I just came across a fabulous piece of writing today via twitter. (Yes, folks...twitter does it again!) The pianist, Greg Anderson, along with his piano duo partner Elizabeth Joy Roe put together what they call their "Music Listening Manifesto" and they've posted it on Greg's website. They were apparently inspired by a book titled Life Style, written by the graphic designer Bruce Mau. Anyway, this list should be read by everyone, printed out, and re-read...it truly is fantastic. Why do I say that? Well, because it puts aside several misconceptions that are out there and that I believe may hurt classical music's reputation. For instance, sometimes I get the feeling that some people think that they need to understand the music they are listening to in order to enjoy it. This can be problematic for many reasons - there's not enough time to get to know pieces before going to a concert; where does one learn about them beforehand; many people go to concerts for entertainment purposes, not to be educated. In reading Anderson and Roe's list, I get the feeling that such an expectation, that the audience should be adequately prepared in order to enjoy the performance, does not fit into their world - how simple, how lovely. Now don't get me wrong - I am not saying that I don't appreciate program notes or having the performers talk to the audience about the pieces on the program. Those who know me or who have seen me perform know that I am passionate about talking about the music that I perform...I just think it's important not to get too hung up on that stuff...to give the impression that classical music is so above the other types of music that it needs to be explained to the general populace in order to be understood.
Another expectation I see being challenged a bit in this list, but in a very sensitive, altruistic way, is the expectation that I often see of the audience going to a performance wanting to be entertained but not wanting necessarily to bring anything to the table in return. I think this is something is true in our culture as a whole. When people pay money, they want the most for their money and they don't necessarily believe that they should have to do anything themselves. Unfortunately I've seen this a lot in college students. Their parents have paid a lot of money for them to go to college so they think that the tuition that has been paid has bought them "A's"...they get anything other than that and they complain, even if they know they haven't half of the required work. It's the consumer society in us. This list remedies this type of situation within the confines of the recital hall or even just the living room or wherever one chooses to listen to music. It gives the listener some challenges of ways to listen, ways to engage, ways to be involved with the listening process.
And last but not least, my favorite thing about this list, is that it simply allows the listener to be bored. Imagine that! That's another thing about today's society that seems a little taboo to me. As a parent of a preschooler, I can tell you that I feel guilty sometimes if my daughter seems bored because the society around me pressures me into feeling like she needs to constantly be stimulated and entertained - buzzing around. But this list breathes some reality back into music, into life...boredom is OK in both places and I believe that is an expectation that needs to be reintroduced into our society! And maybe we could be a little more honest about whether or not a piece is boring at a classical music concert with our non-classical music friends. Maybe then they'd be a little less intimidated about going to a concert with us. Who knows?
So there are my Sunday afternoon ramblings...let's start expecting some new expectations from our listening experiences and see what happens...
Thanks, Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe for an inspiring list!