First things first: fifteen years ago today I married the best of all possible wives, and, remarkably, she's stayed with me, which makes this a rather important anniversary. My gift to her was to cease blogging for the past 10 days or so. (OK, not really, as evidenced by the fact that I'm blogging on our anniversary - I've just been in post-semester blogging malaise, busying myself with such inspirational tasks as trying to restore some semblance of order to a badly neglected yard, etc.)
Two important musical points to make about this MMmarriage.
1) We met playing music - Dvorak's Dumky Trio at a summer festival. I guess there was a violinist involved as well (actually, he was quite memorable, but that's for another day), but to me the Dumky will always be the most romantic of duets. Music is undoubtedly the catalyst that brought us together and helped us discover how many other things we had/have in common. And here's a quick funny story. Our oldest daughter has heard many times how that violinist was a bit of a party animal who showed up late for just about every rehearsal, thereby forcing his shy pianist and cellist to kill the time waiting by chatting with each other. So, tonight I'm playing our 1989 Bowdoin Summer Music Festival recording of the Dumky Trio for dinner music. As it starts and I mention that it's Mommy and Daddy playing a trio, our three-year old asks who the violinist is. When I mention that the violinist hasn't started yet (because the trio begins with an extended bit for just cello and piano), the eight-year old deadpans, "what, was he late then too?" I don't even think she meant it as a joke, but it made me laugh. Then, after dinner, she further endeared herself to us by asking to play a Mozart trio we've been rehearsing, so the trio thing is coming full circle. Yes, marriage is good.
2) We've decided that our primary gift to each other will be buying a seven-concert subscription to the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Now, this may not seem like the most romantic of gifts, but life with three young children means that seven guaranteed dates for the coming year is something to be treasured. Not that we don't love our time with the little ones, but we're not so good at planning evenings out -and if they're not planned, they tend not to happen. So, this is a very exciting prospect, and it gives us a chance to share more musical experiences.
It's also interesting to think about some of the implications of this choice in light of two principal preoccupations of the musical blogosphere: 1) the ever-aging and decaying audience for classical music, and 2) the problematic position of "new music" in the "classical music" world. As for point #1, I guess we are now part of that ever-aging and decaying audience as this is (shamefully, or not) our first serious financial commitment to concert attendance and - much as it pains me to say it - we're no longer part of the coveted under-40 demographic. How about that? We're rookies and we're already over the hill.
Of course, it's possible that we're also an example of why concertgoers are trending older, given that people tend to take longer to get their careers and families going and given that a night out at the symphony, figuring in babysitting, parking, etc. is not a trivial investment. In other words, maybe there is a future audience out there among the twenty- and thirty-somethings, but they just aren't ready for the commitment. I'm sure Greg Sandow has some magical numbers somewhere to debunk that theory, so I'm not gonna push it. Let's just say it'll be nice to feel young at these concerts.
As for the "new music" issue, let's face it, the decision to invest so much time and money into the BSO already says something about our lack of commitment to the "progressive cause." After all, we could have chosen BMOP instead. I haven't exactly hidden the fact here that I'm most tuned into and turned on by the "older stuff" (check out my desert island list), basically the Bach-Stravinsky repertoire that still best defines the classical music world, and I've come to the happy position of being neither proud nor embarrassed by that fact. The "new music" problem is fascinating and infinitely complex and I spend a lot of time trying to sort out why the classical music world is what it is. Still, as interesting as it is to speculate about what the music world should be and what people should want from concerts and the like, it's also worth considering what a middle-of-the-road connoisseur such as I does get and want from music.
The process of choosing to subscribe to the BSO and picking concerts is as good a way as any of seeing where my musical heart is, though the results are hardly surprising. The works I'm most excited about hearing include Beethoven's 7th (my favorite of The Nine), Mahler 6, Shostakovich 9, the Rite of Spring, Mozart's 40 & 41, and, yes, Carmina burana. I'm admittedly less enthused about the Carter horn concerto (although content that it will be framed by Beethoven and Stravinsky), and that's really the only remotely contemporary piece on the series we've chosen.
Here's where Greg Sandow would jump in and accuse me of just wanting to "bask" in music that I love, but as I mentioned in a comment on his blog, I may know all these standard rep works very well, but I haven't had that many chances to hear a world-class orchestra play them. Sandow seems to believe that listeners ought to be seeking out more demanding (unpredictable) experiences that challenge us to think about bigger things and be startled and prodded and whatever. That's fine for those who want it, but when it comes to investing this kind of money and time, I don't mind admitting that I want to go hear music that I'm pretty sure I'll find satisfying. By the way, although Sandow often cites the progressive indie-rock types as being more about "real" and "meaningful" experiences, I think he underestimates how much fans of those worlds are also seeking to bask in the familiar, as well as just enjoying the sense of being locked in culturally. Not that there's anything wrong with wanting to be "locked in culturally;" I just happen to enjoy being locked into a different kind of culture that, admittedly, may not be so closely tied to the moment.
But hey, it's my anniversay, I've got 364 other days to ignore my bride while blogging, so maybe I should return my attention to her. Oh, and Celtics-Lakers starts in about an hour. Fortunately she likes watching sports. (Did I mention she's the best of all possible wives?) Ho hum, another local team playing for the championship. I just hope the BSO goes all the way this year.