An Evening with the Cleveland Orchestra

On Thurs­day evening I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to see the world-renowned Cleve­land Orches­tra per­form two works by Béla Bartók and a cou­ple of bonus works by Japan­ese com­posers. The tick­ets were free on the con­di­tion that I write about my expe­ri­ence. It was Blogger’s Night. I had a great time the last time I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to do some­thing like this, with Opera Cleve­land & their pro­duc­tion of Fal­staff, so I was anx­ious to get my first glimpse of Sev­er­ance Hall & the Cleve­land Orches­tra in my 7 years liv­ing in Cleve­land.

Concert Preview

I didn’t do a lot of home­work on any of this before going, but I did see that there was a con­cert pre­view about 20 min­utes before the con­cert pre­view start­ed. My friend & I, brav­ing the ridicu­lous weath­er, arrived just after the begin­ning, but I learned enough from the lec­tur­er that I felt that I had some­thing to hold on to and look for while lis­ten­ing to the music. I’m not a clas­si­cal music afi­ciona­do by any stretch, so I’m hop­ing to use that igno­rance as a strength in writ­ing this. I felt that the con­cert pre­view was imper­a­tive for some­one, like myself, who is unfa­mil­iar with the music but wants to learn more about it. The pre­view was held in the Rein­berg­er Cham­ber Hall at Sev­er­ance Hall, a beau­ti­ful room filled with amaz­ing wood­work.

The Performance

The actu­al per­for­mance began short­ly after the pre­view end­ed. Our tick­ets were high up in the bal­cony, but when you’re lis­ten­ing to an orches­tral per­for­mance, I don’t think where you sit is that impor­tant. What is impor­tant is that you’re actu­al­ly in the venue when the per­for­mance starts. I had ducked out for a moment to get a quick drink and in the inter­im missed the begin­ning. Then I found out that you’re not allowed back in once the music has start­ed. Thank­ful­ly a help­ful ush­er led me to a very high door and snuck me in so I could see a great major­i­ty of Toshio Hosokawa’s Woven Dreams. Watch­ing the orches­tra was like look­ing at a slide under a micro­scope, lots of organ­ic move­ment in con­cert.

The next piece, Bartók’s Piano Con­cer­to No. 2, was (nat­u­ral­ly) less dynam­ic to watch, instead the great acoustics of Sev­er­ance Hall made it seem as if the music was welling out of the very air. This piece was my least favorite of the evening, although I don’t have any real rea­sons why that’s the case.

I real­ly enjoyed the sec­ond half of the pro­gram. Toru Takemitsu’s Gar­den Rain was well named, each instru­ment in the heav­i­ly-mut­ed brass ensem­ble were rain­drops in the show­er. The evening fin­ished with Bartók’s Music for Strings, Per­cus­sion, and Celes­ta, which I was look­ing for­ward to for its Hun­gar­i­an folk music influ­ences. I was not dis­ap­point­ed. I know that Cleve­land has a strong Hun­gar­i­an immi­grant pop­u­la­tion (I’d nev­er heard of paprikash before I moved here), and it was kind of neat to know that the per­for­mance I heard was almost 75 years to the day that it was first per­formed.

A Suggestion

I think there were a cou­ple hun­dred emp­ty seats in Sev­er­ance Hall for this per­for­mance, and that’s a shame, because every con­cert that the orches­tra puts on deserves to be deliv­ered to a packed house. I also noticed that the age of the crowd tend­ed toward the far side of mid­dle aged. I think it would be great if Sev­er­ance Hall altered their tick­et prices a bit to attract a younger crowd. The cheap­est reg­u­lar admis­sion tick­ets are $31, which is cov­er to a rock show and a night of beers for a lot of my friends. Extend­ing the stu­dent dis­count to any­one under 30 would be a great way to get a younger crowd (many of which I know would like to expe­ri­ence orches­tral per­for­mances and learn more about art music (a term which I find very trou­ble­some)) to fill the emp­ty seats and build a younger base of con­cert-goers for the future. I cer­tain­ly know I would have gone to see the orches­tra a few times in my 20s if I knew I could have picked up a tick­et for $10 when­ev­er a per­for­mance was upcom­ing.


I had a great time, enjoyed lis­ten­ing to and learn­ing about the music, ogling the beau­ty of Sev­er­ance Hall and see­ing a side of Cleve­land that was well-renowned but unknown to me.

A Good Day

I was chas­tised today for not writ­ing on this thing fre­quent­ly enough, so here’s what today was like.

