Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

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Current Distractions

Fri Aug 15 2014

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Our leader Margaret Faultless is also Professor of Music at @RoyalAcadMusic. She's been investigating the hidden me… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…


I’m taking over the reins of Current Distractions for one week only and this week we look at classical music past, present and future. Oh, and wifi.

First, I must admit I am a bit of a sucker for pictures of abandoned, once grand buildings. Often these seem to center around the city of Detroit, but here’s a musically themed selection, courtesy of Classic FM, showcasing derelict concert halls around the world.

Inevitably Detroit does of course feature…


Next up – the old chestnut of  ‘do orchestras have a future’ has reared its ugly head again, although this time in a more thought provoking form rather than as silly season we-need-to-fill-newspapers fodder.

Ivan Fischer

Conductor Iván Fischer (above), never someone not to speak his mind, thinks that Symphony Orchestras are on the way out – saying that they ‘only have a few decades left’. He postulates that Orchestras that want to survive need to be much more flexible in future. My recent experience in the USA suggests that Orchestras there are particularly ill prepared for this challenge (I’m allowed to be slightly controversial in this post … right?)

Read the full article here (sadly Times subscribers only).

And on that theme of flexibility being the key to future success here’s a look at two of the UK’s most successful newish Orchestras – Aurora and the London Contemporary Orchestra. Writer Christina Kenny reckons success comes down to being business savvy, tapping into freelance talent, challenging preconceptions around classical music (we might have a thing or two to say about that as well), inventive programming, collaboration, and er, being young? Not sure about the last one but we couldn’t agree more on the others. Read the full article here

Mona Lisa

The National Gallery made headlines this week with its announcement that it is to allow visitors to take pictures of artworks. I’ve personally got mixed feelings about this – as several commentators have noted, you run the risk of visitors taking pictures of everything but not actually looking at anything. But sometimes I feel this happens anyway – quite often in galleries I find myself reading the little info panel next to whatever it is and then only giving the artwork the most cursory of looks.

I wonder if the classical music equivalent is programme notes? Sometimes you start reading the notes and then realise you’ve not actually been listening to the music. Personally I’d be all up for turning the lights down in halls so that we concentrate and engage with the music a bit more. Ultimately I’d think we’d all get a lot more out of the concert – and you can still read the programme in the interval.

Lastly – wifi. Does it ever scare you just how many wifi networks there are? Ten years ago it didn’t exist and now you turn on your device anywhere in London and you are bombarded by different networks. It’s a bit odd to think that films, music and documents are being streamed and downloaded magically through the air all around us. Maybe it’s just me that finds it disturbing…

Anyway, what if you could actually see wifi networks? Well, now you can, thanks to artist Luis Hernan – and very pretty it is too.


William Norris
Communciations and Creative Programming Director



  • ‘Center’? Sorry to see the OAE adopting US spellings!

    David Norris Wed Aug 20 2014
  • The staff member concerned has been disciplined accordingly. Thank you for your comment.

    oae Tue Sep 9 2014