As I may have mentioned once or twice, learning music can be hard. But there’s good news! Learning to appreciate music is easy. For the most part, it’s quite simple. Just listen and absorb. Don’t read too much into anything and try to appreciate the sound and the commitment of the musician, or at the very least their courage.
Live music isn’t hard to find and often it’s even given away for free, though tips are always appreciated (especially at the Vox Virorum concert at First Prebyterian Church at 305 E. Main St. in Durham this coming Sunday the 19th @ 4:00 PM and also I may or may not be singing a solo in it) but not required.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy music and, unfortunately, just as many ways to make it harder for other people. Over the years I’ve attended hundreds of concerts, recitals, and performances. I’ve seen things…acts of thoughtlessness that range from the negligent to the supremely negligent.
Most if not all of these infractions, I believe, are unintentional and a lot of folks just don’t know any better. But that means these acts of indecency are preventable. I’ve been writing about some of the worst things I’ve witnessed at live performances off the stage and, if enough people can learn these simple rules, we can all make music a better place to be, or at least attend concerts without appearing like complete jackasses.
**Note: I’m using the term “concert” in reference to the more formal sort of musical performance: symphonies, musicals, jazz concerts–the sort of show where you’d expect more sitting still and listening than dancing/jumping/throwing of undergarments on the stage/etc.**
Let’s start with an easy one:
Rule #1. Seriously, turn your cellphone OFF.
Last year, I attended a Women’s Voices Chorus concert in Chapel Hill (and will be doing so again next weekend). Claire had been selected to sing a solo. She has a lovely voice (she minored in vocal performance during her undergrad) and had practiced diligently leading up to the concert but still felt nervous. I wasn’t even allowed to listen to her rehearse and had looked forward to this concert for some time.
The piece she was to solo on was part of a Catholic mass, Kyrie Elieson, meaning “God have mercy on us.” Claire, like a good recovering Catholic, has developed quite the talent for expressing guilt and it made her a great choice for this particular solo. Her voice shook with the agony of some secret, burden. As this solemn prayer for mercy swelled to its tormented climax, the moment was shattered by this sound:
[youtube watch?v=hJlzIOFFw04 nolink]
The culprit frantically rummaged through her purse to silence her phone but the damage was done. The solo faded out underneath the din of her shuffling around and the sound of my eyeball twitching with repressed rage. I imagine she began her own solemn prayer for mercy but clearly I was in no mood to grant it.
I’m a bit of a crotchety old man and think we could all stand a little more time with our phones turned off in general so my compassion is already pretty low in this area, but is it even possible to feel sympathy when someone gets caught disregarding so simple a plea for common courtesy? For this particular concert, the audience received no fewer than three reminders (one written and two verbal) to silence electronic devices. That’s more than you’d hear on an international flight about the oxygen masks, flotation devices, and other features that could save your life should your plane crash.
It’s bad enough when this happens at the movies or library, but neglecting to power down during a concert means you not only run the risk of not only looking like a thoughtless jerk, but it’s possible you could end up robbing someone you don’t even know of a significant moment that will never come again. It probably won’t happen but it’s not worth the risk. Please, do everyone a favor and just turn the blasted thing off.