23. April 2006 · Comments Off · Categories: imported, Ramble

Drew McManus, at Adaptistration, has been posting the TAFTO contributions for this year’s Take A Friend To Orchestra Month. I do hope you are reading them! Brian Sacawa’s offer brought a response that I found puzzling, frustrating, interesting and, finally, “meh” (to quote my daughter Kelsey).

Here’s the comment:

This is a very interesting post for me in that it prompts a concern that has been on my mind for a long time. I am closing in on age 50–definitely part of the TV Generation–and even though I enjoy performing classical music as a vocalist and chorus member, I can’t say that I thoroughly enjoy classical symphony concerts as an audience member. Unless I am very familiar with the work being performed, I experience what feels like long periods of detachment until something in the music really grabs me. Often, this means detachment through an entire movement of a symphony!
If it is like this for me, as a somewhat “educated” classical audience, I find it hard to imagine how it might be experienced by the average potential audience member that we’re trying to cultivate. It’s one thing to experience classical music as a background experience while other things are going on, such as at home, in the workplace, or in a bookstore. It’s another thing entirely to face an orchestra and listen attentively for 90 minutes or more. I can’t honestly say that I usually enjoy the classical concert experience as fully as a movie or highly engaging (lots of patter) pops concert.
If it feels like work for me, how can it be that enticing (i.e., generate repeat attendances) for most newbies?

So my first reaction was to sigh. Because I’m good at sighing. And then I thought, “Arrgh! Pops Concerts?! Those are such schlock for the most part.” (I do enjoy them sometimes, by the way; I’m a sucker for some kinds of pops music. Really.) I also wondered why someone would participate in something she doesn’t really care to attend. To me that’s just weird, but maybe there are people in our field who do it and yet don’t like it, just like there are those in other fields who do their job but don’t like it. Then I saw that the person who posted is a visual artist. And then I just sort of wanted to answer back, “Well, who needs visual art anyway?!” But that would only be to get back at someone out of frustration and anger, because I actually do love visual art. When my feelings get hurt I react foolishly. So I shouldn’t really go there, should I?

But now, well, I’m just thinking that she just doesn’t get it and isn’t that okay? Not everyone “gets” classical music. It doesn’t touch everyone the way it touches me. Not everyone is figuratively (and sometimes literally) down on the floor crying because of the wonder and beauty of a piece of music. Not everyone experiences the state of awe that music brings to me. And many around me. That’s okay … isn’t it? What I do … does it have to appeal to the masses? Do we really have to try and grab every soul out there and shove classical music down throats simply to try and get them to love what we love? It’s never gonna happen, anyway. I don’t think it has to happen. I do think we can try to get newbies to listen. We can introduce music just like someone introduced asparagus to me years ago. I didn’t think I liked it, even having never tried it, and I found it a most wonderful taste. And if classical music becomes their thing—their asparagus—wonderful! If not, well, they’ll be missing out on something that I could take a comfort bath in but that’s all right. I’ll survive. (I can, after all, keep taking those comfort baths. Other folks’ not liking what I love doesn’t deprive me of my passion.)

Maybe I’ve been thinking about this recently because I am not finding my experience at church to be musically fulfilling and I used to think I could play there and perhaps people would wake up to all that is wonderful about classical music. But now I’m thinking that isn’t necessarily going to happen. Not everyone at the church will love what I do. In fact for some it might even give them the pain in the stomach (really!) that some of the crud we have to sing and listen to gives to me. (Do any of you get that? That twisty ICKY feeling because you can’t stomach what you are hearing?) And I’m thinking, at this point, that I really just want to “be” and not try to introduce my music to that particular group of people. Sometimes the energy it takes to introduce my “thing” is exhausting, and it is risky (rejection of what I love often first feels like rejection of me, sad but true).

I should think on this some more, certainly. But I guess I’m at the point where I’m thinking casting what I and many of my colleagues see as pearls before the folks who see what I do as swill is simply futile. I wonder.
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