Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Jun 12 2008

A night at the NSO

concert hallMy friend Chumble got some free National Symphonic Orchestra tickets, so I went over to CKS Hall last night to attend the first classical music performance I’ve been to in years. When I asked him what was on the program, Chumble said, “Beethoven, Haydn and Brahms,” which sounded nice. We met up with a couple of Chumble’s friends, a young Canadian man and his Taiwanese girlfriend, who nearly ran and hid when she was introduced to me. Meh, I’m used to it.

We got what we thought were reasonably good seats, but in addition to the chairs on stage was a large whiteboard. It turned out that this was going to be a classical music concert with lectures. Many people in the audience had brought notebooks. The short woman in glasses sitting next to me was all ready with a multicolored pen.

Ever since the debut of Taipei Philharmonic Radio in the mid-90’s, it seems that many people here have become interested in “understanding” classical music. There are programs dedicated to “explaining” all kinds of classical pieces, and game shows where you guess the piece and its composer. You can even buy expensive CD series to listen to in accompaniment to your favorite classical tunes, telling you just what it is you’re listening to. Other CD series are aimed at younger listeners.

The musicians walked out to take their seats and tune, and then conductor Yin-fang Zhang, a young woman, came on stage followed by a man in a white suit. This was professor Chu-wey Liu, and he began to explain the piece. The orchestra would play a bit, and just when I was getting into it, they’d stop, and the professor would talk a bit about phrasing, themes and motifs. I found it incredibly annoying. All of the emotion of the piece was lost. As if that weren’t enough, the woman next to was letting off silent farts every few minutes. Actually, I’m not sure it was her, but the wind was from that direction, and she just seemed guilty. Her pen clicked on and off as she took different-colored notes on the music, and she clapped between movements.

The full orchestra came on stage for the next piece, and I was relieved by the appearance of some very nice eye candy in the second violin section. During the intermission a concert hall employee came over to tell Chumble’s Canadian friend to stop moving his head during the show as it was apparently distracting the people behind him. I turned around to see who could be so easily distracted, but nobody met my gaze.

The final piece, Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn, was picked apart once more, but I love Brahms and managed to enjoy the last part when the orchestra played through it in its entirety despite the waves of noxious odors coming from my left. The conductor didn’t seem to have a very firm hand on the orchestra, which was loose and often out of tune, especially the woodwinds, but the sound was quite nice and made me want to upgrade my stereo. It’s been forever since I played in a classical group; I played in high school with the local youth orchestra and once with the Florida Symphony Orchestra, and in college with the Central Taiwan Orchestra, both excellent groups, but I haven’t done anything like that since. I kind of miss it.

b/w leapThis morning on my way to work I saw some people spreading a net across the underpass on Zhongxiao West Road, underneath the pedestrian overpass. There was an ambulance and some policemen walking around, so I went up to have a look. I couldn’t see anyone in trouble and thought for a minute that a baby had inexplicably gotten caught underneath the overpass somehow, but it turned out that they were shooting scene for a made-for-TV movie. I asked one of the crew if it was difficult to apply for that particular intersection, but he said it had to be there, as the movie was based on true events, and someone had apparently done something of note while perched on the outside of the overpass. So it had to be that one, and they had to get the shot then, because they weren’t going to get a second chance. I took some pictures and left, wishing them luck.

posted by Poagao at 9:33 am  

2 Comments

  1. Ew! Silent farts. How disgraceful it is. CKS hall should have installed some noxious odor detectors and fine those who cause the air pollution.

    Comment by Daniel — June 12, 2008 @ 10:20 am

  2. I remember the event on that overpass, although I forget if I was there or if I saw it on TV. A deranged dude was holding his kid over the overpass and threatening to jump with the kid. I must have seen it on the news.

    Comment by Maoman — June 13, 2008 @ 9:55 am

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