Friday, October 12, 2007

At the Concert

She's gorgeous. Long, black hair, a stylish little cocktail dress matched with a jacket of midnight blue, and a pair of endless, endless legs. What's more, she's alone. And sitting one seat away from me at the Philadelphia Orchestra concert. Life just doesn't get better than this.

As we wait for the concert to start, I sit there, reading my Selected Poems of Seifert, wondering if she's noticed or whether she even knows who Seifert is. Where's that little bubble saying "Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature" when you need it? I race my way through each poem, taking in nothing, waiting till I get to the end before I glance up again, look across at her. She seems engrossed in her program. I wonder if, like me, she's a subscriber. Wouldn't that be incredible? As the lights go down and the music starts I sink into a daydream about the two of us getting to know each other better as the season progresses. I imagine the first awkward conversations, the discovery of mutual favorites, the animated chat in the intermission of the second concert leading to the coffee date before the third, then dessert after the fourth, dinner before the fifth and by the time the sixth concert came along we'd be officially 'a couple'. I imagine telling other people, years later, how our romance began, how the vagaries of the Kimmel Center ticketing algorithm brought us together. It would make such a good story.

As I dwell on our subscription-ticket romance, Berlioz's Carnival Overture is drawing to a close. I glance at the program. Britten next. Sigh. I wish they'd hurry up and get to the Debussy already.

But wait, she's doing something - she's taking out pen and paper, getting ready to write. Does she mean to take notes? Maybe she's a famous music critic of some sort. Maybe she does reviews of concert performances for some magazine. The thought is intimidating - how am I ever going to strike up a conversation with a woman who knows so much more than me about classical music? But come on, there's no way she's a critic. For one thing, would a professional critic be sitting way up here in the furthest tier from the stage? Of course not. Besides, she's too young. She's probably a student. Yes, that's what it is - she's a PhD candidate. In music. She's probably at Penn. Another thing we can bond about. This is great. But wait, if she's taking notes in the Britten violin concerto does that mean she's doing her dissertation on Britten? Or on twentieth century British composers more generally? Hmmm. Not too promising that. Still, all relationships involve some compromise. Besides, just because she's doing her dissertation on them doesn't mean she likes them. You have to pick what's not already been done. Everyone knows that.

The concert goes on. Midori is sawing away at her violin. Almost at the end of the first movement now. There. Wait a minute, what is she doing? She's putting aside her pen and paper, she's raising her hands - oh my god! can it be? - yes, it is, she's...she's...clapping. In between movements! AAARGHH!

Sigh. Another dream snuffed out.

P.S. Please to notice fiction tag. Yes, I was at concert. Yes, I was reading Seifert. No, nothing like this happened.

P.P.S. Oh, and no jokes about 'a dose of clap', please. Thank you.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

She did what!! OMG!!
:D :D :D

~N.

Anonymous said...

Ok, so let me get this clear. The protagonist gave up the chance to make out with this hot, uninhibited, rebellious woman because he wants a sheep?? Who follows some archaic social custom that no one can quite figure out how it originated and is sooo last century? (you do know, of course that Beethoven wrote many endings explicitly to elicit applause?)

Anyway, I can predict this sequel: Protagonist finds Ms. Will-Never-Applaud-Between-Movements-OMIGOD and marries her only to find on their honeymoon that she enjoys kitty parties and Dan Brown and will only have sex in the missionary position, clothed and with all the lights off. Three years later he's the father of two children and worrying about kindergarten admissions. One day he goes back to a performance of the Philadelphia Orchestra (he hasn't been back since that fateful night). He claps, deliberately, loudly, defiantly between all movements. Each and every one. Then he goes home and blows his brains out.

n!

btw: did you catch the all-Beethoven this week? Oh Beethoven! My firstborn is so going to be christened Ludwig Antonin! (But of course his petname will be Pinky).

Falstaff said...

N: :-).

n!: She's not uninhibited or rebellious, she's just clueless.

