Copland's Appalachian Spring danced by the orchestra musicians: confronting my memories of boredom four years ago

I follow Greg Sandow’s blog on the “future of classical music”. He posted an article that got me thinking: he was all excited about an unorthodox performance of Aaron Copland’s half-hour-long “Appalachian Spring” by the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra in which the students of the orchestra actually moved around and danced as well as played their instruments.

I have a confession to make: back almost four years ago, in November 2010, I went to a “Carnegie Mellon Night at the Symphony” in which “Appalachian Spring” was on the program. I got very bored during the piece.

One thing to remember is that the orchestra suite was actually arranged by Copland from his original piece that was an actual ballet for Martha Graham! So it’s actually kind of unnatural to experience this music “purely” as music. To me the suite is rather long and redundant without some kind of “story” to go along with it. So I watched the video of the orchestra-danced performance.

It was definitely more interesting seeing action. At the same time, I got bored eventually anyway, after about 15 minutes. But I lasted longer with the physical action. However, I was also distracted by thoughts of how difficult it must have been for the orchestra to pull this off. I mean, marching band is one thing, but this is an orchestra and there was a ton of choreography and it’s not just marching.

It’s interesting that a commenter on Sandow’s blog criticized the effort, writing: It’s nicely done, I suppose, if you must do this sort of thing. But when I go to an orchestral concert, I’m there for the music, not for this sort of thing. To me, this doesn’t tell the audience “this music is worth your time and attention,” it tells them “we have so little faith that you’ll enjoy the music that we feel compelled to trick it out with distractions.” I used to sing in a chorus that was fond of “chorusography,” and it annoyed me as a performer, too.”

What do you think? Do you like this idea or does it annoy you?

Judge for yourself:

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