Arts Professional: ‘UpClose’ & Personal

Posted on December 16, 2014

Caroline Pether, Manchester Camerata








UpClose & Personal – Arts Professional (15/12/14)

This season we will be experimenting with simple, sensory ways to heighten the audience’s experience and transform the boundaries between artists and audience. Our very own Samantha McShane explains our upcoming concert in our UpClose seriesChallenging the Senses.

2015 is the year that a wearable device will enable consumers to shift their state of mind. At least that is if you believe entrepreneur Isy Goldwasser and neuroscientist Dr Jamie Tyler, who co-founded the Silicon Valley company ‘Thync’ three years ago. Their new invention promises to be the ultimate life-enhancing electronic gadget – better than the Apple Watch and Google Glass rolled into one – with the ability to change your mood at the touch of a button. Society’s desire for constant synthetic stimulation may well have overtaken our curiosity to experiment with our natural human senses – a consciousness that while not always life-enhancing is most certainly life-affirming.

So how does this relate to the arts? How do we contend with the plethora of ‘manufactured highs’ that invade our daily lives? Inspired by music director Gábor Takács-Nagy, who believes that music is a kind of spiritual medicine, we at Manchester Camerata are experimenting with simple ways that can heighten our audience’s experience, empowering them as participants as well as listeners, and in so doing engage their desire for the thrill of live performance.

A recent piece in The Guardian about how the arts can ensure it continues to push creative boundaries is an important reminder of how the arts can and should continue to pioneer, by combining art, science and new media to create future innovation. It is an idea embraced by The Space, which encourages experimentation in public, turning its audience into participants, and thus bringing them closer to the artists at the heart of the experience.

In March next year we will be doing exactly this, as part of a Camerata UpClose concert entitled ‘Challenging the senses’ at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre. Our collaboration with the theatre will allow our audience to engage with the performance not only by sight and sound (and not in the way you might think), but also through smell, taste and touch.We will use blindfolds to heighten the auditory experience, offer custom-made cocktails inspired by the programme and employ scent bombs to offer a novel perspective on the concert experience. The other two senses shall remain a surprise.

By gauging our audience’s reactions and responses through an online survey at the event, we will identify how the behaviour of sensory receptors can intensify the auditory experience, and our perception of the repertoire therein. It is this commitment to innovation that we hope will enable us to be at the forefront of transforming the boundaries between artist and audience.

This is only one facet of our restless ambition to redefine what an orchestra can do. It is about engaging with everyone from the regular concert-goer to the first-timer, from the connoisseur to the ‘experience seeker’. But above all it is about rediscovering our most instinctive responses to the things around us and the emotions that define us.

Samantha McShane is Head of Creative Programming at Manchester Camerata.