Posts Tagged ‘music

In the entire world, New Year’s Eve as well as New Year’s Day are the occasion for magnificent fireworks and grand parties. Each country, each city, has its own traditions. One of the key events for all the music lovers of the world takes place in Vienna: the New Year’s Concert, Neujahrskonzert in German. This concert is performed by the Vienna Philharmonic in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein, which is adorned with thousands of flowers from Sanremo.

The origins of the New Year’s Concert

Strangely enough, the first New Year’s Concert took place on New Year’s Eve 1939, one year and a half after the Anschluss and barely a few month after the beginning of World War II. An “extraordinary concert” was performed for the Red Cross project Kriegswinterhilfswerk, inaugurated by Adolphe Hitler in order to help wounded soldiers. During the rest of the war, a concert was performed each year on January 1st under the conduction of Clemens Krauss, who was later suspended by the Allies due to investigations. In 1947, he took back the helm of the Vienna Philharmonic. He remained conductor of the New Year’s Concert until his death in 1954. The New Year’s Concert was then completely cut off from its war origins and was led by fifteen different conductors, among which Willi Boskovsky, who conducted it for 25 years, and Lorin Maazel, who was the first American to lead the New Year’s Concert and who conducted it eleven times.

Which compositions are played during the New Year’s Concert ?

Although the programme changes every year, the musical works of the Strauss family (Johann I, Johann II, Eduard and Josef) always have the pride of place during the New Year’s Concert. However, the compositions of some musicians, mainly Austrians, have also been heard on January 1st within the walls of the Golden Hall.

It should be noted that two works – two encores – traditionally bring the concert to a close. The Blue Danube, certainly one of the most famous waltz, is always interrupted by a round of applause from the audience as soon as the first notes are played, allowing the conductor and his orchestra to wish the members of the audience a happy new year before resuming playing. In the end comes the characteristic drum roll heralding the last encore. Radetzky March, named after the Marshall Josef Radetzky, a war hero who enabled Franz Joseph I to ascend the throne, has a particular importance in the heart of the audience. Indeed, it is possible for the members of audience to take part in the execution of the musical work by clapping their hands in rhythm. The conductor leads then both the orchestra and the audience in a harmony and synchrony which you would swear they have been rehearsed for a long time, and yet…

The New Year’s Concert 2012

This year, the New Year’s Concert will, as usual, take place on December 30th, December 31st and January 1st. The Vienna Philharmonic will be conducted by Mariss Jansons. The Latvian conductor had already successfully taken on this prestigious role in 2006. New Year’s Concert 2012 will be broadcast in 72 countries on the five continents with about fifty million people watching. As a result, Austria will have an international exposure, legacy of the Habsburg empire’s greatness. Furthermore, the New Year’s Concert is so popular that people had to register in January 2011 in order to attend it.

In a few days, you will be able to register for one the three concerts of the Vienna Philharmonic: the Preview Performance, New Year’s Eve Concert and New Year’s Concert 2013. Please, note that this is only a registration and not a booking. The officials, in the interest of equity, have indeed decided to implement a drawing to designate the future members of the audience. Therefore, unless you know high-ranking people, you can only count on your lucky star to satisfy your love for music.


Official website of the New Year’s Concert

Register for the drawing

For more information on the Vienna Philharmonic

New Year’s Eve in Vienna

   Though some musical genres are known in the whole world and tend to be globalized, there still are many others that we are not used to listen to and that we generally like to hear because they sound exotic. To a European ear, for instance, samba is very festive whereas traditional Chinese music is relaxing. Thus, both arouse interest and curiosity among the European people, and can be used by them in certain circumstances, but do not actually become part of everyday life in European cultures. Why is each one of these musical genres, among many others, peculiar to a culture? Why do other cultures not borrow them as they did with jazz, pop music etc.? Edward T. Hall’s work helps us to understand this phenomenon.


In Beyond Culture Edward T. Hall introduces the phrases being in sync and being out of sync, which he also deals with in The Dance of Life. Sync is the abbreviation of syncing which may be defined, in the fields of communication, kinesics, and cinema as the coordination of motions of several individuals who are interacting. In the 60s, William Condon showed, by analyzing several films of people talking to each other frame after frame, that the motions of individuals who are interacting tend to be synchronized. Sometimes the individuals are not even aware of these motions (blinking or movements of the little finger), and sometimes the movements are wider (nods) and the individuals seem to dance a choreography together without being aware of it.

   It was noticed that these movements usually happen at the same time as stresses on syllables of speech. This shows that there exists a link between speech and motion rhythm which we are not aware of, when talking. Even more, syncing is already present in the behaviour of a new-born: long before being able to talk, a baby synchronizes his or her motions with the speech of a person who is talking, whatever language is used. Edward T. Hall draws the conclusion that syncing is innate and universal and that it is a fundamental element of speech. However, when growing up, we get used to the rhythm of our own language and cannot be in sync with somebody talking in a foreign language anymore. Therefore rhythm forms a part of culture which is totally unconscious. And peoples invent musical genres according to the rhythm of their language, which enables individuals to create links with their interlocutors. Thus, according to Hall “music represents a sort of rhythmic consensus, a consensus of the core culture”. We are all immersed in a “sea of rhythm” of which we are not aware and which is a factor of group cohesion between natives of a culture.

   If an individual cannot be in sync with a rhythm, he or she will not be in sync with a piece of music based on the same rhythm either. And, although the attraction of the exotic is real, the assimilation of a foreign musical genre in our own culture is difficult when its rhythm is not ours. That is why many musical genres are peculiar to a culture: we can assume that the appropriation of a musical genre by a culture depends on the ability of its members to be in sync with this musical genre thanks to a rhythm which is familiar to them.


Many surveys have shown that people who play an instrument or have musical skills have more aptitudes for foreign language learning than others due to a higher ability in perceiving and closely reproducing accents. And having the right rhythm and accent when we learn a foreign language is crucial for at least two reasons. The first reason is that rhythm, accent, and intonation convey intentions, ton, humor, innuendos an so on. The second reason is that, in a deeper level of awareness, rhythm, accent, and intonation make it possible to be in sync with a native interlocutor and thus to attract his or her attention and have a bigger impact.

   In addition to misunderstanding, rhythm discrepancies between people may also generate stereotypes and prejudice. Indeed, rhythm and the way of moving linked to it are a form of nonverbal communication. Edward T. Hall gives us the example of the way of walking, which is very different in each ethnic group: the Anglo-American walk is fast and confident whereas the Latino-American walk is boastful. To an Anglo-American, a Latino-American could seem proud or even swanky, and to a Latino-American, an Anglo-American could look authoritarian: we often think that the way people move is an index of their characters. In reality, lending a character to a cultural ethnic group just on the basis of their appearance is a stereotype. The way of moving is not a matter of character, it is once again a matter of rhythm.

Learn more:

Website dedicated to Edward T. Hall

Studies :

An empirical comparison of rhythm in language and music

Cross-Cultural Perception & Structure of Music

The role of rhythm in discriminability of languages (in French)

novembre 2019
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