24. March 2022

The Concert as Experiment

Screens and musicians

Experimental Concert Research investigates the concert experience experimentally for the first time. (Picture: MPI for Empirical Aesthetics/F. Bernoully)

The concert has served as a highly developed form for performance and reception of classical music for about two centuries. But which components of this ritualized event are central to the experience of it? Which are irrelevant? And which ones may even impede it? Made up of an international team of scientists that includes the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt am Main, the large-scale research project Experimental Concert Research investigates the concert systematically, using the experimental method, for the first time.

Guided by the question “What constitutes the experience of a classical music concert today?” Experimental Concert Research explores the potential for experience that the concert, as a particular structure of presentation and reception, makes possible for certain kinds of music. Melanie Wald-Fuhrmann, director at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, explains:

“The question is, what do people actually experience when they attend a concert? How exactly do the different features and forms of the concert influence the experience of the music being performed? These things have only rarely been investigated empirically and systematically; so we’ve developed a multi-methods research design to be used in real-time during actual concerts in order to find out.”

This research design includes both psychological and sociological measurement instruments, which the team has been developing over the past four years. By means of this specially designed combination of methods, concertgoers will be wired, observed, and interviewed—and thus both actively and passively involved in the investigation of their concert experience.

Following a “sneak preview” in September 2020, the project is now being launched in earnest: The experimental concerts will take place at the Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin on April 12 and 13, 2022, and at the Berlin cultural center Radialsystem from April 28 to May 6, 2022. Each evening will feature a chamber music program of string quintets by Ludwig van Beethoven, Brett Dean, and Johannes Brahms performed by either the internationally acclaimed Ensemble Epitaph or the excellent, up-and-coming Yubal Ensemble

Although the program will remain the same from one concert to the next, the music itself will be presented differently—modified dramaturgically in terms of moderation, lighting design, or audience participation. By interviewing the audience, measuring their physical reactions, and observing their behavior, the research team will then attempt to discover whether the different concert settings and modifications bring about changes to their perception of the music and the concert experience overall.

Experimental Concert Research is being undertaken with funding from the Volkswagen Foundation and the Aventis Foundation. Its Project Director is Prof. Dr. Martin Tröndle of Zeppelin Universität in Friedrichshafen, Germany; the Artistic Director is Folkert Uhde of Radialsystem. Advance ticket sales have already begun. Interested concertgoers can either purchase tickets at the regular price or indicate that they wish to participate in the study for reduced admission. The research team is hoping for up to 90 active study participants per evening.


Experimental Concert Research

Concerts at Pierre Boulez Saal

April 12, 2022, 7:30 pm
April 13, 2022, 7:30 pm

Concerts at Radialsystem

April 28, 2022, 7:30 pm
April 29, 2022, 9:30 pm
April 30, 2022, 7:30 pm
May 1, 2022, 7:30 pm
May 2, 2022, 7:30 pm
May 3, 2022, 7:30 pm
May 4, 2022, 7:30 pm
May 5, 2022, 7:30 pm
May 6, 2022, 7:30 pm


Ludwig van Beethoven: String Quintet in C minor Op. 104, first movement
Brett Dean: Epitaphs
Johannes Brahms: String Quintet No. 2 in G major Op. 111

Artists Ensemble Epitaph

Violin Baiba Skride
Violin Gergana Gergova
Viola Micha Afkham
Viola Amihai Grosz
Cello Alban Gerhardt

Artists Yubal Ensemble

Violin Charlotte Chahuneau
Violin Larissa Cidlinsky
Viola Friedemann Slenczka
Viola Martha Windhagauer
Cello Raphaela Paetsch


Tickets can be purchased at either www.boulezsaal.de or www.radialsystem.de.

Yubal Ensemble

Regular admission: 12 Euros, reduced 8 Euros
Study participants: 6 Euros

Ensemble Epitaph

Regular admission: 18 Euros, reduced 14 Euros
Study participants: 6 Euro

Study participants must arrive no later than one hour before the concert begins.



Melanie Wald-Fuhrmann