Can we hold the interest of classical music audiences?

Museum goers love to wear headphones during special art exhibitions and hear special commentary. Perhaps classical music should take a cue from this experience:

…subscribers to the orchestra’s e-mail list have been invited to try another technological advance: this time a screen small enough to fit into your hand. The device will provide a play-by-play analysis of the music as the concertgoer listens. No pictures (so far), only words: the text changes every 15 to 20 seconds. Think sports patter, only highbrow, musical and blessedly mute.

“Curious about what Charles Ives is up to in his `Three Places in New England?,’ ” the e-mail message asked, inviting subscribers on Wednesday to a performance of the Philharmonic’s Charles Ives Festival next week. “Concert Companion will tell you as the music unfolds before you.”

Viewers had already rejected large movie screens of the performers, a’ la rock concert. Many found it “distracting.”

Here is the full story. Many American orchestras are experiencing fiscal troubles, and London’s low cost, commercial Savoy Opera just closed. So perhaps some innovation is in order.

What would I want?: I’d like to check my email during the concert; I’d also like to discuss the proceedings with my companions, perhaps through silent Instant Messaging of some kind. But I won’t predict any of these will happen. In the time of Beethoven people ate and drank during classical concerts. They played cards and sometimes brought their animals. A contemporary non-profit, dependent on donations and government grants, is unlikely to take such steps. For another solution, read this article on classical crossover. Until classical music makes a comeback in the home, it won’t be self-financing in the outside world. Perhaps the future of the genre lies in Korea.