What A String Quartet Can Teach Us About Crowd Control


Mason Bates

What do you think of when you hear the word – symphony?

I am sure these are a few that may come to mind:


Crowd management


Try hiding your surprise without choking on an artichoke heart in a ballroom filled with hundreds of Grantmakers with arched eyebrows.

Yet, crowd management shared space with other words such as

string quartet

– and of course, it took the American composer of symphonic music, Mason Bates, to make musical sense of it all.  And it took the San Francisco based Del Sol String Quartet to bring everything to life.

We lucky Grantmakers were serenaded by Del Sol who performed Mason’s  “Bagatelles”, a piece for strings and electronica.

“The string quartet,” Mason stepped up to the podium wearing a black leather jacket and a boyish smile.  “is a perfect acoustic creation.”

I love that.

Mason spoke about the challenge of putting a string quartet in new spaces.  The difficulties in acoustics, outreach, managing audience engagement and expectations. And at the same time, there is the intriguing possibilities in creating a “hybrid musical event” such as his Mercury Sol.

Picture this, or rather, listen to this:

Consider a traditional musical group, such as the Chicago Symphony or the San Francisco Symphony,  who work on artistic programs and invest in large marketing campaigns to prepare audiences for what they are going to hear and shape their expectations.

Now consider a newer musical group such as Mercury Sol, who work with stagecraft, lighting and technology to create immersive experiences for audiences and project program notes and somehow make the artist part of the audience.  The sounds of a string quartet playing slowly drifts into a new space,  gradually there is a change in perception, a light projection draws everyone to a point of focus.

There you have it.  Crowd Management in the key of C.


About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer writes about how to be a nimble nonprofit, make life creative and make a difference at www.hoongyee.com.

She is also the Executive Director of the Queens Council on the Arts. Hoong Yee can be found surfing in the Rockaways whenever there are waves.

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