Here in the thousandfold echo chamber, we are different cultural consumers than most. Our live entertainment, at least before certain events, consists of concerts of classical music, with the occasional ballet or opera. Rare movies. Nothing remotely popular. Of course we don’t have a TV.
So you can say that we are a little out of touch with the non-classical audience (which comprises most of the world). To illustrate just how much, here are three amusing vignettes, which each illustrate something about the ears of the common man.
1) An acquaintance recently asked us: “Are classical music concerts always planned?” I had to pause and think about what he meant. I suppose bands and songwriters don’t advertise a program, just themselves, and put together the actual playlist on the fly, correct?
Repertoire presents a perennial problem in promoting classical shows. The title “Symphony No. 3” doesn’t have much pizazz to it, and I’m willing to bet that people might think they wouldn’t understand it if they hadn’t heard Symphonies No. 1 and 2.
Have big institutions tried marketing just themselves to those elusive new audiences, instead of explaining a program? Not just with dapper images of Alan Gilbert, but something more evocative. I still think that institutions should have two faces, one for those in the know and another for those who don’t need so much information.
2) “Have any weekend plans?” Asked my chipper massage therapist. Said recent events have made my weekends indistinguishable from my weekdays, but as it happens we’re going to the Philharmonic’s annual late-season spectacular. I asked if she goes to concerts much, and she conceded that though she had studied music appreciation in college and once dated a guy who likes the symphony, she never goes, because she never knows what will be good
I told her that the institutions are always solid bets: the Phil, the Met, Carnegie, etc. But I had to stop myself. How many times have I sat through technically proficient but uninspired performances? Or would have enjoyed myself if only the man next to me wasn’t snoring or hogging the armrest? What could I tell her to get her to go?
3) My Dad was “enjoying” a session of physical therapy (we take wellness seriously around here), except for the Top 100 blasting from the speakers. His therapist was humming along. He asked what it was she liked about the music. “Oh I hate this,” she said.
Huh? Hum along to something you hate? If it’s that easy for people to get their lest favorite music under their skin, then blast some classical greatest hits instead! It won’t make them love it, apparently, but familiarity is a step in the right direction. What’s the expression, contempt breeds familiarity?