After last night’s public transport schoolboy error, pleased to have succeeded in getting on the right train home. Also secured a seat by an air vent. Terribly hot. Quite sweaty after my ride back from White City.
Ended up listening again to last night’s Prom. Had tried listening to it at work first as a way of escaping the many distractions there are in the office and then to see whether I could pinpoint what it was that made the slow movement so magical. It was only listening to the symphony for the third time in 24 hours on my way home I appreciated how more attentive to the performance I seemed to be in comparison to my earlier attempt. Realised to what extent I’d glossed over Beethoven’s 4 last week (I’d tried three times to get engaged with it but concluded there was something just unsuccessful about the work), the third Chamber Music Prom with Michael Collins and a handful of other works too. Have I been failing some performances by not listening intently?
There are endless examples of desperate bids to a sceptical audience of how best to listen, as though new audience members need hand-holding so they’re not too scared or God-forbid they might be put-off by their concert-going experience. The kind of hand-wringing apologetic stance which succeeds in putting people off even more, I’m sure of it. I can’t imagine any composer would describe writing music as an easy process, so why shouldn’t a performance challenge you? Classical music follows a format which differs from the constraints of television and radio we’ve all become accustomed to. Any attempt to reassure new audience members is surely just a reflection of the dominance of those mediums.
My listening has changed markedly this year. Every concert I’ve gone to at the Albert Hall, the programme notes have remained shut (for the most part). I’m more confident I can trust my own senses and follow what’s going on even if I don’t know the work at all. I don’t want the background information to begin with. I don’t fall back on it when I feel my mind distracted. It’s a liberating feeling. I end up feeling as though I’m lost in the music, as though I’m being presented with a puzzle. Suspect this might have something to do with the training course I’ve been on for the past few months – a happy by-product of which is improved active listening and self-awareness. Makes for an entirely absorbing concert-going experience. Unless of course its Beethoven 4.
Made it back home to take control of the Marantz and the TV in the living room in time for the beginning of Prom 29. Lovely Petroc presenting. He’s fast becoming my favourite. Slumped in front of the TV and started listening to the BBC Symphony do the Egmont Overture via Radio 3 on Sky. An altogether more visceral Beethoven than that the BBC Scottish had the week before. After that, Brett Dean’s Electric Prelude. Undoubtedly good in the hall (D texted me to say how good it sounded), the electric violin concerto was an embalming, imagination-provoking soundscape with hints of the Radiophonic Workshop and high-end movie soundtracks. If there was to be music to inspire writing dragged from the very depths of my limited imagination, this would be it.
Simon even joined me part way through and said he enjoyed it too. A real triumph for Brett Dean whose previous work Vexations and Devotions I heard premiered at the Proms in 2007 was also listened via Sky and accompanied by a hard-boiled egg salad.