Laughing at the Symphony


We went out to the symphony on Friday night to hear Dvořák’s New World Symphony. Like always, they tricked us and snuck in a strange and unrelated Russian modern piece in the middle of the concert.

Typical symphony.

M knows music better than I do. As soon as he saw the program he rolled his eyes. “This piece is going to be some shitty experimental thing, just watch.” And he was right. I tried really hard to enjoy the song, because I really like liking things that M doesn’t like.

But, he was right, it was a little bit shitty.

I can respect the aims of experimental art across all mediums. But when it comes to music, and my role as a “viewer,” I can’t just scan, absorb, and move along. I have to listen to every note and essentially experience every intended idea. And if I don’t want to experience every intended idea, well then that’s just too bad because everyone would see me leave and know that I’m a rude person.

One moment of the piece in particular was just a bunch of noise. The percussion section especially sounded like they were just speaking some sort of not-that-pretty language with their mallets. Similar to how American English sounds as a non-English speaker. They’re definitely words you’re hearing, but you’re not quite sure what they mean and you’re not sure that you should care.

Right in the middle of the mallet mess, a phone started ringing. The woman in front of us jumped, realizing it was hers. She scrambled for her purse, and embarked on a two-minute journey to locate the phone, and then the off-switch.

Her cell phone ring was one of the standard and most popular iPhone rings. The bright little marimba one.

And it sounded EXACTLY like the song. Only the ringtone had more structure.

Another woman down the row stared this frail little lady with the darkest of scowls. Punishing her with the most sophisticated of weapons: disgust and disdain in the face of art and class.

But, judging on the lack of glares I saw all around, I think our neighbors were overall enjoying her contribution to the piece.

To me, it was the best part of the song.

(But the New World Symphony was amazing.)



4 thoughts on “Laughing at the Symphony

  1. Although I’ve never been, I get email updates from the DSO since I’ve wanted to go and just haven’t. I think a lot of these symphonies are struggling to remain relevant in a world that is quickly becoming disinterested, playing pop songs and throwing in little “tricks” as you called them. I can’t tell yet if it’s a good thing or if it’s just sort of sad, like your gramps trying to tell a joke on FB but it just seems awkward and funny in that not intended sort of way.

    • Yeah, I see what they’re trying to do with the extra songs. They usually throw in pieces to give more “culture” for the audience, but it’s never what the audience wants to hear. For instance, we went to a “Music of Harry Potter” concert, and barely half of the songs were Harry Potter. They added songs completely unrelated, with stretches like “Aunt Marge was quite evil to Harry. You know who else was evil? This guy, in this symphony.” It’s fine to add songs to introduce people to new music, but it’s a bit misleading.

  2. Some shitty experimental thing…you never know when these things may open your mind into a whole new way of viewing your world but most of the time (in my experiences) they are really just as they seem-shitty. Nice post.

    • Yeah, I try to be as open-minded as possible. And I think I was up until that woman’s phone went off. Then I realized how ridiculous it all was.

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