Invited her audience to moonlight concerts in the woods
Many unwritten rules and norms can easily make you feel uneasy as a member of the audience at a classical concert event.
‘I feel that the classical concert form creates an unnatural and artificial barrier between the musicians and the audience. It is a rigid form where we do not meet. I like to know who I’m playing for, to be able to look them in the eyes, and I want them to feel welcome,’ says Tabita.
To Tabita, who is a classically trained cellist, it became important to meet her audience in an arena where she could communicate something personal through the music and it’s context.
‘I wouldn’t really call it concerts,’ says Tabita about her moonlight series. ‘It was more of a space where I could communicate something that was important to me.’
‘I talked to my supervisor about how much the silence of the woods meant to me, and he once brought a tree stump to one of our meetings and told me to sit on it.’
Supervision on a tree stump
‘It was important to me that my master’s project was personal. It took a long time to develop an idea. I talked to my supervisor about how much the silence of the woods meant to me, and he once brought a tree stump to one of our meetings and told me to sit on it. From there, we developed the idea of organising concerts in the woods.’
The result was a series of concerts in the woodland area Nordmarka outside Oslo, three evenings in the winter of 2015, during the full moon.
Closeness to the audience
Tabita wanted to create a connection with her audience, and therefore spent a lot of time writing personal invitations that she sent by mail to the people she wanted to invite. Each invitation was hand-made and hand-written in ink.
‘I didn’t want this to be an “open event” on Facebook,’ she says. ‘My fellow students often advertise their concerts on Facebook, and their experience is that they reach a lot of people, but their invitations get lost among hundreds of other invitations, and not that many people end up at the concert after all. Putting so much work into the invitations was also based on a wish for another kind of intimacy with my audience. I wanted each person to feel that I wanted them to be at the concert. I also hoped to be able to create a sense of community in the woods.’
The people who accepted her invitation received a personal confirmation, also by mail. They then had to put their skis on and walk three and a half kilometres along an uphill forest ski track, in the dark, to reach the venue, which was a cabin in the woodland areas around Oslo. When the audience arrived, they were served moose soup, blueberry pie and coffee.
To acknowledge each others’ efforts
In Tabita’s opinion, it does something to your senses to move through the woods. She found the audience much more receptive to the music after having skied in the moonlight to reach the concert venue. In her project description, Tabita writes:
‘My project demands a lot of effort on the part of the audience. They have to reply to invitations sent by mail, and then travel far and ski to the venue late in the evening, uphill. It is a lot to ask, but I want people to make an effort, to be out of breath and have cold noses, and maybe be just a little bit afraid of the dark. That makes it all the better to arrive at Finnerud, to warmth the people and the music. This also means that I, who haven’t skied, have to make an effort to give them a musical experience that makes it worth the effort. To acknowledge each others’ efforts is important.’
A personal development project
The series of concerts in the woods gave Tabita the experience of meeting her audience in a shared arena. It gave her a new sense that it was possible to play in ways that she had previously never dared to try.
‘The audience’s attention didn’t drift. I thought “Can I play like this?” It has made me begin to trust myself more, and made me dare to be more personal. This has been incredibly important to me as a musician.’ For Tabita, it has been an important development project.
‘It has changed the way I relate to my audience, the way I interact with them – and thus the way I play.’
Challenges rigid forms
The perceived exclusionary attitude in the classical music scene and the longing to feel at home formed the background to Tabita’s innovative project. She hopes that more musicians will follow her example and challenge the classical recipe.
In Tabita’s opinion, the Norwegian Academy of Music is the scene of some tension between the old and the new, between the conservative and the innovative. Students are trained to become excellent musicians and at the same time be capable of carrying out independent artistic projects. This could result in students being met with different expectations and requirements from different members of the teaching staff – on the one hand those who are enthusiastic about a renewal of the master’s degree programme, and on the other those who believe that the that the primary objective of the master’s programme is for students to become excellent musicians.
‘I feel that the classical concert form creates an unnatural and artificial barrier between the musicians and the audience. It is a rigid form where we do not meet.’
Educating innvovative musicians
It is an explicit goal of the master’s degree programme in Music Performance at the Norwegian Academy of Music that students shall be capable of contributing to new ideas and innovation in their role as musicians. They are also expected to demonstrate the ability to participate in a music scene and a music industry in constant change.
‘In addition to developing Tabita’s instrumental skills, we wanted to challenge her in relation to how she wanted to present her music and create musical experiences in encounters with people,’ says Kjell Tore Innervik, who was Tabita’s academic supervisor during her master’s project.
Tabita Berglund’s master’s project forms part of CEMPE’s development project Independent Music Careers which is part of Kjell-Tore Innervik’s work to develop the master’s programme in Music Performance. The intention is for students to develop innovative ideas and create new artistic performance concepts, thereby preparing for a professional career.
The new director of CEMPE, Jon Helge Sætre, points out that it is an important objective for CEMPE to to contribute to the education of innovative musicians who are qualified for a competitive international music scene. This means that the students themselves have to create new professional arenas. As a classically trained cellist, Tabita will have to compete with other excellent cellists from all over the world for a very small number of orchestra positions. But she can also be innovative and create new arenas for performing music for an audience that may want an alternative arena where musician and audience can meet.