A couple months ago, I went to a rock concert. I rarely go to non-classical music concerts, although I have always been a fan of “popular” music. My brother and I went to see the Las Vegas band The Killers, a group I’d listened to when they reached fame, but forgotten about lately. We got floor tickets, arrived early to get very near the stage, held our ground as people crowded around us, cheered and sang and moved with the music when the performance began. I surprised myself with how many lyrics I remembered, but also by how much I relieved my love of their music.
What struck me was the community effect this band had. Everyone on the floor was singing, clapping, waving, swaying and dancing and cheering for some two hours. I stood amongst these people for a couple hours before the concert began, and spoke with a few, and had some sense of who these people were. Some were like me, but I imagine most were not. A few might appreciate classical music, but most probably did not. A few might share my political philosophy but likely many did not. Some might share my middle-class upbringing but many likely did not. Some may have travelled the world, others barely left home.
But this music made us all the same. It didn’t matter whether we would interact outside of this venue, we all took this concert in and enjoyed it because this music had at some point in our lives touched us meaningfully.
I don’t doubt that classical music does have this same kind of equalizing effect. But I think we are much harder pressed to share such an experience with the uninitiated. Not to mention, how often does the classical music community try to proactively harness this effect?
I don’t have an answer for now, merely observations, but I believe in this music that I have devoted my life to enough to have faith we can connect a community of strangers in the same way as The Killers did.
"Modern performers seem to regard their performances as texts rather than acts, and to prepare for them with the same goal as present-day textual editors: to clear away accretions. Not that this is not a laudable and necessary step; but what is an ultimate step for an editor should be only a first step for a performer, as the very temporal relationship between the functions of editing and performing already suggests." -Richard Taruskin, Text and Act