Creatively showing the music in context and adding visual texture to its genesis seems to be the hot ticket when it comes to efforts to increase its appeal for today’s music audiences. That goes for new music’s live performances set in alternative settings, as well as for some motivating approaches within traditional venues, namely the concert hall. This multi-faceted approach reaches a zenith when seeing and listening to the Chicago Symphony’s outreach program, Beyond the Score.
Geared to educate newcomers and enhance their curiosity as well as to engage the regular audience, Beyond the Score has proven to be an attractive and efficient attention getter for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and others are following suit. The resourcefulness of its “sexy” productions, as well as its artistically high standard, has gained Beyond the Score a reputation reaching way beyond its educational value.
In its 6th year now, each multimedia production of a Beyond the Score program selects a particular work of music, presenting aspects of that work integrating live musical examples with a narrator following a theatrical storyline, images projected onto a screen over the stage, and/or different sound effects, correlating to its historic background and aesthetic content. After the intense and creative examination of the selected work, the audience returns after intermission to hear the work performed in its entirety, bringing a new outlook and level of understanding along to the concert hall experience.
Coined as “edutainment”, by Playbillarts, Beyond the Score was brought to the Philadelphia Orchestra by its chief conductor Charles Dutoit in 2009, after he had conducted some of these types of presentations in Chicago.
“I love this way of presenting music with historical and political contexts,” Dutoit was quoted saying. “This is the way I would teach myself and this particular series is at a much higher level than anything I have ever seen before … this isn’t one of those ‘blahblahs’ about music. Adding the theatrical element is what makes the series so fun and convincing.”
Pierre Boulez, on beyondthescore.org, addresses such questions as, is it really necessary to re-invent the music’s score, to analyze its zeitgeist and spell it out for an audience? Is the music not enough? He offers that a work of art is never born out of nothing:”It speaks more in depth, if you know more about the language of the composer, what he wants to express and how he wants to express it.”