An Evening with the Cleveland Orchestra

Friday, 21 January 2011

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

Monday, 17 January 2011

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

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

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 2020 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.