I just finished two large orchestra pieces. One is called Concerto for Quintet, Orchestra, and Audience and is about 14 minutes long. I wrote it for Classical Jam and the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras. Both ensembles are outstanding.
The second piece is called People Coming Together and I wrote it for the Bloomingdale School of Music. They have an excellent commissioning program and I’m part of a lineage of composers they commission each year that includes Elliott Sharp, Frederic Rzewski, Caleb Burhans, and others.
Both pieces include audience participation. Before the performance begins the audience is coached on humming a note, snapping their fingers on cue, and reading various texts. All of these create a kind of atmospheric, controlled crowd noise.
I wasn’t wild about doing this at first, but Peter Robles (my manager) and especially Wendy Law (the cellist from Classical Jam) really liked the idea and pushed me on it. I was worried it would be “cheesy” or gimmicky, but upon further thought I think my worries were unfounded. I was hoping that this would bring the audience closer to the music and I think I might succeed on that account. I was at a performance recently where the singer did some call and response things and I was surprised at how eager the audience was to join in. We’ll see how it goes, but right now I’m feeling optimistic.