Sunday, November 18

In consideration of concerts, both alternative and classical

Generally, I think it is a good idea to try and cultivate some taste in those things that culture has given value beyond that of mere survival. Please understand that I do not advocate turning one's nose up at any dish which someone with less training than four years at a French culinary school or constantly complaining that no one will ever again reach the level of Orson Welles or Akira Kurosawa, but I think it is worthwhile to be able to appreciate true talent or an original idea, even if lacks any personal appeal to you. In some things, mostly film and novels, I like to think that I have succeeded in this and at least have a modicum of taste. In other things, most notably music, I really have no experience at all, though visual art in all its forms, opera, dance, theater, food and other things that do not admittedly come to mind would make this list as well, but they do not matter so much to this post. At this point, the less said about them, the better. Sure, I played French Horn for five years and sing in church from the pews, so I can read music. But that's it. I have almost 275 hours of music on my computer, amounting to almost 4000 tracks, and all I can really say is whether I like the song or not. The music thing is especially depressing though because since high school I have always had friends deeply interested and involved in music who can speak very intelligently on the subject and whose opinions I tend to respect on such matters.

Anyway, what inspires this post is my recent attendance of my first two proper concerts, the two taking place on wildly different ends of the spectrum. Last Sunday was Bloc Party in Mannheim. Yesterday was a string chamber orchestra performing pieces by Tigran Mansurian, who was also in attendance for this performance. You want a sense of Bloc Party, their biggest hit is probably "Helicopter" but I suggest "The Prayer" still more, at least until they release a video for "Waiting for the 7.18." Unfortunately, tracking down Mansurian's work is a bit more difficult. You will simply have to imagine a bunch of string instruments, sans harps, playing.

For my only previous live music experiences being a Sherri Austin concert at my county fair and some band and choir concerts (though the ones at Gonzaga pleased me very much), these were great introductions to what lies beyond listening to albums on your computer or using YouTube as a highly inefficient, but free!, jukebox, the sort of introductions that do make me want to see and hear still more.

The Bloc Party concert was fun. It was cool. Really, I do not know what other words to apply to it, and, needless to write, a live concert was a completely different beast from listening to their two albums on my computer. There was crowd surfing, a new edge to even their softer songs like "So Here We Are," and a girl was pulled on stage to demonstrate how Kele Okereke wanted to see the audience moving. I got to be astounded by people paying €25 for T-shirts and jump around and pump my arm when Bloc Party came out. Foals, the opening act, did their job well. Their music was raw and pounding, but they bore no comparison or distraction to Bloc Party at all. They lacked the presence. When playing, they looked as though they were seizing on their instruments and always had trouble looking at the audience. Which just made the build-up to the reason for coming to the concert all the better. You knew there was still more. When the lights came on through the fog, which had been pumping for the last five minutes of the break, to shine through on the Bloc Party backdrop, that was amazing and hearing Okereke drag out "I am trying to be heroic" for "Song for Clay [Disappear Here]" was the release. Before they even reached song was ended, I was jumping just to see over those bobbing heads before me. Having spoken with friends who have attended concerts by bands established for decades and whose songs can truly be called radio staples, this merits mention. Bloc Party released its first album in 2005, and its second only earlier this year. There is no obscure library to dig through (I only failed to recognize one song) and no major hits that were the only reason for the audience to come.

But, with regard to the complaint that began this post, it was the Mansurian concert last night that bothered me more. Before the concert proper began, he gave an interview. Of course, his answers were filtered through his native tongue, Armenian I assume, to German and then on through to my English understanding, but I am fairly certain he was talking about the color of his music, apricot with the Armenian flag. Really, that means nothing to me. When he spoke of the emotional forces and how "Testament" was composed just days following his wife's death, I could relate with that in his songs, but what does he mean by color? What color is "Eroica" or "Flux?" Still, I enjoyed the concert. The pieces were beautiful and watching the soloist violinist and cellist play was something special, but it is still frustrating. I feel as though there is so much I am missing from this music because I lack the experience and background.

1 comment:

Emmett said...

A lot of what I have been thinking about recently has to do with this very issue. How exactly does music "mean" something? It does help to have some musical training, but I'd have to say the philosophy of music is just as much an answer to that question. I would say more about what I've thought about this... but it's too much to put in a comment box. Maybe I'll post on it soon.