The Beat Goes On

The Beat Goes On
Sephiroth Saves The Symphony

Shannon Drake | 16 Jan 2007 11:03
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Shifting into a mode I'd characterize as the Music Director rather than the Conductor, he added that, "the onus goes onto these orchestras that are presenting these concerts. We're bringing this audience into the concert venue for them. These orchestras have their traditional audiences dying off at this point. They need to find ways to capture [the new] audience and keep them coming to symphony orchestra concerts. And that's a very important fact. ... It's a wonderful thing to bring in these new audience members. In many cases, they are people who have never been in." He used the Atlanta concert as an example, where several audience members told him it was their first time at the Atlanta Symphony, and I happened to be one of them. "[They] would certainly come back, and said as much. They'd love to come back to another concert, if the programming can keep them hooked and keep them interested."

Intrigued by the notion of videogame music saving symphonies, I asked him how they might go about keeping younger audiences interested. He mentioned opera companies as doing the best job of growing a new audience, saying that they took a crowd looking for more spectacle and put more production efforts into typical operas. Symphonies, by contrast, "have tried lots of different things, and I believe they've met with more mixed success. And I would say that Dear Friends or Play is another way to reach out and touch another audience that was previously untapped by symphony orchestras. It's really a question now of someone having the vision as a music director and programmer to follow up and grab those people. ... A lot of this programming fits perfectly fine on a concert hall stage, right next to Stravinsky or Wagner or Holst or any number of composers. ... I think they need to investigate that."

According to Roth, these kinds of concerts are not just quirks of the pop culture landscape. "I think that there will be more of them," he said. "How widespread it gets, I don't know. I think that part of the fascination with Dear Friends and More Friends was the uniqueness of the concerts. They hadn't been done, so it was quite a unique experience. ... I also think that the music of Final Fantasy has a different kind of fan than some of the other games. They are more loyal to the music, so I think that's important, as well."

Looking to the future, "we can start to see, over the next five to 10 years, certain key pieces of music making their way to the concert stage. Maybe not full concerts of videogame music, but perhaps movie scoring parts of the evening, where there might be suites of music from various movies, and sitting side by side with that may be some of the big hits from Final Fantasy, or whatever it may be," though he's not sure whether it will be a few pieces in a full program or an entire concert of videogame music.

Reflecting on his comments about the opera companies, he mentions the opera scene from Final Fantasy VI ("which I've conducted a couple of times") and muses about doing "a little more staging, not just showing video clips, but maybe some live action on the stage, along the lines of opera. It's a new genre and it's going to evolve, and it's certainly an important thing. Since the symphony is the star here, it's an important thing for symphony orchestras to look at, to take a very serious look at this to bring in a new audience."

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