Monday, November 12, 2012

HYBRID SYMPHONY HALL CONCERT - “Wow” and other unintentional aspects of the musical experience

I almost lost track of my calendar, but it suddenly occurred to me that Allentown Symphony Hall had an upcoming classical concert.  Tears would have been falling from my face if I missed a show from the season.  Let us save those for the more physical tragedies in life!  During my calenderic time of anarchy, I have elected to incorporate an important artistic theme into all of my writings.  For Allentown Symphony's Americana concert in their 62nd season, I want to discuss the relevance of the unintentional sounds that infiltrate the music and provide a greater context to what an aural experience can mean. 

Classical music audiences tend to be respectful and are quiet when people are speaking (such as Sheila Evans and Diane Wittry) or performing.  The opposite of this would be something such as a Nine Inch Nails rock concert where the audience is screaming incessantly from the time before Trent Reznor takes the stage until well after the last song has concluded.  Despite this attentiveness from our high-art audience, it is still quite impossible to hear nothing but the orchestra.  Most obviously, if the music has a second of silence within a musical passage, you can hear various noises throughout the hall.  The Cagian (or Cajun) philosopher in me argues that any additional noises become part of the music (a.k.a. all sound is music and unintentional sound cannot truly be separated from the simultaneous interpretation of the vibrations).  A great instance of this is when I listen to Synthesized Socratic Police, an electronic music piece that I composed, in my car stereo.  There is a moment where I hold out a nonsensical vocal syllable of the “ooh” persuasion.  While playing loudly in my car, the speakers vibrate heavily, and I hear a vibrato in my voice that does not actually exist in the recorded sound wave.  I'll include the piece below, but be sure not to stop it during the 4'33” (John Cage pictured above) inspired section.        

Are my words ridiculous yet?  If not, please contact me for a better attempt at absurdity.  I will begin to apply my thoughts.  The program began with an intro of the Star Spangled Banner (with unquantifiable audience participation) and then moved on to Bernstein.  Bernstein's Overture to Candide was a short piece that sounded like old-timey film music and had gorgeous chord changes.  During the piece, I heard coughing, stomping, and other random taps from the audience.  This delighted me, but I wanted more unconventional noises to write about.  Time traveling - before the intro played, it was announced that Allentown Symphony Hall's name was changing to Miller Symphony Hall.  From the words of Gandhi, "SAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT"? 

One of the major highlights of the night was a double violin concerto by Mark O' Connor.  It began with some funky melodies that gripped my stomach like a ride at an amusement park and made me legitimately excited at what kind of art I was about to hear.  Chance would have it that O' Connor (as he was one of the two lead violinists) would tap his foot at times with the beat.  Oh yeah – Chance is the name of my friend that accompanied me to the hall.  Was this tapping written or unwritten?  The world is in the dark.  At intermission Chance asked me who I thought was better of the lead violinists.  It was funny because I was taken aback and told him that I had not even thought about it while I watched them.  This moment taught me about my achieved level of maturity as an artist and composer.  To me, this conversation also became part of the program. 

I was gifted with two amazing noises from the audience before the evening ended.  During an American in Paris by George Gershwin, I heard some type of percussive tap from an audience member during a rest that literally felt like a calculated sort of pickup note into the melody.  The other noise was an attendee verbalizing a “Wow” at the end of the Aaron Copland headliner.  It was instant as the piece ended and most everyone in the hall must have heard it.  It implanted thoughts into our head that mingled with our reactions to the conclusion of the theme song to “Beef, it's what's for dinner.”  Sorry Copland, I had to include that.  I longed for ceiling panels to fall off or for a cell phone to ring with “I'm too sexy for my shirt” but these sounds were the best I was going to get tonight.  I'll keep listening.  Try it for yourself!

Miller Symphony Hall concerts:

Sachem Orenda's Apology for Popular Music and the Nihilistic Demiurge is now available:

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