Saturday, October 31, 2009

Action / Reaction

I did something on the spur of the moment last night that I hadn't done in a long time: I attended a performance of classical music (or should that be 'formal' since contemporary music was included.) I soon remembered why I had stopped attending many, many years ago. It's not that I don't enjoy music in any form, it's the audience at these events.
The performance of chamber music by the quartet Made in Canada was exciting; the venue and its acoustics were excellent. The ladies used their energies, their instruments, their skills to offer a marvellous experience that was met by an unmoving, dead wall.
Personally, the music and its performance did what it should: it involved me, made me want to dance and sing, anything to express the emotions it aroused. Even in the subdued surroundings I couldn't help shaking and bobbing my head, tapping my fingers and toes. When a nearly inaudible "bom, bom, badda bom" escaping from my mouth brought forth nasty looks and one hiss from my neighbours, I screwed the lid on tight and surreptitiously watched the audience.
They sat there. And that's it. Not a whisper or rustle, not a movement of any body part that might hint at pleasure. All that beauty of sound and movement on stage, all that energy pouring forth, and no visible response. Fine, the applause at the end of each piece was warm but still formal: no shouts, no punching the air (as I wanted to do.) The dress may be much more informal nowadays but the attitude still sucks. I don't intend to subscribe to any formal music series in this lifetime.
But this blog is about poetry so what has that to do with this. Poetry, when read to an audience, is a performance. It shouldn't hesitate to elicit an immediate reaction. Dub poets know this; rappers and hip-hop artists demand such involvement. Too many of our poetry readings, even of popular or people's poetry, are becoming staid and solemn. We need to put the joy, the despair, the laughter back into it.
Tonight at a Halloween event I intend to do a 'dramatic reading.' I'm going to ask the audience to respond as they see fit: shout, laugh, scream, throw food, whatever they are moved to do. I'll do my best to handle their reaction!


annaken said...

What a surprise to hear you went to a classical music concert. I must say it was a pleasant surprise!

I had thought of going tonight to the Art Bar and ready murder mystery poem but don't know yet.

Randy said...

When I go to classical music events, i like a quiet audience, otherwise i feel distracted from the music. (I'm the same at films - people munching popcorn, opening crinkly rappers, whispering, etc drives me nuts).
What has always bothered me about classical audiences is the prohibition on applause between movements, it's so unnatural, in the way you describe - this suppression of joy and reaction at a point in the song where it is natural to intervene with applause, and yes, shouts and other evidence of human exuberance.