Disclaimer: Clearly, this is a humorous column, or at least an attempt at one. I am, I hope, not without a sense of humor. However, I do not take kindly to ignorance and stereotyping. So after much thought, I’ve decided to…
How to be a classic snob
Um. Thanks for interrupting, Joel Stein of the LA Times. And I think you mean “classical snob,” unless that’s some sort of attempt at a pun.
Learning the tricks behind having a snotty attitude about orchestral music
Snotty? Nice. It says over here in your biography that you’re starved for attention. Is that true?
A few years ago, I began working toward my retirement goal of being an intolerable old man.
I must say, that’s an admirable goal.
I'm way ahead of schedule on knowing enough about wine to bore anyone,
Hey, me too! Because, you know, I’ve studied and stuff.
but classical music has proved much more difficult, largely because no matter how much you listen, it does not get you drunk.
No, because you haven’t studied it. You think it’s okay to be “snotty” about wine because you know a lot about wine, but you want the shortcut to being “snotty” about classic [sic] music? Boo, sir. Boo.
But because my cultural 401(k)
Okay, that’s funny.
depends on being able to cite conductors, orchestras and recording years,
“Recording years” is pretty awkward. Simplify, man! I’d go with “dates”.
I called David Moore, a bassist for the L.A. Philharmonic, and asked him to get me on the road to insufferability.
You’re already on that road, my friend.
Moore met me at the Walt Disney Concert Hall and said that, like me, he got into classical music late -- in his case at USC, where he started out majoring in jazz, which he discovered by getting into guitar solos in Rush and Iron Maiden songs.
He discovered jazz by…listening to Iron Maiden?
Zing! Also, because people take the time to educate themselves, unlike (apparently) in LA, where any shortcut to cultural currency is welcome. Those stupid East coast idiots, learning about stuff!
His first tip was to tell me not to bother buying a lot of CDs because, unlike with rock bands, the live experience is far more important. "The
Wow. Look it up, Einstein. And it’s “Varèse.” Plus, I don’t have to “long to say” facts that I already know, because I know them.
When I accused him of just saying this to get me to buy concert tickets, he told me that he never listens to classical recordings at home unless it's for work. Again, the
Great. That’s great.
"Knowing Sibelius is Finnish and influenced by natural surroundings can deepen the experience, but you don't need to know it's cold and dark in
Oh, right, I took my eyes off your prize. Intolerable, insufferable. Without working. I get it.
Sensing my excitement,
And if people applaud between movements during a concert, I should stare, loudly shush and shake my head in disapproval.
Um. What? Everyone knows that, because…
The musicians don't mind the clapping,
What? I’m pretty sure they do. Ever get stared down by the conductor? Oh, wait…obviously not.
but snotty audience members love to assert their knowledge of classical music etiquette.
Yes. “Snotty.” Etiquette is so snotty. Hey, Mr. Stein? Would you like a ham and cheese sandwich?
When I'm old enough to have really gotten the hang of this, I'm sure I'll be able to use my phone to excoriate the clappers on an online social network inhabited only by the snotty, old and self-obsessed. It would still be called Facebook.
After banging out some classical licks on a piano that did seem pretty memorable,
I think your needs are clear.
But before I went,
"The familiarity of a piece is like a return drive," he said. "It doesn't feel as long because you recognize the landmarks along the way." Also, during the performance, I could focus on a particular section -- say, the bassists -- to give me something to do with my eyes besides close them. That's when I got the awesome idea for Solid Gold Philharmonic Dancers.
That is totally an awesome idea, brah! How about "Orchestral Babes Gone Wild!"?
When I got home, I downloaded Leonard Bernstein's version of Mahler's Sixth and read the Wikipedia entry about the symphony. This turned out to be really smart because I found out the symphony not only requires a triangle, a glockenspiel and, awesomely, cowbells,
Cowbells are, admittedly, awesome.
but, according to Mahler, a hammer that was to be pounded "breif and mighty, but dull in resonance and with a nonmetallic character (like the fall of an axe)." Somewhere, a child-prodigy percussionist is being yelled at for not pounding a wooden hammer dully enough.
I’ll give you that one.
That night, I did a lot of staring at the hammer guy, who, to my delight, was also the triangle and cowbell guy. And his hammer was this gigantic, Wile E. Coyote-sized mallet that he slammed maybe five times onto this enormous wood chopping block on wheels. I couldn't decide if I was more delighted by the notion of Eschenbach, who conducts this symphony all over the world, trying to persuade airport security to let him board with his carry-on giant hammer, or the idea that the Philharmonic keeps a giant hammer and table in storage just for Mahler's Sixth. Or that, for the rest of my life, I can talk about the sublime dullness of the hammer, which gets lost on recordings, as soon as Mahler's Sixth comes up in conversation. Which it will. Because I will bring it up.
Yes, yes you will. Because you saw it, and bothered to learn something about it.
See how that works? Just like wine. In the end, did you learn this? No?
Sigh. Again, I know it’s a humor column. Touting ignorance, snotty-ness, and ridiculing things you know nothing about is hilarious. I almost didn’t do this post. And it is, after all, funny. However, the point (easy cultural legitimacy) is undermined by the fact that the author actually did some research, listened to the piece, and went to the concert.
So what was the point again?