Thursday, February 08, 2007

Coughing and Hacking

So I've been generally detached from the orchestral concert scene since my abortive attempt at a Graduate education in orchestral Horn performance, but since I've still got a full 20 minutes of internet time left at the library today, want to try and chip in a little bit:

My sense of the orchestral concert-going experience is that it inevitable involves several different cultural aspects, primarily those of the art-as-such and the rich-old-people-who-see-their-other-old-rich-friends-from-across-town-and-want-to-make-sure-those-friends-know-that-they-still-go-to-the-symphony: there's some portion of the audience that is generally excited to hear the music in question, but there's an often times larger portion that wants to hear what they like, and mostly just say "hi" to Sam & Mildred from Sewickly and sleep through anything that isn't the opening or closing of a Beethoven symphony.

Old people cough. They're gonna cough, and its better they do it between movements than any other time (especially during quiet, contemplative modern music that they have no respect for). People should clap between movements, to cover up the coughing. The people that care about music should clap enough and also, when the performance is great enough, demand a repeat performance of a movement before allowing the concert to move along. I recall once hearing a Pittsburgh performance of Beethoven's Eroica wherein I wanted nothing more, after the scherzo, than to hear the scherzo again before moving on to the end of the piece.

The no clapping thing is an aspect of the negative side of the concert scene. Not clapping is for stuffy old people that don't give a shit, or for recording geeks that, if they really have that much of a problem with noise between movements shouldn't be at a concert in the first place. Concerts should be fun, and should be relaxed. Most of the musicians genuinely love the music and love to perform it, so for me, the stoic, dressed-up aspect of the typical concert seems greatly disconnected from what is really going on with the people that care about art pour l'art.

There's certainly some historical imperative that needs to be examined as well, in terms of the evolution of the orchestral concert, but I will hold off on that for now, except to say that everything I've ever read talks about people clapping anytime anything good happens, and demand movement-repeats happened all the time as well. And I think Adorno postulates at some point that clapping has its roots in ancient tribal rituals, but, maybe just realizing that clapping at concerts is a ritual at all is good enough.

I get the sense often times that concert-planners and concert-goers feel that there is some necessity for live music to compete with its recorded counterpart, and in trying to preserve the perfect blank aural canvas behind its performances live as exists in the studio, loses too much of what can make live performance vital, audience participation.

Also, we should be allowed to "boo" bad performances.


Blogger Jack said...

Sounds like we're all of similar mind here.

Greg Sandow's written about applause and other experiential aspects of concerts quite a bit. There's some especially interesting info here about Leopold Stokowski stamping out applause in Philadelphia.

I'm curious whether audiences would rather be applauding & just don't out of politeness, or whether the core concertgoers today just grew up with quiet concerts & prefer it that way.

(Sandow also takes note of the Druckenbrod article, and praises the embedded audio links in the web version.)

2/10/2007 10:30 AM  

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