Internationally-renowned violinist Marat Bisengaliev, the founding music director of the Symphony Orchestra of India has performed globally, including with the English Chamber Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, Moscow Symphony Orchestra, and at Royal Albert Hall among others. With a vast illustrious career backing him, he has seen music tourism change leaps and bounds over the years, and this time is no different. This noted interpreter of Sir Edward Elgar’s works and Gold Disc award winner sheds light on how the music tourism industry will experience a paradigm shift in the post-COVID-19 world. By Bayar Jain
1. Over the years of your career, how do you think audience perception for music tourism has changed? How do you think music tourism will experience a paradigm shift in the post-Corona world?
COVID-19 hit the whole entertainment industry, particularly music, hard. There is evidence of many orchestras ceasing, such as the Metropolitan Orchestra disbanding. Millions of self-employed musicians are forced to find other means of getting income. Honestly, I never thought the global pandemic would last this long, but judging by the current scenario, it might take months—if not years—before things return to normalcy. While music tourism will, of course, survive with social distancing, its commercials will make it impossible for many cultural institutions, artists—especially those who are self-employed—to keep going without government or sponsorship injections.
2. Part of the charm of live orchestral music lies in creating an ambient environment and having the right acoustics in place. How do you overcome this hurdle when doing live shows via social media platforms?
Unfortunately, nothing can replace live performances. Online performances, live streamings or video recordings will help keep music afloat, but we must eventually find ways to bring back music to physical venues.
3. How easy or challenging do you think it will be for budding musicians to gain entry into the industry after Coronavirus?
I think it will be difficult, if not impossible, for a little while during the pandemic and during the recovery period as well. To survive, many orchestras are looking to reduce the number of musicians. In the current situation, I think this trend is not dissimilar to any other commercial industries.
4. Once the situation improves, what changes do you predict in live performances, both, in terms of musicians on stage and the audience?
I think we need to see the history of similar events, such as what happened right after the Spanish Flu 100 years ago, or the Black Plague which raged for centuries. Having said that, hopefully, modern medicine will help make this pandemic last much shorter than the others. Currently, we [musicians] are trying to implement all the requirements for a live concert on stage and in auditoriums. I can see namastes as the new global greeting fashion, and technologies like individual iPads for each player in the orchestra. I can even see players using smart glasses to read music as social distancing will be honoured for a little longer than we think.
5. During the lockdown, art has seen many new innovative approaches or emergence of styles. What are some of the new activities or initiatives you’ve dabbled in?
The Symphony Orchestra of Music Academy is using a virtual reality orchestra, which enables kids to play with prerecorded music. A solo accompaniment can use VR helmets for a 360-degree video of the performing orchestra. New interactive programmes have been developed for theory music lessons, as well as new digital platforms that give an opportunity to hear the sounds of musicians in studio quality.
6. Which place do you think can be dubbed as the music capital of the world, and why?
I don’t know the right answer to that question, but if anyone looks for the right music agency or the most prestigious critique, London and New York come to mind.
7. Having performed at various orchestras around the globe, which has been your most memorable one?
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The most memorable one was my first concert in England with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on my birthday, March 15, 1990. I remember it took me a bit longer than usual to tune my violin before the Beethoven performance. Till date, I haven’t forgotten the nice applause I got after tuning! However, the most memorable and positive performances have always been with the Symphony Orchestra of India.
8. Music is known to better one’s mental and emotional wellbeing. How can one make use of this therapeutic aspect of music, especially in today’s unprecedented times?
No doubt music heals, especially, good western classical music. I think people have extra time, especially now, to devote themselves to listening to past performances and live streams.
9. Your recommendations of music that one can listen to heal themselves emotionally and mentally?
Personally, I would suggest listening to my favoured composer and good friend, Karl Jenkins.