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The Sounds and Music of Open Space

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Posted by Patricia Zimmermann at 3:29PM   |  4 comments
Soap, by Chameleon in Berlin


Blog entry by Jairo Geronymo, pianist, Nurnberg and Berlin,  Germany

Two weeks ago,  I saw a show in Berlin by a group called ‘Chamäleon’  The show itself was called ‘Soap’. One of my concert companions was a ten year-old boy. This show seemed the perfect choice for a mind immersed in Nintendo and Disney.

The show mixed acrobatics, special effects, comedy, skin, and hardcore arias by Mozart, Schubert, Schumann and Wolf. Unusual.

The scenery consisted of bathtubs used as a base for acrobatics. The highest bathtub functioned as the throne of a very good soprano wearing a bathing suit.  The pairings were a delightful surprise: Wolf  with contortions, Schubert with fabric swaths holding muscular bodies, Mozart with soap bubbles.

At the moment, the streets of Berlin are plastered with advertisements for the "Blue Man Group". In Las Vegas, it is difficult to score tickets for ‘Cirque du Soleil’  or ‘Le Reve’. All these spectacles mix dance, acrobatics, elaborate set design, and music.

Yet these elements  also evoke the main ingredients of French Grand Opera. Classical ballets have merged with circus acrobatics. Operas in the 18th century used flowing blue fabric to make ocean waves; now , we have laser shows. Everything is different. Everything is the same.

So how has the music changed?

Is this change just a question of Gregorian Chant with digital sounds, African drums with extra reverberation and musical pyrotechnics? No.

Experiences appealing to many senses remain a successful recipe for audience engagement.  Disney knows this. Bollywood knows this. Can we then anticipate a resurgence of French grand opera for the masses? Questionable--but opera will always attract an audience.

I prefer to think that in our multi-cultural global society, there is space for the New York Phillarmonic playing music from Star Wars and Mozart paired with soap bubbles.




I've never been for any shows like "Soap" before where modern technology and classical music from of old have been so mashed up to create something completely different, but I would think that this is the sort of performance I would be very inclined to attend.

I am a classically-trained pianist, and growing up, I recall going for several performances by the local symphony orchestra. Having said that, it's been a long time since I last been to such a performance. I suppose classical music in its "natural" form isn't that exciting anymore.

The rise of multi media and its integration with classical music is likely to result in an interesting shift of people turning towards classicial music without even realising it is classical music. I look forward to more of such integration and the increased accessibility of classical music to the masses.

Hi Daphne Chui,

Thank you for your post. I am glad to answer a colleague pianist!
Have you seen the Disney movie "Fantasia"? It is also a multi media piece that employs classical music. Have you watched Bugs Bunny? There are many fast Beethoven movements in there!
I disagree with you that classical music in it's 'natural' form is not exciting anymore. There has been a broadening of possibilities and offerings musically but there has never been this many symphony orchestras, opera houses and musical events in the past history. Is the proportion to the overall population smaller. Yes, but there is a natural tendency for the population to get dumber. Sorry but that's true! Be glad that everybody that questions these values, like you, are part of a cultural elite and we certainly need this elite to move our culture ahead and avoid an intellectual pandemonium.
We can criticize a film like "Amadeus" for its historical inaccuracy but the truth is that it made Mozart mainstream. As a consequence people are more open to his music. I do not see this evolution as bad per se. It all depends of what we make of it.
Best wishes on your musical endeavors and keep the good work!

Jairo Geronymo

My mother is a musician, and I grew up listening to a lot of classical music. This may be the reason why I enjoy and listen to it, not being a musician myself. I agree with you that there is still space for classical music next to flashy modern music. It has survived thus far, and with modern technology it is easier for others to become exposed to it.

The show you saw sounds very interesting. I see something like that being similar to modern films of classic plays such as 'Romeo and Juliet.' The foundation is the same, it has just been adapted to be more relatable to the current audience. There are also modern works that have been inspired by classical music that have their place in the musical world as well.
I go to a college that has a notable music school, and while I am not a part of it, I have observed an appreciation for classical music on campus. There are always concerts of classical music that students have access to, and students take advantage of that.

The audience for classical music may slowly be diminishing, but I would like to imagine there will always be a fraction of society that is interested in making and listening to it.

Thanks for this great article, right to the point.

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