Wednesday 14 September 2011

Orchestral Feng Shui

The Chinese call it Feng Shui. It's the art of "placement", of organising a work, leisure or home space so that the greatest benefit to the inhabitants is achieved. If the feng shui is right, health, wealth and happiness ensue. This traditional oriental art form has become debased in modern times by turning it into a pseudo-science.  Place a mirror on a south-facing wall and not facing an entrance and money will pour in. Clearly, if there is anything in feng shui, it doesn't work like that.

The converse approach is unscientific but more feasible. This is feng shui using your intuition, your feelings.  When you walk into a room, a hall, an office, a garden, you immediately have a sensation of whether it "feels right" and that is, clearly, in the main, down to the way surrounding objects have been arranged, how passage from one side to the other is achieved, how the lighting and colours, the interior design, have been formulated. If an office or a living room "feels right", then its function becomes much more productive or comfortable to be in.

That is all preamble to point out that the same principles can apply equally to a concert environment, to the concert hall. The atmosphere created by the hall space can greatly affect the experience of the audience, almost independently from the quality of performance that an audience may witness. A poor performance will never be perceived as great, but a great one can be ruined by poor feng shui. When our orchestra performs, I'm always aware of the hall that we are in, as a musician particularly the acoustics, but there are other factors as well, some more flexible than others. The lighting, for example, can be the single most effective way to create the right mood and that may or may not be controllable, depending on the venue's facilities.