Monday, November 21, 2011

Concerts:Good, Bad and Disrupted

Lots of items about odd things happening at concerts lately. Norman Lebrecht has this story about a disrupted Bruckner concert. And here is a letter from the fellow who disrupted the concert--the comment thread is particularly worth reading. Alex Ross has an account of a very loud argument between audience members at a Bach concert here. Two things seem to come out of all this: first, that it is all too easy for an eccentric member of the audience to disrupt a concert. Speaking as a performer, it is easy to have one's concentration broken by some kind of disruption. Some players seem invulnerable to this, but others are not and simple respect for the artist demands, I believe, that we give him or her or them a full hearing. If at the end you are profoundly dismayed by the performance, then by all means boo your heart out. Second, many have asserted that audiences now are far too uncritical of performances and I think I agree. It seems as if the simple act of getting on stage and getting through a performance is enough--at least if you are attractive and winningly dressed.

Alex Ross mentions
the troubling new phenomenon of concert rage: classical-music fanatics who can no longer abide the coughing, muttering, shuffling, and fidgeting of their neighbors. Lincoln Center has become a war zone of withering glances and hissed asides. Unfortunately, the indignation of the annoyed has itself become annoying. 
 There are two sides to this. Quite some time ago I read a book about the growth of classical music performance in the US. In the 19th century, as concerts became more frequent, audiences at first were quite unruly, coming and going as they pleased, chatting, calling out comments on the performance and so on. There was a concerted effort to shut them up that was quite successful and current concert etiquette demands that audiences sit very quietly during a performance. I wonder, though, if audiences are not now less engaged than they were before? It is one of the complaints against classical music that it is stiff and boring and it may be the concert ambiance that encourages that view. I can recall concerts I have played where members of the audience were vocally expressing their enjoyment and support: "yeah!", "woo-hoo" and so on. I believe that was in a performance of the Zapateado by Joaquin Rodrigo taken much too fast!

On the other hand, boos during the performance might well have been quite discouraging!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very unrefined!