The concert etiquette at classical music performances can be a stifling experience. Do you clap between movements? What do you wear? Can you use your phone? All these rules are a lot to take in, and they can really push people away. Personally, I prefer to spend my time in public spaces in which no etiquette is expected of me at all, such as when I engage in the occasional mass shooting; for that, I can use my phone the whole time.
Here are my picks for nine or possibly ten things that should change about classical music:
Lose the old traditions!
What’s with the conductor walking on and off the stage? Or the concert master shaking hands with the conductor? I don’t understand! Since these customs look odd to a newcomer there must be no sensible reason why they exist; it’s time for them to go. We need to get rid of everything that a newcomer would not understand and replace those things with things that no-one understands; this will help the newcomers understand why they do not understand what it is we understand about what we used to understand but have changed to help people understand.
Get new traditions!
Many of these old traditions are now just routine, and people do them simply because they are expected to do them. We should invent new traditions that everybody enthusiastically volunteers to do of their own free will every single time. That would look fresh and real.
Don’t make us feel insecure!
Symphony? Movements? Masterpiece? What’s all that? We should only present things that are simple, easy, and accessible for absolutely everyone, like death.
Challenge us with new works!
All too often I see programs that just trot out all the old favourites. BORING! We need to be challenging audiences with dazzling new works that amaze and scintillate us, not works that trudge along like a sad and hungry heffalump.
Give us what we want!
Some modern music is just terrible. There’s nothing worse than having to sit in a hall as some bowler-hatted moustache-twirler trots out his latest harpsichord/marimba duet on the theme of loss. We only want the best music the world has to offer, and we want it all the time, so just give us that!
Nothing says ho-hum like an audiences getting nothing more than everything they asked for, particularly if they want something awful. We need to revitalise the standard repertoire by making it seem exceptional. Why not make audiences remember a piece of music by making it a piece they didn’t expect, especially if that piece is a standard repertoire favourite they expected? Everybody wins!
Don’t wear old fashioned clothes!
Tailcoats? Suits? Dresses? What is all that about? When I go about my daily life I don’t wear those sorts of clothes, so I don’t know why musicians should wear them for specific, professional reasons.
Look the part!
Tickets are so expensive! People see classical music as an upmarket treat, so it’s always a little disappointing when the musicians wear any old thing up there. Dress up a little! You are such good musicians, you must be able to afford it.
Make ticket prices cheaper!
Fix the economy. I don’t like it.
Stop audiences from cheering!
When audiences voluntarily give a standing ovation, that cheapens the act. We should only let that happen occasionally. We must bring decorum and class to this extraordinary music!
Let us clap!
Oh boy, this one is probably the most important of all. Some people go to concerts to enjoy music or to have a good time, but such people are a dwindling minority of toffs who don’t matter- most people go to concerts with only one thing on their minds: CLAPPING. As soon as they wake up, that is all they can think about. Before they even get out of bed, the questions begin: how can I best flail my hands together repeatedly? Where can I go that will allow me to do some good old fashioned happy-flappy palm-pounding? Why does nobody want to dance the smashy hand-flesh samba whenever I want to do it? How rude!
You must let these people be free to express their own unique identity with a prescribed action done at the same time as the group they are in. Nothing else matters.
And that’s it! It’s about time we adopted the nine or possibly ten solutions on my list, so that we can make classical music more appealing to the sort of people who would like the sort of things I imagine that sort of person would like.