Classical music is emotive, but there is this problem that you are meant to go through an inner psychological journey, rather than outwardly expressing this journey.
This may not be helped by our British culture. Imagine a stranger wailing on your shoulder at a concert. You just wouldn’t know what to do!
- Do you offer a hankie?
- Reprimand them and tell them to keep a stiff upper lip?
- Or do you ignore them and hope the problem will go away?
I found myself at the Prom on Sunday night where Sir John Eliot Gardiner was conducting the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Greig’s Piano Concerto was simply beautiful and I constantly struggled to hold back my tears. To be fair I was feeling emotional before I entered the concert hall, but none-the-less the music augmented this feeling.
I was in a quandary: to cry or not to cry? Was is socially inappropriate? Will people think I am silly for crying or a fool for letting my emotions run so array?
It was the fact that I was surrounded by hundreds of people in the arena that was the problem, as they made me feel so self-conscious. Unlike listening to a CD in my own bedroom, the concert audience has over the last few decades assumed a certain code of behaviour demeaned appropriate. To my knowledge this does not include loud sobbing.
The audience dictates the mood of a concert, not just the performers. Furthermore, performers frequently cite that what they most love is getting a vibe back from the audience. If the audience only reveals a glimpse of their reaction, how is a performer going to perceive this when they have a hundred and one other things to think about? I’m certain that frequently there is a lack of interaction between the performers and audience. If the audience doesn’t give the performers anything, the performers cannot give it back.
The concert is also meant to be a collective experience. However, if we don’t express what we are feeling at the time and then in the interval we are too shy to discuss how the music moved us, it is very difficult to gage how others are feeling. We are not sharing the experience. Apart from it obviously being cheaper to all go and hear the same orchestra play live, it makes you question why we choose to go to concerts with family and friends. (To be fair, I know some who prefer their own company at concerts, so that they can properly focus on the music.)
Therefore, I would argue that we should reconsider this closed inner reaction to classical music and see if we can open up to be a more expressive audience (perhaps even as expressive as the performers!).
It may mean that concert promoters or performers need to think about how they can modify people’s behaviour. Do you get them clapping along or force them to stand up and hope that they may dance/move to the music? Or do we need to make peopel feel comfortable to show their emotions? Whatever method used, I can see how it could mutually benefit both performers and audience.
As a footnote, I will add that I am not necessary suggesting one should cry through all performances. One could argue that it does not enhance the experience, because through the tears the stage is all a blur and all anyone can hear if you blowing your nose like a trumpet!