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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Imodium at Tanglewood

It’s intermission at Tanglewood’s Seiji Ozawa Hall (The smaller hall used mostly for chamber concerts). I’m sauntering across the lawn to the facilities when I spot a diminutive vending machine about the height of a newspaper box. It sports an official-looking red cross beneath eight fully loaded rows of colorful packets of Imodium, Pepto Bismol, Bayer’s, and five other restoratives. The pigmy machine’s sensory overload is almost too much to process. Have I died and gone to seniors pachinko heaven? No, but there’s no doubt about the vending machine and the concert’s shared demographic.

Back at my seat, I do a 360 and observe the usual sea of grey interrupted by occasional thirty- and forty-somethings. The Ozawa Center invariably sports a smattering of even younger concert goers, but I am always suspicious that they are music students associated with Tanglewood.

Elliott Carter and Pierre-Laurent Aimard
Much of the audience had come to hear Bach chamber music, but the evening, organized by the great French pianist and new music advocate Pierre-Laurent Aimard--featured a brilliant, instructive olio that included Bach, Elliott Carter, Intermission and the L’il Medic 8 machine, more Bach, and the gut-wrenching Ligeti Horn Trio. Having persevered through the Carter, the septugenerians beside me failed to return after intermission. (The similarly annuated couple behind me who wondered whether the Hungarian Jew Ligeti was Italian stuck it out.) Carter, whose music has no tonal center but is eternally youthful with conversational and exclamatory vivaciousness, presented his relatively younger audience with inadvertent irony: He is still composing great music at age 101½ .

Such musings of superannuation brought me back to a Peter Serkin concert 20 years ago in Marlboro, Vermont when the pianist jumped into the Italian Concerto. Three measures in, he jumped right back out when his playing fell prey to feedback from the sound system. It took ushers and the audience nearly half a minute to home in on the source of the disturbance: an oblivious, elderly man in the third row whose hearing aid was feeding back into a nearby microphone.

But let us give youth its due. Several years ago just after the precocious chanteuse Sonya Kitchell began a set at the Iron Horse Coffee House in Northampton, Massachusetts, time, space, and music froze after an exceptionally loud cell phone went off. Immediately, an indignant audience-wide search began, which produced the culprit: Sonia Kitchell’s young saxophonist, who sheepishly produced the phone from his saxophone case on stage. When his time to solo arrived, his riffs revealed exceptional energy, exceptional passion.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was just telling someone that story about Sonya Kitchell's band member's cell phone yesterday! What a coincidence. Great piece, Lou.
---Ray P