Listen... the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra is playing

Thursday, April 16, 2009

all a twitter

It seems that the idea of live-tweeting an orchestral concert is somewhat controversial. MasterMaq spoke on CBC's Wild Rose Country yesterday about twitter and received an, er, interesting comment about its appropriateness. Read his blog post about it here. My response is in the post's comments, which I'm going to repost in part here, as it kind of sums up why we're doing this: 

As for the appropriateness and value of live-tweeting an orchestral performance, and the broader issues and implications of twitter’s place in society, yes, it’s an experiment, and I’m open to the discussion. It’s a discussion that I have both at work and with my friends. Twitter is, in the grand scheme, such a new form of communication that there are bound to be controversies over its use - and I’m ok with wading into that controversy. Some of the music we perform is controversial and provokes strong responses from patrons, both positive and negative, and it seems this is no different. It’s interesting to me that at Symphony Under the Sky there is a completely different tolerance and expectation within the audience than a concert at the Winspear, and yet, is what the orchestra doing fundamentally different at Hawrelak Park than at the Winspear? Is tweeting at Hawrelak less disrespectful to the musicians? Perhaps it is - but it’s an interesting thought, and it’s just one example of the many grey areas in which we find ourselves in regards to technology and its relation to the arts.
The weekend that Mack tweeted, we had two full houses for our performances of Carmina Burana. We heard from many patrons who felt that the performance was the best of the year, and we heard from many more who felt it was the best concert they’d been to, period. I can’t remember the last time a Sunday afternoon ESO performance was full - and what kind of traditional media coverage did we get about all that? None… so the only post-performance coverage we can access are Mack’s tweets and blog, and the other two participant’s blog posts. So to me, they’re incredibly valuable resources that are reaching to entirely new audiences that the Edmonton Journal or CBC may not be reaching. And the best part - it’s patron-generated, not some marketing dreck that you’re probably going to ignore.
In the end, twitter is a communication tool that we’re not going to ignore. It remains to be seen how it evolves and finds its place within cultural events, and we’re trying to discover that. I wasn’t sitting beside Mack during the concert, but he was in a location that should not have been disruptive to others (and we did not receive complaints about it from other patrons), and I would guess that he was discreet and respectful as well. Concert etiquette is certainly on our minds, but even that is an ever-changing beast, and has been for hundreds of years. I believe there’s a balance to be found - we may just not hit it right away.
We have some live-tweeters for tonight's performance as well, if they dare:

Jim Tustian is returning to review the show on his blog, and a couple of other bloggers will be joining him as well - I'll post the links when their reviews are up.


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