The listening experience of the concert hall

Roundtable (Chair: Trevor Herbert)
24 Oct 2015
14:00 - 15:00
Recital Hall

The listening experience of the concert hall

Round table: The listening experience of the concert hall: what do we learn about the experience and value of concert listening from researching with classical music audiences today?

Stephanie Pitts, Jonathan Gross, Lucy Dearn and Sarah Price, University of Sheffield

Our round table discussion explores the challenges and rewards of seeking to understand listening experiences through the use of interview, ethnographic and creative research methods with audiences for live classical music. Drawing on our ongoing collaborations with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and Music in the Round, we consider the hopes, anxieties and expectations that today’s audiences bring to the concert hall; the listening experiences they report; and how our research seeks to elicit and understand those experiences. After a brief introduction of each of our projects, we will focus on three main themes, providing one substantial example and some briefer illustrations or counter-examples to prompt further discussion amongst delegates in a final section. Our themes and questions are as follows:

  1. Methods and ethics – who to talk to and how?
  2. The personal value of listening – how do listeners articulate the pleasures and anxieties of their listening experience; how do they reconcile challenge and entertainment, concentration and distraction?
  3. The social value of listening – how does the ‘still and silent listening’ of the concert hall intersect with the social experience of listening amongst others; what is the particular experience of live music listening?

Through our research with living audiences we hope to complement other, more historical accounts in the Listening Experience Database; to examine audience experiences across time, place and context; and to prompt discussion about the challenges of understanding listening experiences happening today.