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Sunday 20 February 2005

Concert Hall as Secular Temple

I eat dinner, then I go to the concert hall, which is, thankfully, warmer than my home. and I sit in a relatively comfortable seat and am supposed to sit in still, rapt silence in the darkened hall and hold my applause until the very end. Often, I fall asleep. It's hard to sit still in a dark room and stay awake. My co-students say that nothing in modern culture prepares us to pay attention to something for two hours. I'm going to disagree. In the past, we would never have been expected to sit quirt, darkened and disengaged for so long. Alex Ross has a great blog post about the history of applause. Music should not be like church. at least not like boring churches. We do music because it's fun. fun means having a beer while listening. Or cheering at exciting parts. Or moshing. fun is not sitting still and trying to keep my eyes open even as a piece I love plays. If I wanted to sit in a perfectly quiet room by myself and listen to music, I'd stay home and put on a CD. I want to have an experience at a concert. I want to see somebody perform a piece really well, and to be there. Not passive.

Three semesters ago, I saw to clips from two movies which had the characters attending concerts. Both movies used the same piece of music. In both cases, it was intended to be romantic. In the American movie, everyone sat very still and stared without moving or blinking. In the Soviet film, couples that had gone to the symphony together smiled and snuggled. The US is in a culture war against all forms of art, especially high art, as evidenced by the eviscerating of the NEA. the Soviet Union encouraged art. Their movies reflect the political agendas.

We could all just start clapping when we felt like it. And snuggling with people next to us. We should not however, use a our cellphone rings as means to participate in the John Cage pieces, as that would be annoying as hell.


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