If we're doing alternate versions, consider the one where our protagonist assumes that this woman is brave and independent and a true iconoclast, marries her, and then discovers that in fact, she didn't know that you weren't supposed to clap in between movements because it was only her first time attending a concert, and that only because she wanted to see what all the fuss was about, that actually she much preferred watching prime time television (Desperate Housewives being a particular favorite), had no interest in classical music and - when she discovers that she's committed a social gaffe - is so embarrassed about clapping in between movements that she refuses to go for another concert ever again. When he suggests going for concerts without her, she accuses him of being unfaithful and not loving her enough, and makes such terrible scenes that eventually he gives in and agrees to stay at home watching Television, the trauma of which eventually drives him to drink. Three years later he's sitting in front of the television watching football with a cold beer in his hand and pretzels on the table in front of him, slapping his snotty two year old to get him to shut up, all vestiges of the intellectual curiosity and taste that he once possessed having long since atrophied inside him.

Oh, and why would my protagonist want to have sex with some shallow bimbette when he could make love to a real woman, who understands that pleasure comes from anticipation, from holding back and letting the excitement build inside you; who doesn't rush towards the first peak she comes to but has the patience and will power to appreciate the full performance, riding the alternating crescendos and still points all the way to that final, most earth-shattering climax; and who, with any luck, brings the repressed energy of the 40 minutes of Beethoven's Fifth still thrumming in her veins to bed with her?

and yes, I did catch the All-Beethoven performance. Twice, as it turns out.

Anonymous said...

[and yes, I did catch the All-Beethoven performance. Twice, as it turns out.]

Coming right after the para above it, this statement gets quite an interesting twist. :D

~N.

Anonymous said...

You ask why your protagonist might want to have sex with a shallow bimbette when he can make love to a real woman who does the whole tantric sex routine you've described in such perfectly Danielle Steele terms? Two words: Multiple Orgasms.

Anyway, what REALLY annoys me in between movements is not the clapping - at least that's a spontaneous expression of emotion that I wholeheartedly (if silently) endorse. Its the coughing. The ragged desperate tubercular coughing that you could tell was being saved up to strategically expel during the first long pause in the music. I feel for the musicians - to be greeted by applause however clueless is heartwarming. But imagine you are there - banging away on the percussion or flirting with the piccolo. You've reached the end, the bloody and triumphant climax of the first movement. You thump and grind away and finally finish. And what sound fills your exhausted ears? Five hundred throats clearing themselves of phlegm.

Can you imagine being brought down to earth from an earthshattering climax by a polite cough? It was good for me too darling, cough cough.

n!

Preeti said...

my my ... what were you doing last weekend??

Falstaff said...

N: yes, but unintentional, I assure you. I really did attend an All-Beethoven performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra twice in the last week. It's not a euphemism for sex, which, let's face it, is less exciting than Beethoven anyway.

n!: Agree with you about the throat clearing being annoying. But I'm inclined to be more forgiving of that because I'd rather people coughed in between movements than in the middle of my favorite adagio. And I mean, applauding is clearly a choice, coughing is not - it's pretty much unavoidable.

Btw, the prize for the most annoying audience participation at a music performance must surely go to the person who left his / her cellphone on at the Rigoletto performance (the one you missed) last night. Gilda and the Duke have just finished singing their hearts out declaring their love for each other, the music pauses for a second before transitioning to a slower melody, and there, ringing clear through the hall and timed perfectly to go with the pause is the ring of a cellphone. It was so outrageous it was almost funny.

preeti: sigh. What did I say about this being fiction?

Anonymous said...

Yes, I did understand that you meant two All-Beethoven performances by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Just thought that you hadn't realized how the final sentence sounded, coming right after that para.

~N.

Anonymous said...

No let me tell you what's even more annoying. You know that lovely oboe solo in the middle of the first movement of Beethoven's Fifth? Now think of beautiful oboe sold, obligatory breath holding and.. faint but unmistakable cellphone sound going off at the same time. I nearly expired from the annoyance. That cellphone person is going to die a very painful voodoo death.

n!

Falstaff said...

N: Ah right, all clear then.

n!: Aargghh!! That really is more annoying. The oboe solo is the thing that makes the first movement.

btw, are you catching the Vanska performance that's on right now? The Brahms is same old, same old, but the Sibelius is totally glorious. It's been so long since I came away from a concert with that authentic glow of revelation.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately not. Its That Time of Month (Year) in our department again. So will be Walkin' in Memphis.

But Come November, I shall be done with silly cliched songs and all ready for Curtis and Phila Orchestra.

n!