One of my pet theories is that recognition is one of the most basic of human pleasures. The very act of recognizing something confirms who we are. It calls up a universe of associated memories and connects us to the past – and the future. And the perception is usually joined to an emotion.
Recognition can make us feel smart – a 6-year old knowing the answer to 3+4; happy – the smell of melting chocolate (chocolate, a major food group!); nostalgic – hearing the song that was playing when you first met your loved one….. the possibilities are endless.
For years I watched the crowd’s reaction at the 4th of July Concert along the banks of the Charles River in Boston. These concert goers (who were not necessarily classical music aficionados), without fail, went wild when the trumpet fanfare began in the middle of the 1812 Overture. There was a surge of energy and excitement – as if each individual were yelling “I know this! This is a great piece!” En masse, they would stand up, cheer, and start long, Rockettes-style kick lines.
Then there was the McDonald’s add Mack Tonight, where the food chain made use of the associated ‘cool’ that went along with the song Mack the Knife, easily recognized by the ad’s target adult audience.
I would sum this up by quoting my spouse.. “You know what you like…… and you like what you know.”
This truism can be put to good use in engagement and educational performances. I like to communicate something the audience can take to the next listening experience – something that isn’t specific to a single piece of music. More on this later…