The People’s Salon: A Pragmatist Approach to Audience Participation in Symphonic Music

Peter Peters*, Zuyd Applied, Imogen Eve

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, symphony orchestras faced existential challenges: budget cuts, ageing audiences, and stagnating visits to their concerts. In response, orchestras have been trying to innovate and improve the quality of audience participation for quite some time. Contrary to arts fields such as theatre, performance and community art, audience participation in classical music is controversial: giving new roles to audiences is often seen as at odds with traditional and codified routines of audience members and musicians alike. In this chapter, we aim to revisit the debate on audience participation in the context of the practice of symphony orchestras. Building on empirical fieldwork before and during an experimental concert called The People’s Salon, we develop a pragmatist aesthetic approach towards audience participation. Through our reading of the work of John Dewey on aesthetics, we argue that studying audience participation in a pragmatist register allows us to go beyond the dualism of autonomy and instrumentalism that haunts debates on audience participation, both in classical music practice and in other arts practices.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationParticipatory Practices in Art and Cultural Heritage
Subtitle of host publicationLearning Through and from Collaboration
EditorsChristoph Rausch, Ruth Benschop, Emilie Sitzia, Vivian van Saaze
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-031-05694-9
ISBN (Print)978-3-031-05693-2, 978-3-031-05695-6
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

SeriesStudies in Art, Heritage, Law and the Market


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