In our week two BCM110 lecture and tutorial, we focused on media audiences and how they have developed within the last century. We also touched on what it means to be an active audience. Discussing this topic reminded me of my favourite memory of when I was part of an audience.
In Launceston, the town I grew up in, there was a park that hosted an annual event, Symphony Under the Stars. Thousands of people would gather in the warm summer air to watch an orchestra perform as the sun set. I can remember that being part of that audience was a unique and exhilarating experience. Most people would spread picnic blankets on the grass in front of the stage, some arriving hours before the commence of the show to secure a good spot. Everyone would bring dinner and it almost envisioned a huge city-wide picnic. There were so many people that when it got dark, I would sometimes get lost because I couldn’t find my family in the sea of people. Throughout the evening, most stayed sitting but others walked around the vast lawn, enjoying the music from afar. When the sun finally set and the chilly air crept in, the ancient oak trees and starry sky cast a sense of romance over the night. Many took this as an opportunity to get out their blankets and stargaze together. People were expected to have this relaxed demeanour, however, among the audience there was also an unspoken rule that all must hold a high level of respect for the performance and for each other. At the conclusion of the performance, the can-can would always be played and you could see people everywhere pop up onto their feet and dance along. When it came time to leave, despite there being five thousand people, everyone was polite and kind, as if at peace. It was like the enticing genre of music influenced the way people behaved.
This event has caused me to realise that orchestras are truly one of the most beautiful and alluring genres of music. They have the unique ability to stir your emotions without a single word. It is not the typical category of music found in the playlists of young people, however my favourite thing about this event was that the people in the audience were diverse in age. According to Pitts (2005, p. 268), for most people, the other attendees have an impact on the level of enjoyment they are likely to experience. Having a diverse and accepting fellow audience, created a sense of community and belonging within the crowd. I think the accepting and active audience had a great influence on how I perceived the night and why I kept going year after year. It really opened my eyes to the splendour of such music and its unique power to bring people together. I hold a special place in my heart for this event as I don’t think there are many such experiences today.
Pitts, S 2005, ‘What Makes an Audience? Investigating the Roles and Experiences of Listeners at a Chamber Music Festival’, Music & Letters, vol. 86, no. 2, p. 268.