Saturday, August 6, 2016

'Smaller is better' in NYC

Americans have long been wedded to big shows in big spaces. That predilection has held sway across the universe of music-making, from arena rock to grand opera.

In recent years, though, arenas are playing host to fewer concerts, and large music venues are struggling to fill empty seats – witness the well-publicized box-office travails of New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

The reason, partly, is the fragmentation of listeners’ preferences – few, if any, musicians draw audiences large enough to fill the biggest halls, even in the biggest cities.

I commented on this trend toward “atomization” nine years ago in an essay for NewMusicBox:

Atomization turns out to be good news, at least for the consumers of music. As commercial reality drives performers into smaller spaces, audiences are finding that the musical experience is enhanced in more intimate settings, and that artists can program their performances more creatively.

The New York Times’ Anthony Tommasini observes the “smaller is better” trend at work in classical music in a city whose cultural life has long been centered on big halls: