October 1, 2008

To Mosh or Not To Mosh?

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As you no doubt are aware, one very delightful way to enjoy music is by attending a concert. In our modern day and age, concerts come in many forms. They are high school band concerts, Fanclub shows, marching band numbers at C.U. football games, the Backstreet Boys reunion tour … wouldn’t that be AWESOME? They adhere to stereotypes held by the old (“Damn kids, with their rock and roll!”), and to those held by the young (“OMG, classical music sux!”).
We go to concerts for many reasons. For example, a mother might go to her son’s clarinet recital because she is proud of her son, or a Bible Belt resident may attend a Christian rock concert for some spiritual indulgence — or because attendance is equivalent to an indulgence in the pre-Enlightenment sense. Either way.
In any case, I think there are two major reasons why people are willing to fit a 36-pack, several packages of plastic cups and eight friends wearing cowboy hats and wife beaters into a beat-up pick-up to drive six very uncomfortable hours to see Kenny Chesney. (Stereotype?) They do this to have a rockin’ good time and/or for authentic appreciation of the music involved.
I think this latter reason is actually too rare amongst concert-goers. The first concert — in the standing-room-only, beer-on-the-floor, girls-passing-out-in-the-mosh-pit sense of the word — that I ever went to was (please don’t laugh) Something Corporate, in 10th grade. I wore my spiky earrings, did some moshing and sang along — well yelled along really. Afterwards, my friend’s father drove us all home in his minivan. I liked it so much that I actually went to another Something Corporate show at Ithaca College a year or two later (and I ended up losing my backless shoe — bad idea — in the mosh pit).
Now, I have to ask myself why I enjoyed these experiences so much.
Was it because of the great music? Umm. No. It was because I was with my friends, we were rockin’ out and I felt badass — despite the fact that my boyfriend was so protective that most people stayed safely several feet away.
Did I even really listen to the music? Well, I sang along to “If You C Jordan” and “I Kissed A Drunk Girl,” but did I notice tonality or time signature or key changes? Not a chance.
This past Saturday night, despite the oh-so-tempting allure of post-Homecoming frat parties, I instead had a choice between two very different concerts. Citizen Cope at the State Theatre or a classical clarinet recital at Ithaca College that my parents had invited me to. Since I was already eschewing the Saturday night social ritual, I figured I might as well go all the way to dork-town and attend the recital with my parents. Plus, they took me to Madeleine’s and bought me tiramisu afterwards.
The recital featured the Ithaca premiere of a piece written for solo clarinet by Pulitzer-Prize-winning composer Karel Husa, a friend of my dad’s and a frequent patron of Ithaca College. The clarinetist (Richard Faria, an I.C. professor) played several other pieces as well, most accompanied by a cellist (his wife) and/or a Cornell pianist, and including Brahms and a contemporary piece that blended disco with classical — “Disco Toccata.” (Neat.)
The concert was very enjoyable for me, since I actually got to listen to the music. I really do like classical music. I swear, I’m not a total dork, people, really. I also watch anime …
I got to discuss the music afterwards with my music teacher parents — instead of reflecting on how drunk the mosher who fell on my head was with my equally-as-inebriated friends (though, I will be the first to say that this also an enjoyable experience).
So, we discussed the music: what worked, what didn’t, how the musicians played (very well, by the way). Of course, most of my parent’s discussion went right over my head, but it was fun to learn in any case.
I think Husa’s piece was my favorite. Professor Faria and my dad remarked afterwards that he is always thinking about ways to do something classic in a new way — in this case, holding a long note, while finger-trilling on a single key, in the first movement of his piece, entitled “The Mountain Bird.” (The second and third movements were, “The Poignant Song” and “The Relentless Machine,” respectively).
So anyway, my advice to you is to take advantage of the incredible concert series offered by both Cornell and Ithaca College. Yes, go see Kenny Chesney, but maybe also go see Song and Dance of West Africa at Bailey this Friday, or the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir on November 17. Or the Guarneri String Quartet at I.C., also this Friday. When you’re there, make like me and be a nerd for a second. Close your eyes and listen to what the music is doing and saying, technically and emotionally. Why did the composer choose that particular note and what is s/he trying to say? I’m sure you will find as I did, that it is truly beautiful.