This week Valarie and I are going to our third classical music concert in less than a month. Chamber Music Northwest is in the midst of a Brahms festival that we're keen on. And last month we caught Oregon Symphony performances of Dvorak and, my personal favorite, Shostakovich. I've fallen in love with the natural sound of the instruments you can only get in person. It just seems to envelop you from all sides, and yet it doesn't overpower the ear either.
Unfortunately, even though I've bought a fair amount of classical albums over the past couple years, all of them have been disappointing sonically. The CD and stereo system just can't seem to replicate the real performance. And listing to classical music on record I also seem to spend the whole time turning the volume up and down depending on what's happening in the piece, because some parts I can barely hear and others are too loud. It's frustrating to only get that sublime experience of a classical performance a few times a year.
Ironically, I've always felt the exact opposite with rock music. Although there's something to be said for the theatrics of seeing a band play, I've never liked live rock as well as albums. Give me a pair of headphones anyday, where I can hear the guitar, bass and drums in equal harmony, focusing on the tiny details of a good production. But I also just don't like the logistics of rock performances--even if that makes me sound like an old fogey. Shows never start any earlier than 9:00, you usually have to sit through at least one opening band, and you're actually not sitting at all but standing for hours. It's not to say there haven't been some rock shows that blew me away. I remember seeing Fugazi in about 1993 with my friend Paul and the electricity would have made the folks at Bonneville Dam blush.
Still, it makes me wonder if much will have changed about music performance over the next generation or two. Pianist Glenn Gould famously (and wrongly) predicted that the ubiquity of stereo recordings would soon render classical performance obsolete. I'd never make the same prediction about rock, because it's so ingrained as a sub-culture--and that's great. But next time you're at CBGB or the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, don't expect to see me there.