More on short concerts

May 7, 2008


Tonight I went to a concert, and after the second piece on the 2nd half, I was FULL. I had a hard time listening to more. The music went in my brain, but I didn’t aggressively take it in as I did when I was fresh. It wasn’t that the music was bad, it was just that I couldn’t take any more.

As I said a while back, short concerts are effective in many ways. In a way, every piece is like a drug, ok, call it a unique biochemical experience, or set of experiences that vary, depending on your “mood,” the time of day, how busy you are, how sad you are, how happy you are, how anxious you are, how sleepy you are. Presenting too much music, at least for me, is like mixing alcohol. Bad programming is like milk and grapefruit, olives and ice cream — yes, they are both foods, but they don’t really belong together, or even next to each other in meal. I cherish the rasa (aesthetic flavor) of hearing a single piece. And if there are multiple pieces, I appreciate thoughtful, effective, and complementary programming. I dare add another component — appreciation capacity — how much can an audience really take in until it is “full?”

If concerts would be one hour and 15 minutes max, our social life could be more active. Meaning, we could go out for drinks after the concert, or eat dinner, see a movie, or go somewhere because the night is still young. AND you are high on the music you’ve just heard.

Three cheers for short concerts!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Chihara May 7, 2008 at 6:23 am

I agree. And getting to events in LA can be an adventure in itself, what with the great distances and traffic. The events are often wonderful (as last night’s was) — but the stress of attending them (and getting back safely in the same evening) takes some of the fun our of everything. Can we find a smaller LA somewhere?

(I miss Manhattan!)

JannieSue May 11, 2008 at 1:11 am

Short concerts, yes! Shorter plays too.

Am I the only one or is it sometimes hard to listen to one’s own music? As you said, depending on mood, etc?

Don’t usually do WordPress, stumbled on your nuggety blog.

I’m at


Brad Wood May 14, 2008 at 1:19 pm

The downside of short concerts is that some will grouse that they are being shortchanged (I’ve overheard this at Pacific Serenades concerts sometimes, even as long as they often are). But the cost of the hall, musicians, instrument rentals, program printing and mailings, and the other amounts of effort required, usually won’t go down much at all when concerts are made shorter. So ticket prices can’t be proportionally reduced, and before you know it attendance will fall off, or worse, prompting Al Gore to attribute it to global warming.

At least in the Pac. Ser. case, the new work is at the end of the first half. At that, I’ve almost always stayed for the second segment and been delighted, even as I look about me and see other stalwart listeners’ attentions flagging.

But a Schoenberg Hall concert a while back, with some considerable amount of new music, did fill my brain after the first half. That coupled with some deadline pressure did provoke my departure, and I thereby missed what I would have loved to hear, a doubtless-outstanding performance of Verklärte Nacht.

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