Guest post by A Music Lover

Music is one of humankind’s greatest creations but there still plenty of ways to be a real bore about it.

The obscure music bore

You enjoy craft gin and absinthe (though not necessarily together) to the sounds of Penderecki. You eat in restaurants which serve foraged food.

The period instruments bore

You can’t get enough of Vivaldi played on “authentic” gut strings, love Baroque tuning, and have a thing for the Theorbo. You believe Bach’s keyboard music should only ever be played on the harpsichord or organ.

The radio station bore

You’ve been listening to BBC Radio 3 since you were in utero (your mother believed in the ‘Mozart Effect’). You lament the decline in quality of this station and long for a return to the days of Patricia Hewitt’s hushed reverential tones. You refuse to associate with anyone who listens to Classic FM, André Rieu and Ludovico Einaudi.

The applause bore

You despise applause between movements, deeming it boorish and ignorant and the behaviour of someone who listens to the “wrong” radio station (see above). You are quick to angrily “shush” anyone who dares make a sound or move during the performance and you have been known to order the person seated behind you to remove their watch because the tick of it was a distraction during the slow movement. You are not averse, however, to loud “bravo-ing” immediately the final note has sounded, provided you are the one shouting “Bravo!” the loudest.

The green room bore

You love meeting artists after the performance and always rush to the green room to be at the head of the queue, ready to monopolise the tired musician’s time while others behind you wait patiently in line. You have been known to inform an internationally-renowned concert pianist that his ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ was the fastest you’ve ever heard it played, by 4 minutes and 33 seconds. You like to say things like “Of course you can’t beat Arrau in Beethoven!“.

The vinyl/HiFi bore

You enjoy the technical details of music more than the actual sounds and get pant-wettingly excited about the “authentic” crackle and hiss of an old 78.

The sexy musicians bore

You love those publicity shots of female musicians suggestively (to you) hugging a cello or showing a nice bit of leg under a pelmet-length skirt at a concert. You have been known to describe a leading female concert pianist as “Melons” and enjoy nicknames such as “Trumpet Crumpet” or “flute cutie”.

The “modern music is terrible” bore

For you all music stopped being good after 1750.

  1. People should never be made to feel bad about about what they are listening to. People who feel bad about their listening habits will stop listening altogether.
  2. Snobbery leads to pretension and pretension leads to exclusivity, clubs and cliques. Not helpful at a time when we should be encouraging people to come to classical concerts.
  3. Get over the whole “genre thing”: it’s ok to say you don’t like Stockhausen, Cage, Birtwistle, Ligetti, Glass et al
  4. Just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean it’s all bad (though I would draw the line at anything by Einaudi or Karl Jenkins…..)
  5. Don’t blind the layman with obscure/incomprehensible classical music terminology. You want him to come to the next performance, right?
  6. You’re not the only person in the world who frequents the Wigmore Hall/Concertgebouw/Musikverein/Carnegie Hall
  7. Not everyone likes Wagner. Or Mahler. But the sky’s not going to fall in because of this. Get over it.
  8. Don’t moan about Radio Three being “better in the old days”.
  9. You don’t have to be serious about something to be serious about something.
  10. Don’t ever call a conductor ‘Maestro’

[this post was inspired by a longer article 30 things to tell a book snob]

In a recent article in The New Statesman, Andrew Mellor whinged about racism, elitism, snobbery and exclusivity amongst classical music audiences. The basis of his argument seemed to be largely founded on the number of adverts for private schools in the BBC Proms programme. Myself, and quite a few other concert-going colleagues, Twitterati, music journalists and classical music fans have felt compelled to refute Mr Mellor’s anxieties by pointing out all the very good things about going to classical music concerts, operas and ballet.

Jessica Duchen has written an excellent article How to Be A Nice Audience, with her top 10 tips on “best practice” for audiences. Like me, she feels if Mr Mellor would stop feeling quite so paranoid about everyone around him at the Wigmore Hall or the Royal Opera House, he might enjoy himself more.

Sure, classical music concerts have their own ‘audience etiquette’, but so do rock concerts, jazz and folk gigs, poetry readings, stand-up comedy, theatre, fringe festivals et al. And if Mr Mellor wants snobbery and elitism, he should try attending the private view at a Mayfair art gallery (I know, I’ve done it!). Classical music has its own etiquette largely to ensure that most of us, including the musicians who have worked hard for weeks and months to present the music to us, have a good time.

One thing Mr Mellor seems to have overlooked, either intentionally or unintentionally, is that without the audience – snobby, elitist, elderly, racist or just there to have a great night out – there would be no concerts at all.

So let’s stop feeling paranoid about who’s sitting beside/behind/in front of us in the stalls, or who might be eyeballing us in the bar during the interval, and simply sit back and enjoy a few hours of quality music.

Here’s another article on this subject by a fellow blogger who tweets as @OperaCreep.