to master is the inner experience of the listeners themselves: of all the tools in the composer’s arsenal, the audience is the most important instrument.

You’ll find the whole essay here.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
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