Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Etiquette: One Definition?

She sat five or six rows behind me. She may have had a little too much to drink or she may have been in a complete state of unawareness. I'm not certain of which or either. She was screaming out the words to the songs she knew, yelling out her responses to the lyrics being sung on if it were a conversation demanding answers, rather than a song sung by one person.

"Tell the truth, no lies..."

You get the gist...

I found myself bordering maximum annoyance with the girl and her verbal fists of affirmation, arising with each new feist-provoking lyric. The words were bursting inside of her chest and they refused to remain indoors. They were ripping open the locks, shattering her windows and blasting full force from her lungs. As far as this girl was concerned, no one was inhabiting this room, save herself and Sara Bareilles. I felt myself peering into the private, poster-lined walls of an angsty teenage hurricane.  

I am a concert etiquette snob, I cannot deny it. Born and raised in a classical/quietly-churched world, I learned to keep my hands in my lap and my mouth shut until the correct time to acknowledge. I learned the ins and outs of watching performers and knowing certain pieces well enough to clap at all of the appropriate times. If you happen to be the performer, there's a whole new set of rules to learn and follow. I learned them and, for the most part, followed. Initially, I resented the stuffiness of sitting still, denying oneself commentary and waiting to applaud. Over time, I grew to love the practice of allowing the stillness of a place envelope the listener into all that was being given, without interruption. I learned to fully embrace every last millisecond of a bow across a string or the faintly disappearing final note of a classical sonata, fading from auditory view under a 16-foot grand piano. What I initially viewed as stuffy, upturned-nose discipline became my fullest idea of the listener/performer intimacy.

Tonight, I am jamming one finger in my left ear and trying desperately to pull all of my focus's weight into the performer on stage and not the screaming behind me. I feel that I am not getting the experience of what the performer is trying to convey, simply because ONE person is yelling out her responses to an artist that has no intentions of responding back in such a manner. My brain begs the question, "Where are the ushers? Can they not just throw this woman into a Lilith Fair event? Or a PETA presentation? She'd be far more comfortable dressed in a meat suit and weeping over Sarah McLachlan, I am certain of it." 

Do you know the 'ole devil-on-one-shoulder-and-an-angel-on-the-other metaphor? That is an accurate description of my brain - twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Immediately following this thought (and in keeping with the trend of my overly-analytic brain), I could not let this situation stand with only one opinion in tow. A new thought began to form in my mind: "Wait...shouldn't music be calling out for this sort of response in us? Is this not also an intimate form of responding to what moves in us as we hear certain words or hear certain melodies?" Maybe we don't have to yell out in the middle of a crowded room (preferable for those seated nearby), but..then again, maybe we DO. Maybe everything within us is just BURSTING at the seams and the faces around us don't matter enough to keep it in any longer. Maybe?

I'm currently debating this in my mind.

I took a lot of mental notes at tonight's performance. The strongest (perhaps, the darkest ink) impression I left with is that THIS is exactly the response I want to be digging for when I create. To write and sing and play, honestly and brutally enough, that it evokes emotion and response in the listener. I am teaching myself to grasp with a different form of listener/performer intimacy. Though, at times, it seems more of a wrestle-to-the-ground than a simple grasp, I am trying to love and appreciate all of the different colors and shapes we take on as we are moved to respond. To sit quietly and shake our heads. Or, on occasion, shout from the rafters.

And for the record? Honey, I've learned you've gotta learn the rules so you'll know how to break 'em.

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