Emotional centre of music?

On Saturday I had a meeting with a chap whose an excellent fund raiser and whose going to be doing my funding applications for a major project in early 2013. We are currenly working on a proejct cool fusion, which I am techincal director of, and have an entirely electronic piece in. Alex has brilliantly secured 100% of the funding we’ve asked for, and secured all the outreach projects that accompany it, so this is someone whom I take seriously.

During the break he raised two question that I was completely unable to answer, both of which he found to relevant to cool fusion and my proposed project for 2013. Question one was “What is the emotional centre of the music? ” and second question was “Where are the audience in the music?” which he went onto elaborate the latter question as “How does audience connect with this music?” 

He felt that from his viewpoint, the person essentially selling the projects, that these questions were important. The problem I had was I was completely unable to answer the two questions, and so were other composers present! I can explain precisely what I was expressing in all my pieces, and the whys/wherefores (many of them are on this blogsite) but I seriously struggled with the concept of an “emotional centre” and moreover the relationship the audience might have with it. Alex then went on to explain that this lack of thought may have fed the recent problems some members of the orchestra we having with some of the pieces.

The problem I have is I cant think of music in quite those terms; I can think of subject matter, the composers personal responses and/or interpretations of it, but the concept of a definitive “emotional centre” over simplistic because there may be several emotions at play, at the same time, and in fact, rather than a centre, there could be an emotional narrative running though the piece. Also I have an issue in assuming an artists piece is a direct response to something ( which to me, an emotional centre implies). How many great works are purely synthesised ideas? How would we know? Finally, does an artists response, or expression, have to be an emotional one? Can it not be an intellectual expression? Would one write an effective history book if one expresses the emotional response of reading past events instead of careful analysis and interpretation? (which might include emotional responses of both the author and historical responses)

The other question of how an audience connects with music or is meant to connect I find impossible; I well remember being in rock music in the 1990s where a mentality had developed whereby music would be aimed at target markets and researched through focus groups etc (now commonplace with X-factor pop impresarios) and the net result is what we have now; boring template music which ticks boxes in perceived target audiences. Is this artistically helpful? No. Is this going to break new ground/ audience development? No. I also note a professional colleague of mine, responsible for writing and producing a fair proportion of 90’s trash likened it to “farting in a lift; quite proud but not wanting to admit to doing it!”   This is the big danger that we may fall into if we start trying to think in terms of audience connectivity in the wrong way- especially if this leads to an attempt at contriving success. So does audience matter? Yes but not to be cynically manipulated..

There was an interview with Dave Gilmour (pink floyd guitarist) in a documentary where he was touring Poland a few years ago and he was given a similar question and his response was {sic}” a certain part of art is self indulgent….if you can please yourself, then theres every chance you wont please anyone” 

About stuartrussellcomposer

Composer/ sound artist. Electronic musician. Modern classical composer
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