Those speakers are for what, now?

Why are many performers using sound systems during their concerts?

I once attended a concert and felt a tingle in my arms.

Not because of a heart-attack, nor because I was cold.

There was a moment of simple beauty.

A “Goosebump Moment” as George Marriner Maull of the Discovery Orchestra calls it.

What causes such music-inspired goosebumps?

goosebumps

A whole bunch of things, really, not least of which is the sheer physical vibrations of the air in the room. At that particular event a series of sound waves puncturing the atmosphere hit me at just the right frequency to cause my physical being to shudder with excitement.

Sound familiar? I sure hope so!

Another concert of exactly the same piece a little while later failed to reproduce a goosebump moment. Why would that be?

A whole bunch of reasons, really, not least of which was the sheer bombardment of sound that neither my brain nor my body knew what to do with. At that particular event the performing ensemble had multiple microphones on stage and an audio engineer in an open booth at the back of the room underneath a balcony ‘balancing’ the sound.

Disturbed and agitated

Even to a trained ear it was difficult to audibly tell the difference between the acoustic version and the version supported by a sound system, other than the fact that one performance felt special and the other felt disturbed and agitated.

There is no need to reproduce live classical music with electronic support! Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of times a sound system is useful in concert, and sometimes necessary, but not as frequently as some folk like us to believe.

For example, how can you hear the Emcee/ MC/ Master of Ceremonies or Conductor talk between pieces? Or how do you hear the recording of nightingales that Respighi calls for in the third movement of his marvelous piece Pines of Rome?

But regular, violin, clarinet, piano or other straight instrument playing or singing should not need supporting through a sound system. Why not?

Here’s what happens with those sound waves:

Acoustic Performances

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Performances with a speaker

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Performances with multiple speakers

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Performances with multiple performers and multiple speakers

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Performances mimicking trendy concert practices with multiple banks of speakers

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How is this enhancing music? I don’t get it. Give me that first speaker-free option any day of the week, please!

Do you think sound systems in classical music are helpful or harmful?

 

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