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.

We have just begun rehearsals in a new venue, the Newent Community Centre, and although this is temporary and will only last for a couple of years or so (I don't really know how long, so don't quote me on that) it has great potential for our society for two reasons in particular. The first is that we are now rehearsing in Newent and therefore are more accessible to new members and more an integral part of the town. The second is that at some point this building will be sold for redevelopment and at that time a new community centre will be developed. The building we are rehearsing in now is old and dilapidated but we may be in on the ground floor of a future development. We will then be in a position to have our say in what we will need, for the orchestra is a valuable asset to the Newent community and its voice should - and now can be - heard. In future years we may have available to us a concert venue, or a at least a rehearsal and meeting place, that will be a great asset to our orchestral society. We, in turn, will be able to serve more effectively the community that supports us.

We should be supportive of the current Centre committee that is now working hard to keep the old building fully operational during its transitional phase and that may mean putting our energies and resources into some fundraising. It's possible that the end result will be a purpose-made venue with excellent orchestral feng shui.

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