A few years ago I was invited to a concert. As usual in the rather small, culturally-challenged vicinity of my hometown, I was invited by one of my students, who was working at that time at the venue of the performance. Neither was I surprised to find that more than half of the performers – and it was quite a large ensemble – are either students of mine or former ones. If I remember correctly, I have already read an article in the news about that show: the producer, who was also the main performer and presenter was an MIT doctoral student and an almost forgotten student of mine. He was developing digital, software-controlled devices that perform and manipulate music, and the concert integrated these machines with live performers. There were two electronic beetles that were activated by two assistants, manipulating sound that they’ve just recorded, a robot-drummer and, as a centerpiece, a collaboration with the audience.
I have sat at the second row, so I could see clearly all my acquaintances on stage. I’ll skip the details and get to the point: the concert was a boring exhibition of digital toys and a complete waste of human musicians and other resources, so important to this town’s insufficient cultural life. After no more than five minutes I wished I’ve been elsewhere, but alas, my choice of seat was that of a foolish novice: leaving such a central position would have been a downright insult.

Then, frustrated and bound to the seat, I started contemplating the good old booing habit. I tried to recollect if I ever witnessed such audience response, and the only occurrence I could think of was a symphonic orchestra concert in 1985. They’ve been terrible, and the climax was a crucial point in Dvorak’s New World Symphony. The french horn uttered such a miserable squeaky solo, that the bravo shout that ensued was clearly a sarcastic mock. But that was it. Even then, I doubt if any ticket purchaser would have stood on his feet and bluntly boo at the performers.

This case was different: even if booing was a norm, I wouldn’t have disgraced my students and acquaintances. But suppose I was an innocent ticket holder, dressed in my best attire for an evening of cultural enrichment or amusement (both were lacking in that show) after considerable time on the road, the parking ordeal, the line to the ticket booth and all. Wasn’t I entitled for a thunderous angry boo? Or even were I just a conscientious music zealot (which I am not), defending art from dissolution, shouldn’t I have protested using this ultimate mean?

Attitude may be different in other places, but in Israel it would seem inappropriate to criticise an artist during performance. Why is it so? Is it because of the frequent acquaintances between the Israeli performer (or his aunt) and the ticket holder? Probably not, as later, sometimes venomous excoriation, is often expressed, both written and verbal. Jeering can be found at the Israeli sports stadiums and at political conventions. I’m afraid that this leniency evinces low expectations, both from the performer and from one’s own discernment. These may be due to either lack of knowledge and appreciation or a post-modern mutant of the provincial tolerance for any artistic endeavor, may it be good or bad.

  1. #1 by Yotam on August 7, 2010 - 7:39 pm

    I can think of a few reasons why people are not jeering at concerts. The first one is because many people don’t have the tools to judge whether what they hear is good or bad. They’ll base their judgment on the reaction they see around them.

    The second reason might be that if you jeer at a concert today, tomorrow you may find yourself on stage and the same person you jeered at would do the same to you.

    Now speaking of criticism, could you have picked a more depressing color scheme for your blog? A winter day in London is less gray than this page. I suggest putting some colors, pictures, and music.

    • #2 by Ittai on August 7, 2010 - 7:48 pm

      Music? Pictures?? You mean, colorful things?

      I’ll try. Never did it before without an expert’s assistance

  2. #3 by Yotam on August 10, 2010 - 7:56 am

    You can start with changing the color scheme of the blog. Green, blue, yellow, anything but death gray.

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