Concert Design

– An investigation into the potential of Classical Concerts As creatively designed events

By Astrid Vang-Pedersen


The research takes its starting point in the current dilemma of the classical concert, where conventional ritual performance, seems to prevent innovation within the field of classical concerts. The research project asks:

How can potentials of the classical concert be activated through the creative process and practice of Concert Design?


Concert Design is a proposed music specific sub-category of Performance Design, which is an interdisciplinary field of inquiry that combines theory and practice. Performance Design links creative performance practice with perspectives of design in suggesting how creative practitioners may “emphasize the performative nature of their creative work as both the speculative and projective act of designing performance and the embodied and ongoing practice of performing design” (Hannah & Harsløf 2008, p.14). ‘Design’ as common denominator between ‘reflection in action’ and Performance Design connects ‘process’ and ‘product’, where each affects the other in a cycle that continually enhances understanding.


Through the prism of performance, the classical concert may be understood as an event that entails more than solely the realization of a text conserved in a score. The concert may instead be experienced as an event constituted by performative behavior of interconnected performing aspects, such as the musical performer, audience and the concert hall, each performing on their own and affected by each other.


Essentially the contribution of the research is a Concert Design Concept offering a creative and reflective approach to designing the classical concert performance. The Concert Design Concept consists of a Concert Design Model, a Concert Design Process and a Concert Design Method.


The Concert Design Model prescribes how the musical repertoire and the three performing aspects may constitute flexible relationships in the performance through the creative engagement with six Concert Design Principles inspiring actions of aesthetic, embodied, spatial and social influence. The Concert Design Principles are:


  1. Structure
  2. Story
  3. Sensory
  4. Surprise
  5. Specificity
  6. Shared


The Concert Design Process points toward a change in the traditional concert production. Where the traditional process is linear, represented in phases of: Planning, Preparing, Practicing and Performing, a combined linear and cyclic process is proposed, where a conceptual ‘design’ phase, a phase of ‘staging’ and a phase of ‘evaluation’ is added to the process, and continuously inform future designs.


The Concert Design Methods specifically suggests a change in the future curriculum of educating musicians, implementing the performer development perspective at educational levels focusing on the embodied practice of stage performance while playing as well as verbal and visual communicative skills.


Hence the project answers the research question in the following way:


Potentials of the classical music performance may be activated through the creative process and practice of Concert Design, through the renewed relationships between performing aspects initiated by prescriptive Concert Design Principles, through a cyclic process of designing concert performance and performing Concert Design. By engaging in a cyclic Concert Design process, phases of conceptualizing, creative practice and staging may mutually inform each other, while also the perspective of performer development may add new opportunities for the emergence of classical music potentials.

Essentially the project investigates how Concert Design can performatively disrupt the familiar setup through theatrical devices, interdisciplinary dramaturgies, and site-specific interventions with and within the traditional concert hall, and provides experimentation and evaluation through case studies of the Concert Design Concept. The project ideally aims to demonstrate how an alternative and meaningful present day concert of The Great Classics may be designed as a unified interdisciplinary event.


Finally the project points toward further research regarding the application of the Concert Design Concept as well as the development of an interactive format for using the Concert Design Principles. Further studies into the potentials of co-creation and participation involving the audience of the classical concert field could be of great interest considering the potential impact on overall relationships in the classical concert event. And finally the further development of curriculum of ‘performer development’, as well as experimentation on implementation of Concert Design as a perspective taught at educational level. Establishing a Concert Design Lab at musical academies propose the perspective that institutions that conventionally preserve cultural heritage and tradition, may also be able to innovate and inform the professional domain and the future potential of classical music performance.