Cut the music and let fireworks be the stars
This is an open letter to the organisers of the fireworks display in Bath.
Thanks again for a terrific fireworks display, which I and my family enjoyed as ever. However, there is one aspect of the display which troubles me each year and it is the music.
I'm not an old grump who hates music, in fact I'm a working composer and musician and I feel very strongly about its misuse.
At the start of the display this year, seemingly due to a technical hitch, we were spared the preamble and irritating music over the PA before the start.
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Instead, there was a palpable sense of anticipation and an excited buzz around the ground.
Similarly, when the display started, the sounds of the fireworks detonating and exploding, together with the echoes from surrounding hills and buildings was thrilling and elicited the time-honoured oohs and aahs.
Someone then thought to crank up the volume on the PA, which was a great shame.
The effect is similar to overhearing music from someone else's headphones on a train and diminishes the dynamic pauses and crescendos inherent in the fireworks themselves.
A lot of thought and trouble clearly goes into orchestrating the display and music tracks may well have been used in order to help define the meter and tempo of the composition.
However, there is no need for the audience to be subjected to the distraction of pre-recorded sound between the real music that is the noise of the fireworks, together with ambient and environmental sounds.
The net effect of blaring music is that it places the onlooker in a passive state, whereby their natural instinct to react vocally is suppressed.
Similarly, an MC trying to whip up excitement has the precise opposite effect. I have witnessed the same thing at Bath Rugby, where the banter from the crowd used to be a key ingredient in the atmosphere and is greatly diminished by the bombast and hype of music and amplified voices telling them to be excited.
Real excitement comes from anticipation, dynamic shifts and – above all – silences.
By the way, this is not only my own personal view: I heard a teenage boy at the rec on Saturday say "the only thing I don't like is the music" – so if you are hoping to appeal to the youth by layering on popular music, it isn't working.
Please seriously consider allowing the fireworks to take effect by themselves next year:
I challenge you to give it a try and gauge the response.
BRIAN MADIGAN Madmusik Holcombe Vale Bathampton