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True Music Lovers Don’t Kill Concerts May 27, 2006 – 11:21 p.m. – Permalink

I had the wonderful opportunity of attending a Colorado Symphony Orchestra concert today. The two pieces played were both fantastic. During the second one, to my disgust, people began getting up and leaving with angry expressions on their faces. It was musical director Jeffrey Kahane’s last concert of his first season with the orchestra, and this is how they repay his work?

The piece performed was Naive and Sentimental Music by John Adams, a modern classical suite for orchestra composed in 1999. I know I’m deviating in terms of blog topic here (see “To Switch a Gear” for more information regarding that), but what I witnessed was so outrageously infuriating that I felt I had to let my thoughts be heard.

Modern classical music has gained a pretty nasty reputation for being unpleasant to the ears — a reputation forged by conventional listeners. Many subgenres of contemporary classical contain very pleasant music, including post–modern music and minimalism.

Luckily, there’ve been some people who have tried to counter this worsening stereotype, such as Michael Campion over at KCME. His Sunday night show “Noises, Sounds, and Sweet Airs,” however misguided it is in terms of the big modern music picture, generates some interest.

But what really excited me was the fact that such a high–caliber orchestra like the Colorado Symphony was playing a contemporary piece for the last concert of Kahane’s season. They played the piece even though people were exiting Boettcher Concert Hall in droves and a man in a wheelchair had collapsed on the floor.

The reception given by the audience members who lived reflects a manifestation of the Rite of Spring scenario. Here is what occurred: During the premiere of the work on May 29, 1913 in Paris, the somewhat unconventional dance movements in the ballet made audience members whistle and catcall. This expanded into loud arguments between supporters of the ballet and opponents.

The disputes then escalated into fistfights and shouts in the aisles of the theater, involving the entire audience in a riot. Today, The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du printemps in French) is standard in both orchestral and dance repertoire, and it appeared prominently in the famous Disney movie Fantasia.

Modern music can definitely be revolutionary, as evidenced from this particular incident. I have no respect at all for those who leave while a piece of music is being performed. They aren’t music lovers at all, nor are they connoisseurs.

People who stay, however, are the only ones who truly love music and embrace all forms of it, even if it is unconventional.