In Concert

Yesterday, I quoted Alex Ross on the value of concert attendance:

Recordings capture only a fraction of what makes classical music compelling—the social experience of listening with a crowd in real time, the physical and psychological effect of hearing natural sound reverberate in a room.

Today, Eric Alterman publishes a letter from Roger H. Werner that reads in part:

I once heard a marvelous Russian pianist play Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, music I've heard a thousand times. The people sitting next to me must have though I was crazy because the music was so beautiful it made me cry. And I recall the first time I heard the 1812 Overture live more than 20 years ago, and it's something I shall never forget. I've been to a hundred rock concerts, and while most were enjoyable, they mostly blend together and all I can recall are the awful concerts.

[If you go to the letter, make sure you click through to the letter that prompted Mr. Werner to write his.]

I'm sure many rock/pop concerts provide the kind of experiences Mr. Werner recounts here, and this is by no means an attempt to downgrade that particular communal experience. It is to point out that performances of concert music are not exercises in the celebration of the past or of the establishment/enforcement of cultural hierarchies.

At their best, performances process the expressions of one heart through the body of another into the vibrations of an instrument (or voice) that sends waves into the air, where the ears and minds of other hearts make them their own. And that is magic; living and breathing magic.


  1. I just had to share this with someone who would understand (none of my friends are in to classical music) and I saw this link on Blognoggle. Note: I'm a huge fan of rock music, been to over 500 concerts in my life.

    I went to hear the Concertgebouw, led by Mariss Jansons, at the Disney Hall here in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

    Strauss: Don Juan
    Mahler: 5th symphony

    What a concert! The Strauss was absolutely ravishing, the woodwind solos to die for. The Mahler was fiery and calm and sarcastic and bombastic and rustic (i.e. Mahlerian!), a wonderful perfomance. The conducting was sooooo good too! No axes to grind, no points to be made, just letting the music flow. At the end of the Mahler, where the strings play figures under the brass, I heard every strand of the musical argument--it was so amazing, I literally felt like a 1000 volts of electricity was coursing through me.

    After the final chord, I spontaneously lept up and shouted "Alright!". Normally, I would have died from embarrassment, but since the rest of the crowd was going nuts too, I didn't stand out!

    I walked to the bus as if I were floating on a cloud.

  2. Anonymous3:16 AM

    i want to lesten convertion for english