Sunday, October 06, 2013

Culture vulture

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," post 1999! Wow ... I wonder if the site will crash when I hit 2k!

Quick business updates: Mr. J will be having surgery. It will last an hour, he won't need hospitalization unless there are complications, and the doctor said he'll be all better in three days. I'd find this hard to believe if I didn't look across the street and see my neighbor, who just got a new freakin carotid artery four days ago, and he's mowing his lawn.

Other new business: My school ITs blocked blogspot, so I can't post from school. Such a forward-thinking place! Other schools are encouraging students to create blogs, but my school thinks such freedom to express oneself in a public forum is a commie plot to undermine the safety of the nation.


Sometimes I find myself in a place, and I look around, and I think, "My gods, how did I get here?" This happened Friday night when I attended the symphony with my colleague.

This colleague has season tickets to the Philadelphia Orchestra, and every now and then her husband can't attend for some reason or another. I can't stick opera at any cost, but I like a good orchestral program now and again. And when your orchestra of choice is Philadelphia's, you know it's going to be top notch. Can't say I know much about classical music, but I did play a little piano and violin as a stripling, so I'm not in completely foreign territory when I go see a symphony.

So the colleague and I met at a Japanese eatery in Snobville, tied on the feedbag and noshed some sushi, then we got on the mass transit and rode into Philly. We exited the train at 7:56, sprinted like madwomen three blocks to the Kimmel Center, took the four flights of stairs two at a time, and the bemused usher kindly opened the door and let us into our tier, even though the first notes had sounded.

I've often wondered why people would pay good money to go and sit and watch other people play music that can otherwise be bought on CD and listened to over and over again. Well, this much I think I get now. From our nosebleed seats, my c. and I could see the conductor's score, we got all the body language in the half of the assembly that we could see performing, and it's just ... wow. You marvel at those human beings who can do something as complicated as creating symphonic music. It doesn't look easy, but it looks like a worthy endeavor to bring something beautiful into the world.

I've always been really snobby about Mother Nature's symphony. I can identify many bird calls and insect sounds, chipmunk squeaks, squirrel barks, frog peeps, wind-in-the-trees, and water trickling ... all that music that comes from the world. But I still have to doff my headband to a bunch of top-notch people, with top-notch instruments, and a top-notch conductor, who can create such incredible sounds by moving their hands and feet and fingers.

Back to the "how did I get here?"

My mother was big on Broadway musicals and ballets, so I got dragged to the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC a good bit as a tot. It had just opened and was the pinnacle of poshness in those days. But a trip to the Kennedy Center included a two-hour drive each way, traffic jams, parking garages, and an obligatory dinner at a Howard Johnson's or something on the way home. In short, getting there and back was an ordeal. And my dad invariably complained about the whole process, including its costs.

Where I live now, I can sit down to a relaxing plate of sushi at 6:30 and slide into my seat in the truly, absolutely, and inexpressibly posh Kimmel Center 92 minutes later. The rapidity with which I can land in this palace of culture from where I live always takes me aback a bit. It's like I associate fancy music halls with long car rides, and when it doesn't turn out that way I am baffled. Do you have any lasting imprint like that from your childhood?

I'll conclude this sermon by saying that it's a shame the orchestra seems so geared toward old, rich, white people. Accent on the rich. I'm going to look into the price of tickets, because I had such a good ol' time. But I know that purchasing one of those red velvet seats in that Kimmel Center isn't going to come cheap. Maybe I'll steal Spare's college ID. She lives right across the street from the Kimmel Center. She wouldn't miss it for a few hours.

Philadelphia Orchestra
Yannick Nezet-Seguin Music Director

Britten Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell, Op. 34

Strauss Oboe Concerto in D major
   I. Allegro moderato --
  II. Andante --
 III. Vivace -- Allegro


Mahler Symphony No. 4 in G major
   I. Bedaechtig. Nicht eilen
  II. In gemaechlicher Bewegung
 III. Rhevoll. Poco adagio
 IV. Sehr behaglich

I felt sorry for the oboe soloist. It was really, really humid in there. At one pause he completely dismantled the instrument, ran a brush through it, reassembled it, and hit his mark flawlessly. Not a great night for an oboe concerto.

Yours from the ranks of the cultural elite,

Anne Johnson


Debra She Who Seeks said...

I'm afraid my childhood included no such cultural enrichment. If classical music came on the TV, my mother would yell "Turn off that goddamn long-hair music!" And if opera came on, she'd yell "Turn off that goddamn screaming bitch!" And yet today I love both classical music and opera. As you so accurately noted, strange how things turn out.

Best wishes to Mr J re his upcoming surgery!

Horace Boothroyd III said...

Philly is an excellent town, I loved the ambiance of Rittenhouse Square.

Please take advantage of the cultural opportunities on behalf of us who live in the desolate wastelands; in my neighborhood, Olive Garden is considered haute cuisine.

Anne Johnson said...

Yes, Horace, I grew up way out in the country, and I must say that there are all kinds of opportunities in Philly that I didn't have growing up. In January I'll get to be a mummer!