Saturday, November 29, 2014

Wordless

One of the episodes in season four of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is titled "Hush" and for most of the episode, all the characters cannot speak, their voices stolen away by some very scary-looking Gentlemen:


At the end of the episode Buffy and Riley, having recovered their voices, sit down to talk but fall into another silence, which is repeated at the beginning of the next episode. Joss Whedon is one of the few writers who fully understands the power of silence.

I'm reminded of this episode by thinking about concerts and about people talking in concerts and why, as a rule, I don't like it. For me, a good concert of classical music is magical because it is entirely possible to arrive at the concert, find your seat, enjoy the performance and return home, all without saying a word (except maybe at intermission). Sitting in the concert hall, seeing the performer(s) come onstage, listening to them perform and then clapping at the end is all free of chatter. But more and more, classical concert artists are encouraged to babble at the audience at every opportunity as if it were a good. Not in my book. The meaning, the significance of the music (assuming it is instrumental music) is not enhanced by talking superficially about it. Quite the contrary. Even if the performers had something interesting to say, it would be preferable not to hear it, but most of the time what performers say is more distracting than anything. Sometimes it is even misleading or simply incorrect. The entire purpose of programs and program notes is to remove the need for performers to talk to the audience.

Please, performers, remain silent, do what you do best, play music, not talk about it. Don't make me send the Gentlemen to your town!

The musical envoi for this post simply has to be the Danse macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns as it was the music chosen by Giles to accompany his slide show presentation in the Buffy episode:


2 comments:

Rickard Dahl said...

I agree with you. It's better to let the music speak for itself and besides there are program notes as you say. One more thing to note is that it's often hard to hear what the performer/s or conductor are saying unless they use a microphone. For instance sometimes the conductor or soloist say they are going to play a piece as an encore but they say it too quiet. Imagine if they instead go on talking about a piece for a few minutes without using a microphone, that would be waste of their time and waste of the audience's time.

Bryan Townsend said...

The worst I ever heard was a Russian violinist delivering an introduction in English in an accent so thick it was almost impossible, AND those remarks were also very hard to hear because too quiet!