Enhancing listening experience of virtual concerts
By S. Ram
The past months have seen a surfeit of virtual Carnatic concerts in the pandemic environment. Despite the initial fears and doubts in singing without being able to connect with the audience, such concerts have been gaining acceptance.
Having watched many such concerts, I felt that vocalists could do a little more to enhance the listening experience of rasikas sitting in the comfort of their homes, to make it more engaging.
I am a great believer in consumer connect through my professional experience and in audience/ rasikas connect in the performing arts -- especially music and theatre. Thus, came the thought of thinking creatively to reinforce the connect with rasikas!
The virtual concert is a brand-new format to experience but it will never replace a live stage experience. How to successfully blend the two types of experiences is the question. Can a crisis be converted into an opportunity for musicians to experiment in the way music is presented virtually?
Performing artists, apart from their musical skills, are articulate and have the ability to connect with the audience with clarity and warmth which can be leveraged for mutual benefit.
As the curtain goes up, the vocalist begins with a varnam or a kriti. It would be better if the artist takes a few minutes to share what’s in store and then introduces the pakkavadyam artists. Instead of simply singing one kriti after another, could the vocalist talk to the audience through the concert to keep them engaged? Real value is not only about music per se; it is also about the connection that artists establish with their rasikas.
Virtual concerts are being presented today in a traditional manner. Is it possible for the performing artist to provide rasikas with a different listening experience by engaging with the audience in the following ways?
# Engage in storytelling mode before the rendition to convey details about the raga, composer, respective deity and the temple, and the essence of the composition.
# Talk about the influence of their guru in their musical journey.
# The sahitya in a composition can sometimes make it a transcendental experience for the artist. Can the vocalist transfer that feel to the rasikas to enhance their listening experience?
#Tyagaraja wrote his songs in emotive Telugu and his songs reflect his state of mind whether it is grief, yearning or joy. His vast repertoire has diverse lyrical content and context from simple songs to complex Pancharatna kritis. Can the essence be shared with the rasikas thereby enriching the listening experience?
# Audience interaction at the end can include a short discussion – thereby sharing a slice of the artists’ explorations of the art form.
# There are several nuggets that can be shown in digital performances which the audience cannot experience in a live concert. The camera can from time to time focus on the expressions and exchange of glances between artists, the hand and finger movements of the accompanists. It can also display the expressions and playing techniques during jugalbandis and the tani avartanam in a split screen. Listening to instrumental music gives the freedom to imagine the lyrics on a blank slate.
# Ask a Question: Rasikas can be informed about this beforehand, and some time can be devoted at the end for the artists to answer relevant questions, for example, on raga, composer and composition, manodharma, and the greatness of music legends.
Time can be allotted for the above components, for example : introduction - 5 minutes , storytelling mode through the concert - 10 minutes, the concert - 100 minutes, and Ask a Question at the end lasting 5 minutes, thus making it totally a two-hour concert.
In Carnatic music, a composition has manifold roles: It acts as a vehicle along the path of devotion since the theme of most compositions is devotional. It not only reflects the sentiments of the composer, but when rendered with involvement, reflects the emotions of the performer too. Hence, is there a way to take experiential involvement to the next level in a virtual environment? I am in no way suggesting that it should be done in a lecdem mode. It may not seem traditional but in the current context of singing with no audience, the vocalist is unable to gauge the mood of the audience through the concert.
The pandemic will have a long-lasting impact, but the good news is that we’re just at the beginning of an exciting new era of interactivity. Technology can be a driving force behind connecting artists with rasikas.
Will the rasikas accept this approach ? It could create a differentiating and feel good factor for the rasikas which may result in positive disposition, especially for paid concerts.