Friday, June 24, 2011

Don't let your kids go to contemporary music concerts


Not on your life, child! It's too rowdy and dangerous. Go see a nice classical music performance instead.

In the early 21st century, a clear dividing line has been drawn between popular music and serious music. Popular music is where you wear your jeans and drink beer and shout at the top of your lungs, while serious music is where you wear an uncomfortable suit and walk very quietly and sit in a chair with a serious expression.


But so-called "avant-chamber music" is not always calm and sedate. The New York Times describes a recent evening of music in San Francisco, in which JHNO was performed "Untitled," a piece for viola and electronics.

Partway through the performance, someone began hissing at JHNO. Then the person began clapping inappropriately and causing other distractions.

Now if this were a standard rock concert, no one would even notice. But in the rareified atmosphere of a concert hall - kind of like golf, actually - the noises did stand out, and as a result JHNO became exasperated, threw down his viola and broke it (Pete Townshend couldn't have done it better), and stormed off the stage.

The heckler? An octogenarian viola player named Bernard M. Zaslav, who subsequently recounted his experience at being heckled himself in the late 1940s while performing a 12-tone piece with the Cleveland Symphony.

The reason for Zaslav's outburst? The song was too danged loud.

Well, at least some things are consistent.
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