I was invited to a contemporary classical music concert last night. I do not know much about this genre of music, and I knew nothing about the composers of the pieces that were to be played, so I felt like a potato sitting in the audience.
Thankfully, I was handed a brochure on my way in, which gave brief introductions to the theme of the night, the composers, the pieces, and the conductor and players. I quickly read through it before the orchestra started playing, and I was able to enjoy the music a lot more than I expected.
I got to learn a few things about contemporary classical music – new instruments (in one piece, I saw a percussionist fling something around like a cowboy… can anyone tell me what this instrument is?!), new ways of playing old instruments (at one point, all string players made a sound similar to scratching chalk on blackboard… not at all pleasant, but interesting!), and new spotlights on underrated instruments (who knew a harp could play a solo part in an orchestra?).
By the end of the night, I believe I was able to grow out of being a complete potato-head. I think I will need a few more cracks at this genre of music to be able to tell whether I like it or not – some awkwardness remains, as I was trained to play music from older eras and some aspects were a bit too radical for me. I am not yet sure if I would pay out of my own pocket to hear it, but I am sure I would attend another if invited.
Sensing the effect the music had on me, I became interested in how it affected others in the audience. So I looked around in between pieces and at the end of the night… and I was shocked. I saw more than a few sleeping through applauses and rushing out of the concert hall before the entire orchestra left the stage. And when I turned back to the stage, I saw too few acknowledgement of the audience by the players.
Maybe I am too accustomed to seeing the Western way of exchanging applauses and acknowledgements between the audience and players.
Maybe it is just that my people are not that expressive, and there was a polite exchange that I just did not notice.
But then, maybe the audience was really a bunch of potatoes, sitting in the seats uninterested in and unmoved by the music being played to them.
Or, maybe the audience was treated as a bunch of potatoes, taken to be fillers of the seats but without ears to listen to and hearts to be emotive about the music played by the orchestra.
It is not only at music concerts that I see potatoes in the audience. They are at other art performances, at lectures, at meetings, and at many more places. Who puts them there? I do not know for sure… maybe everyone has a part in it, knowingly or not. But one thing is for sure – maybe potatoes are nutritious and tasty as food, but they do not make very good audience.
Maybe if we can each try a little harder to leave the potatoes out of the audience, we will all find something a little more fruitful and gratifying in whichever seat we take.