THE AUDIENCE MUST BE AN AMORPHOUS BLOB!
Brenton Broadstock 1984
(Published in the Australian Music Centre's Magazine)
It is early writing and a bit of fun!
‘The time has come the walrus said to speak of many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and AUDIENCES’.
I do not write music for an audience!
What an uncompromising statement, but one which, for me, is essentially true. Or is it?
I am a listener. I listen to my own music, so I must be part of the audience (an audience being defined as an 'assembly of listeners'). Therefore I do write music for an audience. I do consider an audience when I compose - an audience of ONE - me!
It's impossible for me to take any other course. I am not a salesperson. I flatly refuse to make my music a marketable and malleable commodity, to be sold to the highest bidder or shaped for a particular audience. To treat the audience as a bottom-line measure of the quality and acceptability of a piece of music is a foolish mistake. To treat an audience as a collection of consumers is also a mistake. Consumers, not surprisingly, consume! Then they dispose of the waste. I do not want my music to be a waste product; it is too important to me, I have poured too much of myself into it. Therefore I try to aim for qualities beyond those of mere short-term gratification and consumerism; the essential quality being honesty, honesty of self-expression.
I consider myself to be an artist, someone who attempts, and often fails, to create something of durable value, of intrinsic quality, expounding universal truths - as I see them. Perhaps this is altruistic, noble, possibly naive - so be it!
As a composer, as an artist, I MUST consider the audience to be an amorphous blob - a receptacle for the sound world that I am creating. Sometimes the receptacle leaks, the audience is unresponsive, the music literally goes in one ear and out the other! Sometimes - and when this happens it's very rewarding - the receptacle retains the sound world and even appreciates it. It is easy to be seduced by the 'popularity', by the 'success' of the work, or the performance, or the occasion. It is also easy to equate this shimmering, ephemeral oasis of felicitation with artistic quality, with worth, and to sit back in the easy chair of creative complacency and accept the hearty slap on the back and 'well done!'.
In spite of retention or leakage, I will still write the same music - the music that I feel I must write.
The audience is an unknown quantity. If I knew who the audience would be at a given place or time, such as the premiere of a new work, do I phone them all, or send them a questionnaire eliciting their responses to questions such as: Do you like melody? Do you prefer A major or atonality? How long do you think the work should last? What does it matter what they think anyway!
What of later performances? Who will those people be? How can I communicate with them all to find out what the 'average' likes and dislikes are? How do I consider an audience for a national radio broadcast? Do I write for the sailors of Snug, the Kooris of Kalgoorlie or the dilettantes of Double Bay? How do I consider an audience of Finns in Tampere or the Japanese of Sendai? It's absurd! I don't, because I do not consider the reactions, the preferences or the cultural context of an audience when I am planning a work or when I am composing.
I do not write music FOR, but ABOUT my fellow human beings. I want my music to be reflection of the way we live together. To reflect struggle, disappointment, triumph and my own concerns about the way we live. A reflection based upon genuine humanitarian ideals and not middle class political tokenism. This inevitably makes my music emotional, intellectual, dramatic and eclectic and possibly at times inconsistent - a true reflection of human nature! It is sometimes palatable, sometimes eschewed, sometimes ridiculed, sometimes loved - I wouldn't have it any other way.
My music is not written to be deliberately perverse, intellectually esoteric or because of feelings of social or artistic superiority. I do not set out to alienate, as composers did in the 1950s and 1960s, nor do I wish to woo an audience with 'whizz-bang' music that instantly appeals.
I am not interested in being an evangelist for the cause of contemporary music, feeling duty bound to undertake an educational crusade to drag the audience screaming into the 1990s. There are already enough bigots, self-opinionated zealots and myopic musical fascists to do this - if they can.
If my music is 'audience friendly', that is not a cause for wrist slashing or the gnashing of artistic teeth, it is simply a happy coincidence and an artistic cross that I will have to endure. What I write is me, an honest reflection of me as a composer, as an artist, as a human being. It is, unashamedly, my view of the world, full of biases, prejudices and errors, as any view will be. It may be that no one cares about my view, and I am not that presumptuous to think that my view has any relevance or validity to anyone, but that won't deter me from wanting to write music, the way I want to write it - unpolluted, unimpaired and undiluted.
To the amorphous blob, I say sorry that I do not consider you when I compose. Here is my music, warts and all, take it or leave it!
©1984 Brenton Broadstock