Putting Music in a Box?

Putting things in boxes

With the Adam Chamber Music Festival now under-way, Chamber Music New Zealand‘s Victoria Dadd (Audience Development Manager), sets the scene for us…


As the first entry in this new blog I thought it would be appropriate to question what it is we are talking about. I mean, what exactly is chamber music?

I have to admit, putting music into boxes is something I’ve always struggled with. It’s probably an Achilles heel given my profession, but I find that music in general crosses so many arbitrary boundaries and influenced by so many things, that on a personal level I’ve given up trying to categorise it. The thing that I love about chamber music is that it supports this eclectic approach. The accepted definition isn’t so much about timbre, ensemble or style, but simply ‘music between friends’ with one person per part. It means the experience of chamber music is one that is ever changing and able to evolve across generations. It’s also incredibly intimate – as an audience member you find the musicians talking just to you. I find this liberating. This isn’t a format that is going to go away, there will always be a desire for intimate musical expression of human experiences.

This expansion of chamber music is what I find so exciting about the New Zealand scene at the moment. Just look at the different events available through this week’s festival. In addition, artists across the country are experimenting with formats, sounds and trying out new approaches, not to mention the wealth of talent coming up through the musical ranks.

I sometimes wonder what the history books of the future will call this period in history (Renaissance, Enlightenment, Romantic etc). Perhaps there is already a name? It’s difficult to make a call without the benefit of hindsight. Much emphasis is placed on technology as a defining factor, but honestly, technological advances always occur. That in itself is not an unusual development. It’s still all about the essence of being human, of which expression through music is a huge part.

So, in short, I guess I want to encourage you to get out there and enjoy music. Let it provoke a reaction, good or bad, and tell people about it. That way things will continue to evolve and chamber music will continue to be alive.


We wanna know how you define and categorise chamber music? And do you think we need to? Share your thoughts!

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2 comments

  1. Elizabeth · · Reply

    I like the freedom of your definition of chamber music as ‘music between friends’ with one person per part…and you’re right, intimacy is key. And you didn’t even mention the Kronos Quartet….

    Sometimes there’s only one person playing – like Colin Carr’s Bach Suites on Sunday in Nelson. He gets to play all the parts 🙂

  2. This is a wonderful introduction “box” for a newcomer to the Chamber music world – It is so difficult to describe in words isn’t it 🙂 You have done an admirable job! I would only add that as a violist I am very aware of the intimacy of the dialogue between the musicians which is shared with the audience during a performance . Even though the same intimacy should and often does occur in larger ensembles like a symphony, it is nowhere near as obvious to the audience as is is in the Chamber music setting. – Bravo to your new blog and I will be sharing your site with all my Facebook friends …. Looking forward to the next entry …. Lee from Canada

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