ECR – Experimental Concert Research

Studies on the Concert Experience

How might the classical concert look like in the future?

We are in the midst of a classical concert crisis – at least this is what the media and visitor studies suggest. The growing average age of audiences and a perceived absence of younger listeners are often used to substantiate this claim. Concert halls and opera houses, which are funded by society, have come under immense pressure: the collective listening to a performance of classical and contemporary music appears to be losing its attractiveness. Concert organizers have responded with a variety of measures, with education projects and audience development, and even attempts to ‘reinvent’ the classical concert by developing new concert formats.

Our Research

At the same time, almost no empirical research on concert experience, education projects or alternative concert formats is available. There is a lack of knowledge about what constitutes a concert and what its underlying mechanisms are. We do not know what may be achieved by novel concert variants.

The classical concert is a highly sophisticated format of performance and reception. Which parameters of its highly ritualized sequence of events are topical, which others are irrelevant or even obstructive to experiencing and immersion? We wish to explore the potentials of music experience in this setting, and ultimately find out what constitutes the concert experience in a classical music concert.

Our Plan

In spring 2022, we will organize a series of public concerts with identical programming in both the radialsystem and the Pierre Boulez Saal. In each performance, one aspect of the concert format will be altered. We will investigate the audience members’ experiences of the music in the respective concert setting by monitoring their physiological and nonverbal responses and through the use of questionnaires. As a result, we expect to gain insights regarding several open questions: Which setting can optimize listening? When do people feel connected to the other audience members? When is the musical experience specifically intense and uplifting? Which parameters of a concert situation alter the aesthetic experience of audience members or musicians?

As results of this research we will gain novel and experimental insights into the embodiment of listeners’ music experience in the here-and-now of the live concert. We also expect findings concerning the kinds of social resonance and synchronization in the social environment of the concert hall.