如何写作音乐会赏析 writing a concert report
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Insider’s Guide

to Writing a Concert Report

Everyone’s a critic—and now it’s your turn. Here’s your opportunity to apply what you’ve learned in your course and your textbook to the “real world” of music. The payoff comes when you go to a live concert--

whether of classical music, arena rock, jazz, or blues. You’ll enjoy the music much more because now you know much more. You’ll know what to listen for.

Music professors usually assign one or more concert reports during a course. Writing a concert report calls for more critical thinking—and listening—than answering, say, discussion questions for class. In fact, it involves three kinds of critical listening:

1. Analytical. What genre of music was played (symphony or country song)? What form is used in the pieces (sonata-allegro or strophic verse and chorus)?

2. Technical. How well did the performers do (too fast, too slow, out of tune, not well blended)?

3. Emotional . How effective was the performance? (Did it make you want to cry or dance for joy, or did it just leave you cold?)

The author of your text has been going to concerts for more years than he would prefer to say, and he has been reading student concert reports for more than forty. Here are some things he’d recommend thinking about when approaching and attending a concert. Take them into consideration, and you’ll likely impress your instructor.

A CLASSICAL CONCERT REPORT

Let’s assume that your assignment is to review a concert of classical music. How to proceed? First, go online and find out who’s performing and the pieces they’re playing—the concert program may be posted online at the performers’ or venue’s website. Then go to YouTube and find performances of the pieces. If you’re super diligent, find two recordings of the same piece—say, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, with which one conductor seems to take a fast tempo and another a much slower one. Finally, look online in the Arts section of a major newspaper (New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times) and find a typical music review, just to get a general sense of what goes into such a review.

Now you’re what we might call “critically prepared.” Ask your teacher what you should wear—casual clothes are usually fine, even for a high-end classical concert. Ask also where to sit. The answer will depend on the kind of concert hall, as every hall has its own acoustical properties. Sometimes it’s good to sit in front, to see what’s going on, but most often the sound is best at the rear of the hall. During intermission, you might even change seats: sit up front during the first half, to better see what’s going on, and then at the back, to hear better. Finally, be sure to take pen and paper with you to take notes. (Laptops can be distracting, and smart phones must be turned off at a concert.)

What to Write About

Like all good journalistic writing, the opening paragraph of a music review or a concert report sets the scene by giving the “who, what, when, and where”: specifically, who performed, what they played or sang, when the concert took place, and where.

Here ’s a list of important things to keep in mind as your write your report:

1. A music review is essentially a review of the performance, not of the work. In other words, your focus is

on how the music is played and how it sounds. Were the pieces well performed? If so, how so? If not, why not?

2. A music review should refer to the piece in the present tense (“The first movement of Beethoven’s

symphony is written as allegro ...”), but the performance is discussed in the past tense (“... but the

orchestra played the first movement without energy or enthusiasm”).

3. Show your instructor that you’ve learned something in this course. Use your newly developed musical

vocabulary. Don’t say, for example, “The instruments moved the melody around.” Rather, say

specifically, “The violins convincingly effected a modulation of the theme through different keys.”

(Which keys doesn’t matter; you’d have to have perfect pitch to know that, and only 1 person in 10,000 has perfect pitch.)

4. Use correct vocabulary. Please don’t call an overture or a set of instrumental variations a “song. ” This

will drive your instructor berserk. It is a piece, composition, work, oeuvre, symphonic movement, and so on. Unless there is a text and your piece is sung, it is not a song.

5. You don’t have to devote equal time to all pieces on the program. You may be able to generalize about

one or two of the pieces in a couple of sentences for each, and then move on to what was, for you, the most arresting performance of the concert. For example, begin with “The most disappointing works in terms of performance were _________.” Now say briefly what was wrong and move on. Then say, “The most exciting [disappointing] performance was in the orchestra’s rendition of _________.” Then describe at length what was great or disappointing in the performance of that piece.

6. Vary your prose. Don’t begin each sentence with “The piece this . . . The piece that. . . .”

7. Finally, be sure to proofread your report. Show your teacher that you cared enough to put forward

your very best work.

What Not to Write About

1. Clothing, hairdo, shoes, physical appearance of the performers.

2. The form, structure, and intrinsic worth of the pieces (only at premieres of new compositions should you discuss the worth of the piece). You’re not concerned with whether the composition is good or bad, only whether the performance was good or bad.

3. The life of the composers or the history of the pieces--such information is usually given in program notes that you receive when you arrive, not to mention in your textbook or on the web.

Special Tips for a Concert Played by a Symphony Orchestra

When hearing a great symphony orchestra, such as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra or the San Francisco

Symphony —indeed, any professional orchestra—it will be extremely difficult for the average educated listener to pick out things that are going wrong or aren’t done well. However, for student or community orchestras, there will be more things to criticize as well as praise. But whether you’re hearing a professional or an amateur orchestra, here are a few special things to keep in mind:

1. The conductor. Always keep your eye on the conductor. This is the musical “traffic cop” guiding the

flow of the music. Wherever the conductor turns, something is going to happen.

