Today I'm going to talk about getting hammered and playing awesome party games. Like, this one time, at band camp... Wait, no. I'm going to talk about community. Yes. Yes... This is something that I feel is missing from the classical music scene. Community. You know, groups of people getting together and sharing time with each other and bonding over something that everybody mutually enjoys. Like naked Twister. Or Bach. Granted, the classical music community as it stands would not be my first choice for naked Twister. But that's how you know you have a problem.
...and then my own snoring woke me up
The thing about community is, it's not just some random group of people. It's people who share something. The anime community, for example, shares its love for school girl uniforms. The video game community shares its arguments over whether Shephiroth was the best villain of all time or just the whiny mama's boy everybody should know he is. The important thing here is, people don't just get together at an anime convention, watch some anime, and go home. No. People often fly hundreds of miles and book hotel rooms for a weekend so they can be around other anime lovers and argue with them.
Now, I went to the symphony for a while before I realized it was a boring dull affair that isn't worth the money. Why is it boring and dull? Is it all the old people? Is it the stultifying pretensions? Is it the lack of a decent shot of whisky? Well, yes to all of this in part, but what I'm really concerned about is the following not uncommon scenario:
You drive 30 minutes or more in traffic to get downtown. You pay too much for parking. You hand over the ticket you paid a lot for. You go inside and are shuffled to your seat by well meaning, genial, and otherwise invisible ushers. You sit for 15 minutes waiting for the orchestra to enter. You listen, clap after the first movement because it was awesome and it seems the natural thing to do, then realize everyone else is looking at you like an idiot. The orchestra finishes. You get up, go to your car, and drive 30 minutes to go home.
Alright. That is your suburbanite's typical experience going to the symphony. When you put it in such stark terms, it's no wonder they never go! Heck, I live practically right next door and I never go either, simply because it's not worth my money or my time. If I want to hear the pieces I want to hear, I have the internet. If I want to go to the symphony, I need something more. What do I need? I need a community.
Happy Feelings Time
To me, community means a number of things. But mostly it means people are talking to each other. Drinks are had. Laughter and arguments and occasionally a pillow fight. Maybe some mud wrestling. A trip to the symphony lacks exactly all of these things. Maybe the director says a few words while people fall asleep in their seats. But look how different this is from Beethoven's time.
Beethoven didn't just play for anything. He played for gatherings, parties. Mostly rich people parties, but parties nonetheless. The musicians may have been the main event, but it was still part of a larger social structure. People met Beethoven. They shook his hand! Can you imagine? I can't imagine shaking the hand of a living composer unless I'm in the symphony itself. All of the cool stuff is happening behind closed doors. We never get the chance to meet the musicians, we never get to hear their stories, we never get to connect with anyone on stage. There's no humanity in the symphony.
You know good bands do? They meet with their fans. They shake their hands. Maybe autograph a breast or two. They may not like it, depending on how everything is going, but they do it anyways. Because after the show, it's Happy Feelings Time. That's when everybody is going around talking about how great the show was, how glad they were to pay the ticket price, how that one girl threw her panties at the lead singer and OMG I can't believe she did that. And the band members are there, and they're taking pictures, and it's all a good time. Happy Feelings Time.
Right now, the symphony doesn't have Happy Feelings Time. It has nothing, in fact. You go in, you go out, thank for your money, chumps. That's not what is said, but that is what is implied. No, you have to do better than that. The soloist can't just be met by VIPS, everybody has to have to opportunity to meet them. And probably not just the soloist, either. The conductor, the principle chairs, heck the whole orchestra should go out and have an good time drinking their prune juice or whatever it is they're drinking nowadays. Yeah, it lengthens your night. Yeah, it can be grueling. But that's what great bands do all the time. You're not going to be shown up by Lady Gaga, are you? Because that's what's happening right now.
The Need for Security
Basically, what I'm saying is, we might want to rethink how the symphony experience should look altogether. I think, if we don't need to hire security to make sure things don't get too out of hand, it's not good enough. Of course, I only really think that because hyperbole is fun. I'm only half joking, though. You don't want people to just "go to the symphony." You want people to "experience the symphony." And not just the performance, either. The whole symphony. All of it. We need Happy Feelings Time, and we need some naked Twister all up in here.