Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Concerts : Upsetting the Elite

I often find myself in a concert hall , listening to western classical music. Unusual though it may seem, I like it. I have never been one of those chaps who walk around the place with headphones or earphones or facephones pressing against vital parts of his body. So I consequently listen to very little recorded music - and highly resent the question "What music do you listen to?"

Live Western Classical music provides additional delights that can only be obtained in one of their hotbeds in town. Take the NCPA. At any concert you will find this one gentleman of a rather singular appearance - about five foot five inches tall , grey hair, and loose head. I mean loose head in the literal sense of the word, he cannot hold it still. Back and forth, up and down , the head moves to a remarkable rhythm that is furiously fast and bears no relation to the music going on at that time. If you have seen an unmusical person headbanging , you will find that this is not impossible to achieve.

Then there is a group of middle aged to elderly men whose love for the music is so great that they cannot bear any sort of disturbance. This was particularly amusing on one instance -  I had gone to watch my friend accompany another friend at  a recital at the Experimental Theatre. This friend ( accompanist) is remarkably bashful when it comes to bowing. She stands ramrod stiff and jerks her head forward twice with a plastic smile on her face that is more like a suppressed snarl. Naturally , I and the rest of her family could not hold in our laughter when this little pantomime was enacted on stage, much to the dismay of the deep music appreciators in front of us. Turning round, the oldest of the lot inserted an unnecessary finger into his armpit and exclaimed in a falsetto " Our performers are of excellent quality and it takes much effort to go on stage. The least you can do is not laugh at them even if you can't appreciate the music. " After which, finger was removed from armpit , figure was turned around and face wore Highly Indignant Look.

One also gets to witness famous musicians, many of them completely senile , competing with each other. Take the example of a certain gentleman who used to be the critic for a certain newspaper. Now having had his position usurped by a youngish female imposter , all he had to do at the concert was sit and listen, like the rest of us. Rather boring when one contrasts it with the thrills of shifting pieces of paper frantically and changing the expression from disgust to horror periodically as the performers moves through their programme. Not to mention the sudden bursts of frenzied note-taking with a pencil-stub. To make matters worse , this young, skimpily clad lady was neither a known musician nor a Parsee. Worse, she was listening stonily and quietly taking notes on what looked like an iPad! Our  man was having none of it. Magically , a pencil-stub and pieces of paper appeared . Spectacles were loudly borrowed ,youngish lady was glared at and in a jiffy the audience contained another critic, this one not for anything quite so pedestrian as a newspaper write-up but rather for the  purpose of criticising for pride and pleasure. Altogether, much nobler.

However , the pleasantest activity for me at concerts is what gives this article its title. Unlike many of the other regular attendees , I don't believe in the 'sacred beauty' of Art music ; post-concert, I do not shy away from berating a work of even Chopin(this, if it is a mediocre work) loudly and, in full view of the overcome-with-awe-at-the-grandeur-of-it-all public. When such a composition stretches on for half an hour, at around fifteen minutes, I begin to stretch , at twenty, I yawn and at thirty, I fall asleep. Perhaps the more overt of my displays is as much an expression of boredom as schoolboyish attempt to 'upset the elite' . Nevertheless , it is positively delightful.  They frown at me , shake their heads , shrug at each other and dismiss me as a man who Does Not Know how To Appreciate This Great Tradition . And I?
I smile serenely back at them.

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