During my walk yesterday around the 50th annual Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition at Nathan Phillips Square, the biggest crowd of excited spectators had gathered around Harry Enchin's photo collages that seamlessly blended street views culled from the City of Toronto Archives with current images. It was Toronto then and now, as seen from two perspectives magically (or, shoould we say Photoshopically) merged into one.
It made me think how people appreciate the past, but don't always get excited about it -- unless they can see something of themselves in it, too. Enchin managed to make that connection very successfully.
It also made me wonder about how conscious classical music programmers are about trying to make a connection between sensibilities and expectations of today with the music of the past.
I know that the act of interpretation literally brings the music of the past into the present, but most people who aren't already fans usually think of it as something that's exclusively from the past.
Perhaps we need to mix up the setting and take the concert out of the traditional auditorium. Perhaps we need to mix in background visuals.
The easiest thing to do is for an artist to offer the audience a few words of introduction about the music, to at least personalize it.
An example of the flip side of this is new music that draws explicit connections to something from the past -- like the "Fugue" movement in Paul Hindemith's Piano Sonata No. 3 in B-flat Major, from 1936 (as played by Glenn Gould, here):