This is a provocative article in the Huffington Post by Richard Dare, Managing Director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic. I could not say that he’d come down on the side of Elmer Fudd in the Elmer vs. Francesca Zambello match-up, but he does not shy away from calling classical music an elite institution that lives in a rigid code of conduct that is in danger of suffocating itself. Or, more to the point, some of the correct manners of the concert hall really suck; particularly the part where you’re not supposed to move or speak except at designated times. Really: That’s supposed to be enjoyable? Read the article and you be the judge.
In defense of manners, however, I do come down on the side of prudishness when the music-goer next to you not only scans his iPhone for email during the concert but also pulls out a sandwich to snack on during intermission. True story.
Mr. Dare is trumpeting what is already a growing movement to take symphonic music and instruments out of the concert hall and into non-classical environments and genres. A gaggle of San Francisco Conservatory students formed the Magic*Magik Orchestra a few years ago. And innovative flutists are eagerly establishing flexible ensembles to perform music for classical instruments. These musicians are willing and eager to play outside the concert hall. Personally, I hope they’re not using their good flutes for outdoor gigs. On BART I once sat across from a flutist who had stuffed his instrument, fully assembled, head-first into a backpack with its footjoint protruding from the top. While I generally do not anthropomorphize flutes, at the time I found myself thinking, “It’s suffocating!” It took a lot of will-power not to do an intervention.