Has Technology Made the Concert Hall Obsolete?

Technology has certainly made music readily accessible to most all of us.  The author of Reinventing Bach, Paul Elie, believes concert halls are unnecessary.  Elie contends that live music “seems insubstantial and elusive, made somewhere once for a little while and then allowed to go away.”

Stefan Kanfer is a Manhattan Institute for Policy Research scholar and a contributor to their publication City Journal.  Much of his career has been spent as a cinema and theater reviewer and essayist, including 20 years editing and writing for Time Magazine.

In his review of Reinventing Bach, Kanfer points out Paul Elie’s contention that  technology has rendered live performance unnecessary and that the continual diminishing of sound quality, necessary for this convenience, is worth it.

Mr. Kanfer takes the issue with this conclusion, as do I.  Like anyone else, I enjoy having music at my fingertips.  As I write this, I am listening to music being streamed over the internet.  

Many of you connect with Classical 101 online at work, if not all the time.  We have an iPod, with all of the accessories, including a docking station, a jack to plug it into our car sound system, noise-cancelling headphones for air travel, and earbuds for a workout or working in the yard.  However, any music lover will tell you that there is nothing that can replace listening to a music performance as it happens.  Not only is the visual aspect important but so is the aural. There is NO recording capable of duplicating the moment that O Fortuna explodes from the stage, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring rocks the entire theater, or Barber’s Adagio envelops you in a wash of sonic glory, awakening emotions we may never otherwise experience.  Think about what it is like to experience Mozart’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, or Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, as these timeless creations reverberate all around you.

It is true that much has changed in how we experience music and performance, but anyone who can be satisfied with watching a performance on a 2.8 inch screen and hearing it through a pair of earbuds, is missing the point.

Read more: Has Technology Made the Concert Hall Obsolete? (CityJournal)

  • BethanyG

    Technology has enhanced our access and abilities involving music, but in my mind it will never replace the thrill and adrenaline of a live performance. There is something remarkable that also happens when one is able to personally witness the raw and amazing talent of human beings coordinating such uniquely different parts or sections of music into one complete and harmonious performance. A live performance from an orchestra is a visual display of unity from diversity at its best. On that note, it would be wonderful if Columbus could obtain a concert hall /arts center fine tuned for live performance. We’ve got many wonderful theatres, sports stadiums, museums, church venues… Right now we’ve got world class musical talent in our backyard, and while it’s nice to have the various theatres and church venues available for performance, it would be wonderful to engage and experience the musical talent we have here in Columbus in such a facility specifically designed for musical performance (and cultural education in our community).

  • KMG

    The only thing that technology makes “obsolete” is the gadget you just bought 6 months ago…