Bass Blog

Michael Hovnanian formerly played bass with an orchestra located in a large midwestern city.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Old Brown-Shirt

Thanks to all who sent comments and emails in response to my questions about pre-concert activities. A quick trip to the lobby to snag a program revealed the startling information that there really are fellows named 'Max' and 'Brant' in the orchestra. The things I learn writing this blog...

The almost unanimous support for the onstage warmup and the recorded announcements came as a minor surprise. Usually at least one person hates almost anything and loves to tell everyone else about it. I'm not sure what to make of all the positivity.

Not everyone all over the world approves of our pre-concert routine, to be sure. Once while in Salzburg I caught sight of a sour-face old gentleman scowling at the orchestra during our onstage warmup. I'm not sure what made me notice him – perhaps the laser-beam of his disapproving glare drew my attention (I'm a pushover for negativity). When the orchestra finally quieted down, I happened to be looking in his direction as he loudly (and if I may say so, with extreme sarcasm) slowly clapped four times. Clap!...Clap!...Clap!...CLAP! His disapproval rang out in the now quiet Festspielhaus. I remember thinking that old fart probably hadn't brought hands together so vigorously since the Anschluss.

On the subject of repressive regimes, my favorite audience control technique observed to date has to be the ushers in Beijing outfitted with laser pointers, which they used to blind anyone they caught taking a photograph.


Unknown said...

Since still on the pre-concert subject, as an audience member I too appreciate hearing the orchestra warm up onstage. One of my fondest memories is seeing Frank Miller playing away no matter what time it was (even long before letting the audience in, the main floor doors would sometimes open only to show Frank playing away alone on stage). Something I feel may be lacking with some of the younger members in the orchestra.

Is there really a request to move towards the European model?

Adriel said...

Wonder what the onstage warmup sounds like for Varese's "Tuning Up?"

Unknown said...

This is as good a place as any, I suppose, to point out that there's nothing quite like the sound of an orchestra warming up to play Schoenberg. Webern, Berg, Boulez, Mahler, Stravinsky, Shostakovich - all composers who wrote noisy and dissonant music, but there's still some special element in Schoenberg's music that's instantly identifiable in the pre-concert din. I have no idea why that is.