Wednesday, December 7, 2011

the symphony

my girlfriend’s god-sister plays in the boston symphony, and was in town on tour. she asked if we’d like tickets and immediately i said yes. i’d never been to san francisco’s davies symphony hall before, and had been talking about going to check it out about a month ago. i’m not a follower of classical music, but i do enjoy some kdfc (the local classical radio station) every now and then. what i was really excited to experience was the concert hall.

as a huge aficionado of audio gear, experiencing a symphony hall is a geeky dream come true. whereas most live music requires microphones, amps, sound boards, and all the rest of that gear, the symphony is 100% unplugged. the hall is designed so that each sound made on stage hits your ears perfectly. as you can see in the picture, there’s acoustic treatment on every single surface of the hall. there’s pieces of acrylic hanging from the ceiling, bumps on the walls and on the ceiling.

before going i looked up the god-sister, in order to know who i was going to listen to. i spent just as much time looking up what to wear. I learned that a weekday symphony wasn’t nearly as formal as a saturday night, so wearing dark jeans with a collared shirt under a sport coat was very acceptable. most men wore slacks, and most men were 40 yrs older than me. i did see a few acid washed jeans and sf giants beanies (yes a few). sf is known to not be a dress code town, and the symphony followed suit.

in the concert hall i could hear every single movement that happened on stage. it was a feast for the senses, my eyes would see the smallest movement of a violin bow, and my ears would hear exactly that. then my eyes would jump across to the percussionist bang the bass drum and it was is if i could hear with my entire body the low grumble it produced. the separation of instruments was amazing, and then stepping back to listen to everything as a whole sounded just as astonishing. i managed to sit perfectly still and silent for 15 minutes. i cannot recall the last time i did this, while still awake.

that first note came out and sent shivers down my spine, and then back up again. the symphony sounded... like a symphony!

the problem with perfect acoustics is that you can hear everything, so the gentleman snoring exactly three rows back and seven seats over was just as pronounced as the delicate notes of the flute solo were to my ears. and did i have to look three rows back and seven seats over to know where the heavy breathing was coming from? nope.

seated next to me was two short and stubby ladies speaking in spanish. every single chance to talk, they were yappin' away. at one point one had to stop the other from digging in her purse during the mozart piece because she was making too much noise.

afterwards we hung out with the god-sister over drinks. hearing her talk about her work life was fascinating. she spoke of the sound in different symphony halls, the different harps that she owns and plays, and even her schedule for some sf sight seeing before rehearsal.

this all inspired me to wake up the next day and find videos on youtube of cartoons i used to love as a kid that were based off of music from the symphony. i watched peter and the wolf, then lambert the sheepish lion, followed by the ugly duckling. i was re-watching these for the first time, listening more to the symphony playing than the sound effects that i focused on when i was a kid.

overall, not too shabby for a tuesday night.