Old people get a bad rap in classical music circles. They’re the audience one always assumes, never the audience one seeks. And when we imagine concertgoers streaming out of a hall during a “challenging” piece, we invariably visualize a sea of white-haired heads bobbing up the aisle, leaving the young and hip to sprawl across their now-empty seats.

It wasn’t a surprise that a good number of people walked out of the New York Philharmonic’s concert last night during the New York premiere of Magnus Lindberg’s aggressive, stunning masterpiece of the early 1980s, Kraft. But it was unexpected to see so many younger people headed for the exits, and so many older people among those who were standing and cheering at the end. We have to rethink the standard narrative about the kind of audience we’re seeking to draw to the concert hall. So much emphasis is placed on attracting young people that it can obscure the more important goal: getting an audience, whatever the age breakdown, that is open to a range of musical experiences.

How interesting to hear that it was the younger ones leaving.


I can’t say what I would have thought … it does sound like a wild piece! It does bring back memories of 1976, when John Cage conducted San Jose Symphony in Atlas Eclipticalis (at least I think that’s the work we did; that was a while ago). It’s the only concert I’ve ever played where the audience booed. Loudly.

1 Comment

  1. It WAS Atlas Eclipticalis. For those unfamiliar with the work (that’s probably most anybody who has never played it) John Cage superimposed a medieval star chart onto a blank musical score, and invited us to play what came to mind as we ‘read’ the part(s). Everybody had the same part. Cage stood in front of us and moved his hands like a clock with each full rotation of his hands describing one line of the ‘music’, and occupying one full minute of time. We were supposed to begin the next line more or less when he started the next sweep of his arms.

    I don’t really connect with that style, but I understand that Cage has said,”Open the window. Whatever comes in is music.”

    Whatever floats your boat…