RMA Study Day: Listening to the Listener: Contemporary Perceptions of Classical Music

16th November 2015, Sheffield University Humanities Research Institute

Keynote Speakers
Professor John Sloboda and Dr. Karen Wise, Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

The relevance of classical music today is in question. In the UK and US, it has been shown to consistently attract audiences who are predominantly white, middle-aged, middle-class and well-educated, struggling to draw new, younger and ethnically diverse attenders (Chan et al. 2008, League of American Orchestras 2009). Amongst these non-attenders, classical music is often perceived as stuffy and elitist, out of touch with an increasingly pluralist society. In order to attract new audiences, many organisations have tried alternative means of presentation, for example through informal concerts formats or use of digital technology. Any new ventures are however tempered by the current economic climate, with cuts to arts funding and reduced disposable income affecting the willingness to take risks of arts organisations and attenders alike.

Against this background, there is a growing body of research into current classical music audiences from within both academia and the industry. Much of this research goes beyond socio-demographics to explore their perceptions of classical music and experiences at concerts. Recent additions have challenged the paradigm of a ‘still and silent listener’ (Sennett 1977), instead highlighting the diversity of experiences and attitudes within an audience (Pitts 2005). More work is needed to understand how changes to the culture of classical music today are affecting both attenders and non-attenders. We hope that this Study Day will provide a space for further discussion on the current state of classical music and its audiences.

We welcome empirical or theoretical papers from research students, academics or practitioners on the following topics or any other topic related to the overall theme of the day:

  • The relevance of classical music today
  • Changes to the presentation of classical music
  • Impact of technology on classical music
  • Current audiences’ experiences at concerts
  • Understanding the non-attender
  • Methods and ethics of researching with audiences

Papers from research students are especially welcome. Submit proposals up to 250 words for 20 minute papers (followed by 10 minutes for discussion). Please include your name, email address, short biography and any AV requirements. Proposals and any enquiries should be sent to Lucy Dearn and Sarah Price at: sparc@sheffield.ac.uk
Deadline: Friday 4th September 2015