I took Brian to the Redlands Symphony last weekend. It has been a long while since I’ve been to a concert with a full orchestra; and even longer since I watched an orchestra from that close. We used to get to the Hollywood Bowl at least once a summer, but that’s been spottier now that everyone is so busy. What with the moving into a new house, and starting a new job and all, I didn’t make it last year. My mother is a trombone player, so I used to see an orchestra play often. Like, almost once a month. She played with the Claremont Symphony Orchestra and the Claremont Winds. She also taught trombone, and the music school would often get free LA Phil tickets for less popular programs. In Little Bridges, I would sit on the very edges of the balcony so I could see the strange faces the conductor made at the orchestra. At the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, I wandered the chandeliered hallways in a long black t-shirt dress I dubbed my “opera ensemble,” for extra fanciness. (I have also dated myself – no Disney Hall when I was in High School).
Brian enjoys a symphony as much as I do, but he doesn’t have the eighteen years of piano lessons and extensive exams to back him up on the theory of it all like I do. The program was Mozart’s Piano Concerto #23 in A Major, and Beethoven’s Eroica. At the end of the Mozart, when everyone broke into applause, he turned to me.
“Now, how did everyone know that THERE was the spot it was okay to clap?” he said.
I pointed to the program, where it listed the three movements. “You clap at the end of the last one. It’s all one piece of music, so you don’t clap in between because it isn’t over. It’s like a sorbet break during dinner. The silence cleanses your palate for the next movement. And then when it’s over you can clap.”
“Sorbet?” he said.
“Yes.” I said.
When we were stretching our legs during intermission, the conversation continued. “So what’s the point of having a bunch of different movements, anyway?” Brian asked.
“They’re supposed to go together,” I said. And then I realized that it was going to be a very desert explanation kind of night. “It’s like spumoni ice cream, maybe?”
“Oh my God,” said Brian.
“No, this is a good one!” I said. “Because spumoni is pistachio, strawberry, and chocolate, right? Three flavors that totally aren’t like each other at all. But you mush them together and they’re tasty…”
“ – That’s debatable.”
“… And they also become a single thing – spumoni – instead of flavors on their own. So a concerto, for instance, is three different movements smushed together to make a single, tasty treat.”
“Spumoni is gross,” he said.
“Blasphemy,” I said.
But it’s sort of nice to know that my painstaking study of diminished seventh chords, culminating in a Senior Medallion from the Music Teacher’s Association of California, has provided me with a slew of desert metaphors to entertain others with. Because that’s what it’s all about. You know, that and the amazing sound of an orchestra tuning up, the single note breaking into a bouncing harmony that spreads over the hall and then falls into silent anticipation. There really isn’t a better sound than that.
Sometimes I miss being the authority on all things music, although I know I’d never be as good at it as I was in high school. Also, I should go to the symphony more often. Beethoven is still just about my favorite thing ever.