In an earlier post, I compared myself to a tour guide for students, disoriented in the act of exploring new and difficult musical territory. That being the case, one has to ask how much more guidance might a general audience need?
The concert model that developed in the mid-19th century really isn’t that relevant in today’s society. Today, a performer must be more than an interpreters of mysterious symbols understood only by the initiate.
Sadly, most of the general public already approaches music from a distance. Most do not play, and may never have played, an instrument. The music of the concert hall is viscerally foreign, as are the very circumstances under which music is made. To further distance ourselves from such an audience by retaining the stage manners bred for a different age is, I believe, a serious mistake. .
Generally speaking, our social interactions are informal – for example my waitress at lunch yesterday was Susan, not Ms. Smith. The traditional highly formalized behavior of the concert hall feels very artificial to many today. The formality also makes our job as performers more difficult if we are trying to really reach out to an ever expanding (rather than ever more elite and shrinking) audience.
There are settings in which a formal approach is appropriate, but in many cases, the performer, must also be a friendly escort, one who can take the audience members by the hand and show them musical landscapes, tell interesting stories, and elucidate musical ideas along the way.