Coughing Redux: Hack, Hack, Wink, Wink

An awesome analysis follows this statement by Sumi Hahn:

The coughers were coughing, in full force, of course. And someone's watch kept beeping every 30 minutes. I could stand it — just barely. But the girls who kept getting up in the middle of every concerto to stomp out of the concert hall? I wanted to wring their little necks. About 12 or 13 years old, they were old enough to know better and too young to have gone to the concert by themselves. What were their parents thinking?

While coughing doesn’t bother me all that much, I see newbie Sumi Hahn’s point. Sounds irritating (That's not the analysis. It follows this next statement).

And, as long as I'm on the subject of rudeness — I get it, Seattle is a casual town. But shorts, T-shirts and tennis shoes at Benaroya? Please, Seattle, would it kill you to try a bit harder?



Really really really?!

Really? Tennis shoes? Really? Shorts?! T-shirts?

Really?! That’s an issue? Tennis shoes? Really?

Wow. Really?!

I guess the thing that we love, classical music, is really only for the “elite,” the cultured,” the “fashion conscious.” Really?!


anzu said...

Well, the real reason people should dress up to go to the symphony is that it's a scientifically proven fact that dressing up makes you hear the concerts better somehow. This is why the orchestra section, which probably has the worst acoustics is full of well-dressed people, while the standing rooms and balconies, with better acoustics are full of sneaker and shorts-donning types. (er, maybe not. It's too freaking cold to ever wear shorts in SF.)

However, I had the displeasure of sitting next to *three* nattily dressed oldish ladies at the SF Symphony a while back. They kept opening and closing their opera glass cases and whispering to each other, etc., during Gil Shaham's solo. I had a miserable cold that day and was trying very hard to suppress my cough, so I really couldn't complain.

Anonymous said...

How you dress is a statement about yourself, and to me, shorts and t-shirt shows little respect. And it's not just for classical music, how about a nicer restaurant? Or work?

People tend to dress nicer when they care about something, so to me, showing up to concert in a clothes you'd wear to the beach, or to play tennis is a subtle "fuck you".

And, as I have argued before, yes, classical music is for the elite. And fuck yeah for that! Elite is a club anyone can join -- the first step, read a book. Not everything in this country needs to be dumbed down for the shitkickers in Kansas. But asking people to where pants is hardly elite...[man, the republicans really have devalued that word. Apparently wearing pants and a "button-down" shirt make you elitist.].

Lisa Hirsch said...

I clicked the link and have got to say that it is a piss-poor review. How long has this person been writing for the Seattle Times?

Empiricus said...

Re: Lisa

Not that long. This is the second time I've come across one of her reviews, but I'm sure there have been a few others.

Re: cranky ol' grandpa gustav

That's all fine, then; you can keep your elitist status. I have no problem with you, there. If, however, you EVER complain about the exorbitant price of tickets...well, you have gotten your wish and should remain silently happy (and silently depressed that you can't go the symphony). Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Empiricus, I understand where you're coming from, and am extremely sympathetic for what I perceive your point to be. I too want to expand the audience for this severely neglected art and I too think there is symbolic power in chasing away the ghosts of its aristocratic past. But I do have a problem with this idea that being elite is the problem. Elite means the best, and that's what I demand of classical music. There are already plenty of genres of music where musicanship and training, knowledge and sophistication are of little importance. Why can't there be one genre that values those things?

And I don't belive that it follows that when you value those things that it should be prohibitely expensive. Nor does something being elite mean that it should exclusive. I am very much a populist when it comes to expanding to classical music to the masses, but it's not classical music that is in need of the change. Lowering standards of behavior and dumbing down repertoire do not represent positive change for classical music, in my humble opinion.

Classical music is elite not because it seeks to make itself superior and exclusive, but because it requires the use your brain. And god help 'em, many people do everything in their power not to use their brains. And I'm okay with those people not going to the symphony. Not everything is for everybody.

Lisa Hirsch said...

> requires you to use your brain

But that's not true. I know lots of people who actually think about the music, but I'm willing to bet that if you took a poll of a typical opera or symphony audience, what you'll hear from 90% of the attendees is that they're there for beautiful voices or beautiful music and they have little idea of the issues of form, style, or history raised by any particular piece and performance.

I also suggest you take a look at a recent Alex Ross essay, "Why So Serious?", which makes it pretty clear that well into the 19th century, classical music concerts were pure entertainment, not a matter of enlightenment or elite anything.

Lisa Hirsch said...

To clarify, "But that's not true" is in response to "...because it requires you to use your brain."

Anonymous said...

Lisa, I definitely get your point about those who are more disposed to the aesthetics of classical music, and less to the intellectualism of it. I buy that, and would certainly argue that is a major factor in most people's enjoyment of the music (although, I think it can be argued that even those there for "beautiful voices" are using their brains far more actively than in other music traditions). And I'm with Alex Ross on the crusty old traditions -- I'm for new music, I have no problem with new customs (although I do find irony in those who argue for breaking with traditions of the past by...pointing out how great it was in the past -- but no matter, because I basically agree).

However, what I'm taking issue with is this problematizing of concerts. Why defend those who make noise throughout concerts? Or bring disruptive children? Or dress like they're doing laundry that day? If the goal is to make going to the symphony like a trip to Wal-Mart then they'll likely drive people like me away. And I am the type of person I'm sure the average orchestra wants coming, since I promise repeat business.

Again, I'm not saying that it needs to be serious or stuffy. But the symphony stands for many as a form of entertainment that isn't merely for the masses. Classical music is often a sanctuary from the noise and haste of modern life. Like reading a novel, classical music doesn't often move at the pace of our modern sensibilities.

Why read the novel that takes a week when you can see the movie in 2 hours? Why listen to symphony in 40 minutes when I can listen to a pop song and get the gist in about 1 minute (the rest being literal repeat)?

And I'd argue that it's not a bad thing that classical music just doesn't mold itself to mimic what's successful for other venues. I have not said that needs to be more serious or crusty, but that its standards remain high.