How to effectively enjoy a classical music concert
A guide for the casual (or not) listener
Hearing live music is one of the most pleasurable experiences available to human beings. The music sounds great, it feels great, and you get to watch the musicians as they create it.
No matter what kind of music you love, try listening to it live.
This guide focuses on classical music, a tradition that originated before recordings, radio, and the Internet, back when all music was live music. In those days live human beings performed for other live human beings, with everybody together in the same room.
When heard in this way, classical music can have a special excitement. Hearing classical music in a concert can leave you feeling refreshed and energized. It can be fun. It can be romantic. It can be spiritual.
It can also scare you to death.
Classical music concerts can seem like snobby affairs full of foreign terminology and peculiar behavior. It can be hard to understand what’s going on. It can be hard to know how to act.
Classical music concerts can seem intimidating. It seems like you have to know a lot. What if you don’t understand the music? What if you don’t know how to listen correctly? What if you don’t “get it”?
The good news is this: there is no right way to listen, there is no correct experience to have, and there is no one thing to “get.” Understanding is not required. Your job is not to be an expert on the music. Your job is not to be a perfect listener.
Your job is very simple.
Not to worry. Concerts are no weirder than any other pastime, and the rules of behavior are much simpler and easier to understand than, say, the stock market, football, or system software upgrades. If you haven’t been to a live concert before, or if you’ve been baffled by concerts, this guide will explain the rigmarole so you can relax and enjoy the music.
How does this work?
This guide is divided in several sections:
- THE LISTENER’S JOB DESCRIPTION
- THE CONCERT RITUAL
- “CONCERT MANNERS”
- READING THE PROGRAM
- WAYS TO LISTEN
- MEETING THE PERFORMERS
- FINAL THOUGHTS