Friday, March 07, 2008

It's No Use! It's No Use! (review)

I went to a concert tonight. I won't say where it was or who played or what they played because I don't like criticizing people who know their stuff so much better than I do. The performance was of a very high caliber. At least I think it must have been.

The musical genre was what I would call old-timey avant garde. I could describe it like this: imagine a small orchestra tuning up. Layer on top of that some plink-plink sounds, some cloppity-clop sounds, and some bongo drums. Now add a soprano shout-singing the line "It's no use! It's no use!" over and over for several minutes.

There were three pieces by three composers, and one of them had some wisps of tune. A lot of it sounded a bit haphazard, but was apparently anything but. The conductor was as focused and determined as I've ever seen a conductor be: pursed-lipped, bent forward, seemingly trying to pull the music out of the orchestra by sheer brute force. You might be reminded of Yoda levitating a space ship out of a swamp.

There was a surprising amount of moving around during the performance. The pianist got up, with her sheet music, and moved to the harpsichord, where, as far as I could tell, she hit one note and then picked up her music and returned to the piano. The person who was making the plink and clop sounds likewise seemed to need to carry music to various locations at the back of the stage.

With the exception of the violinists, all the musicians seemed fearsomely serious, staring sternly at their music sheets, blowing and plucking with enormous concentration. By contrast, the violinists were all smiles, nearly laughing with glee while they waited their turn to saw a note or two. I've seen this jokey-smiley behavior in violinists during other weird concerts. Is this their way of reassuring the audience that they're not pissed off at applying their decades of practice to produce this bizarre noise? Or are violinists just weirdos awaiting the moment they can be in their element?


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