27 August 2011

Another sort of musical experience

Last night, Matthijs and I went to the opening concert of the Oude Muziek Festival (Old Music). We'd received tickets from someone who was a friend of the festival but had other plans for the weekend. He'd been curious about our reactions to the concert: I'd taken that not only as a question of whether we'd enjoy the music, but also a question about the concert itself: it was old music and a dance performance, not the most likely combination....

Having limited experience with music concerts, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect - and my expectations weren't all that high. So when it started out with someone making strange musical crying sounds and then an abstract dance performance mostly in the dark, my reaction was simply puzzlement. And then they began to sing: beautiful, 14th century polyphonic music.

Some in the audience had had higher expectations for the concert: more light and more singing being the obvious expectations. And they'd apparently also not spent several years watching the dancing presentations at the Vondelpark Open Air Theatre, like I'd had - and knew what to make of this sort of abstract dance. We could feel the tension in the air from people both confused and frustrated. When a telephone went off, people laughed and clapped - some of the tension had been released. And then there were calls for the light to go on and some booing and whispering. And people started leaving. And I felt uncomfortable and embarassed by the dutch public at the concert who didn't seem to appreciate the hard work being done by the dancers and singers.

Some kind of introduction or explanation at the beginning would have certainly been helpful - people who expect a musical concert aren't really prepared for what we received. Most of us could have used some help getting past the dark at the beginning and the limited music - and knowing how to react to an artistic form that might not be familiar. And yet, for those who stayed until the end, we didn't necessarily have our confusion disappear - but we did have the privilege of experiencing some beautiful music and some fascinating dance. And the artists were obviously very talented.

The concert was not something Matthijs and I would have obviously chosen - and yet, it was a fascinating evening, and an experience to be thankful for.

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