Bram woke up and crawled into bed with me around 7:15 AM and then I got a call from my mom with a com­put­er issue around 7:30. Washed, break­fast­ed and bored by 10, we head­ed to the Cleve­land Metroparks Zoo and heard the fol­low­ing jokes while on the heat­ed tram between North­ern Trek & the Cathouse:

  • Q: Where does a kan­ga­roo go for break­fast?
    A: IHOP.
  • Q: Where does a kan­ga­roo go for din­ner?
    A: Out­back.
  • Q: Why don’t seag­ulls fly over the bay?
    A: Then they’d be bagels.
  • Q: When an ele­phant goes on a trip where does he pack his clothes?
    A: In his trunk.
  • Q: How do you stop an ele­phant from charg­ing?
    A: Take away his cred­it cards.

Inci­den­tal­ly, the zoo is half price admis­sion when the tem­per­a­ture is below freez­ing, so we both got in for $6 total. We saw a goril­la eat­ing its own feces in the same man­ner that a oenophile enjoys a nice glass. I told Abra­ham not to get any ideas. I also ran into my friend Alice, which is always a nice sur­prise.

Had lunch and sat with Bram until he fell asleep for a long nap, dur­ing which time I goofed around on the inter­net. After nap­time we went sled­ding at Clark Fields, which is per­fect for tod­dlers but exhaust­ing for dads car­ry­ing tod­dlers & sleds back up snowy hills. Since I car­ried him through­out the zoo as well, I got a pret­ty good work­out today. After din­ner we watched the Sylvester Stal­lone episode of the Mup­pet Show & put togeth­er a big Thomas the Tank Engine puz­zle (he’s get­ting real­ly good with puz­zles).

UPDATE: I also pro­grammed two macros into my remote (some­thing I should have done ages ago) and lis­tened to my vinyl of Baroness’ Blue Record which made me ful­ly appre­ci­ate the mon­ey I shelled out for nice speak­ers.

Once he conks out I’m either going to have some hot choco­late with Bailey’s or a bour­bon & Dr. Pep­per.

Varieties of Empathy

There has been a lot swirling around my head late­ly; some gen­er­al themes include: fore­sight & hind­sight, the evo­lu­tion of the human capac­i­ty for change, aging, empa­thy, the very dif­fer­ent impli­ca­tions & respon­si­bil­i­ties inher­ent in dat­ing as a father, and why my dog farts uncon­trol­lably when my son plays with his toy heli­copter (pro­nounced, and this is very impor­tant: “hel­lapoc­k­er”).

So I’ve been think­ing too much to write, much less coher­ent­ly. So I’m going to try and catch up a bit, right now.

Foresight & Hindsight

When I was real­ly lit­tle, I had a book about Thomas Jef­fer­son and the val­ue of fore­sight. Although I’m not sure I ful­ly grasped the con­cept at the time, it stuck with me. It’s some­thing I con­sid­er to be a rel­a­tive strength of mine. I can look ahead long-term and see what the path I want to fol­low entails and act accord­ing­ly. I fig­ure that the bet­ter and more prac­ticed your fore­sight, the less it will dif­fer from the 20/20 of hind­sight. I also fig­ure that not very many peo­ple under­stand the val­ue of fore­sight or are capa­ble of it. Or, I’m an arro­gant dick.

Capacity Changes & Aging

In terms of inter­est, life seems to be a pro­gres­sion from the gen­er­al to the spe­cif­ic. A child is inter­est­ed in every­thing (except a var­ied diet), an ado­les­cent is inter­est­ed most­ly in the things they like, and in try­ing things they haven’t yet been able to do. An adult tends toward the enjoy­ment of things they have estab­lished as life-long pas­sions, and los­es inter­est in try­ing new things. I’m speak­ing in grand gen­er­al­i­ties, here. Wrap­ping it all togeth­er with the fol­low­ing…


I think empa­thy can encom­pass more than just shar­ing in another’s feel­ings; includ­ing aspects of fore­sight & reflec­tion upon the capac­i­ty changes that aging brings about. As aggra­vat­ing as it is to be an ado­les­cent who feels patron­ized by “you’ll under­stand when you’re old­er”, what is seen as con­de­scen­sion is actu­al­ly nos­tal­gia for (and there­fore empa­thy with) the feel­ings & capac­i­ties of ado­les­cence & child­hood. Fore­sight is a kind of prepa­ra­tional empa­thy or an empa­thy with a future self; I look ahead and in the act of judg­ing pos­si­ble out­comes, place myself in a cer­tain posi­tions and reverse engi­neer the best path to reach the place I want to end up.

Glad I’ve cleared that up for myself.