Roll over, Beethoven, and tell Tchaikovsky the news: veering sharply from traditional classical concert decorum, Leonard Slatkin told concert-goers in West Palm Beach, Fla., Tuesday night that he and the Detroit Symphony were ready for their close-up (or long shot, as the case might be), and invited them to whip out phones, snap pictures of the scene, and post them on social media to instantly commemorate the moment.
Having just climaxed the scheduled program at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts with Ravel’s “Bolero,” Slatkin didn’t just take the usual mute bow. According to a news release sent out Wednesday by the Detroit Symphony, which he's led as music director since 2008, he addressed the audience, saying:
"You've heard that we're the most accessible orchestra on the planet, and tonight you're going to be the most accessible audience on the planet. For the first time I'd like to invite you to turn [on] your cellphones for a change, and cross the stage's barrier by capturing this moment and posting your photos to your favorite social media channels."
With phones aloft and facing them, Slatkin and his troops provided a tender afterglow to "Bolero," playing an encore of "Touch her sweet lips and part" from William Walton's score to Laurence Olivier's 1944 film of Shakespeare's "Henry V."
"This is [a] first for any orchestra, to my knowledge," Detroit Symphony spokeswoman Gabrielle Poshadlo said Wednesday from West Palm Beach, where she said Slatkin had mentioned he planned to invite shutterbugging again for a matinee performance already in progress. "In the lobby after [Tuesday's] concert, everybody was talking about how great it was," she said.
It's not certain whether Slatkin will extend the photographic invitation on all the stops along a six-date South Florida tour featuring piano soloist Olga Kern that will also hit Miami, Vero Beach, Sarasota and Naples (where violinist Hilary Hahn takes over from Kern), or whether he'll bring the practice back home to Detroit -- or, this summer, to his native Los Angeles.
Poshadlo said the orchestra's concert programs in Detroit's Max M. Fisher Music Center issue no advisory against cellphone photography. Pictures of its performances have been popping up online, she said, "so we know people are doing it. It's never caused a disruption."
Slatkin will lead the Los Angeles Philharmonic in four August concerts at the highly photogenic Hollywood Bowl. His coming adventures also include a June 14 gala with the Detroit Symphony featuring the film music of John Williams, and an onstage conversation between Williams and director Steven Spielberg, who has tapped Williams repeatedly for film scores.
Before the classical world goes too far down the path toward welcoming digital capture and instant dissemination of musical moments, Culture Monster suggests that it check out this recent cri de coeur from Los Angeles Times pop music critic Randall Roberts, in which he wrote that he's become fed up with all the distractions in the audience at pop concerts, including from people taking pictures or video:
"Musicians are increasingly making snide comments about smartphones and talking, at least those who care more about spirit than virality. Arcade Fire's Win Butler urged the crowd at a recent L.A. gig to ditch the taping and live in the moment, eliciting grand cheers…. Moments, recalled not through digital archive but tranquil recollection, provide a memory buzz far finer than an archived YouTube clip."