2. Balance. The brass section can be a noisy group. Does the conductor maintain a pleasing balance of

strings, woodwinds, and brasses? When it comes time for a woodwind instrument to play a solo,

does the conductor keep the volume of the rest of the orchestra down, so that the softer solo

instrument can be heard?

3. Dynamics. It’s easy for a nonprofessional orchestra to play loud and fast. Playing soft and slow is

more difficult. This tends to expose the individual parts, revealing any shortcomings among the

performers. So, pay particular attention during the quietest moments. “Soft and high” is really

difficult to do!

4. Extremes. Nonprofessional orchestras have difficulty attaining extremes of volume. Is the

conductor able to get the orchestra to shift quickly and convincingly between very loud and very soft?

5. French horns. The French horn played poorly can be a raucous-sounding instrument. Do the French

horns blend with the rest of the orchestra, or do they stand out in an unpleasant way?

6. Who’s looking where? Are the players watching the conductor, or do they have their noses in the

music? If the latter, they likely don’t know it very well. Also, are all the violin bows going up and down at same time? They should be; if not, the phrasing of the music may be out of sync.

7. Rating the conductor. Does the conductor seem to know the score? Is he or she even using a score?

(Some conductors memorize all the lines of the entire piece.) Does he or she use a score for all pieces on the program? Does he have his nose in the score (not a good sign) or is she continually looking at the players, to lead and throw them cues (a good sign)?

8. Woodwinds. Do the winds in particular sound “in tune”? How do you tell? If the conductor has to

have them tune between movements, the preceding movement was likely not in tune.

9. Day dreaming? Do the orchestra and conductor give a convincing performance? Does the

audience seem engaged the entire time or does it look bored? Do you yourself find

yourself day-dreaming? If so, this can’t be a very exciting performance.

10. How did it go? How enthusiastic is the audience at the end? How does the applause sound? And if

they stand up, is it to give a standing ovation, or is it to grab their coats and escape quickly?

A POP CONCERT REPORT

Many of the same tips apply when writing a review of pop music. Here are a few different questions worth answering:

1. Does the singer or band perform many new pieces, or please the fans by playing mostly that artist’s

best-known songs?

2. Most classical music concerts consist of known pieces performed in a traditionally accepted way;

spontaneous creativity is kept closely in check. How do the artists at your pop concert demonstrate creativity by doing the unexpected--by suddenly improvising, for example?

3. How does the artist or group alternate pieces or arrange the sequence of the songs (and here they

usually are songs) so as to build to a final climax and keep the audience with them at all times?

4. Does the audience sing along with the musicians, is there dancing in the aisles or up front, in front of

the musicians? If so, this is a sure sign that the performers have done a good job of literally “moving” the listeners.

5. Do you sense that there is more of a sense of community and social bonding at your pop concert

than at a typical concert of classical music? If so, why might that be?

A WORLD MUSIC CONCERT REPORT

For a concert of world music—be it the music of Japan, China, Indonesia, India, or Timbuktu-- you won’t likely be able to construct a critical report. To do so would require that you had grown up in that musical tradition, with a sense of its values and expectations. For example, how could a Westerner identify a “wrong” note played by a performer on the Indian sitar? Thus a world music concert report will usually be more along the lines of who, what, when, and where. Nevertheless, as you listen, allow your mind a higher level of thinking as you consider the following:

1. Are the instruments more or less exact counterparts of Western ones (a bamboo flute and a

Western metallic one, for example), or do the instruments seem exotic, perhaps unique to the musical culture on display at the concert? Speculate then as to which musical

instruments might be truly global and which unique to the West?

2. Does the music have a strong component of harmony (as does Western music), or is it far

more melodically oriented? Do drones play a role in the harmony? If so, what do drones add to the music?

3. What is the relationship between performers and audience? Do the performers stop and

explain their music from time to time? Does the audience overtly encourage the performers now and then? Is it socially permissible for the audience to get up and walk around during the performance? If so, what might that say about the function of the music in this non-Western context?

4. Is your concert primarily an event for listening only or participatory? Is it closer to a Western

classical music concert or a pop music performance? If the latter, does a “beat” seem to drive the music, as in so much Western pop music?

5. What about the attention span of the audience? Does it seem longer than that usually

demonstrated at Western concerts? Does the audience seem transported by long spans of music? If the listeners are mainly from the musical culture you are hearing, do they seem to be “getting” the music—communing with the musicians—while you are not?

6. Does the performance of a given piece seem to suspend time? Does it seem to be driving

somewhere in a typically Western goal-oriented fashion, or does it just seem to float, with past, present, and future all united as one? Is any hint given, by means of structure or

articulation in the music, that you are coming to the end of a piece, or does it just suddenly stop?

7. Finally, in what ways have you come to see more clearly that the typical Western classical

concert is a very strange phenomenon indeed? By listening to the music of “the other world,” what have you learned about yourself?