It’s a semi-long post today. 🙂 Time to talk about music! I’ve got a heartwarming story of a present, a review of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra Masterworks 4 2016/17, and some handy tips for dealing with concerts for autistics and those around autistics.
Our story begins with the NSO Masterworks 4, though. So, a few weeks ago, Mom found out that she had to go to Toronto for something this weekend. Since she and Dad get tickets for their pick of Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra concerts, and Masterworks 4 of the 2016/17 season was on tonight, she and Dad asked if I would like to go with him since she was flying out this morning. I said sure, of course. Although I don’t listen to classical music all that often, I do enjoy it.
(For a while in pre-adolescence, I ended up having what had been – and was again, after Dad built me a bedroom in the basement – Dad’s study as my bedroom. It was right above the living room, and in fact my bed was right above the stereo cabinet, with its turntable, radio, and CD player. Dad always played classical music in the evening/night – it’s (almost?) the only genre of music he likes. And I could hear pretty much everything that happened in the living room through the vent. So to me, classical music is a fond memory and a reassurance that everything is good.)
More on that below, though, because I’m talking about these in chronological order. 🙂
So earlier this week, my youngest sister texted me to let me know that she had an iTunes card from one of the people in her 3-month workshop, and she would be giving it to Mom to give to me this weekend. At first, I assumed that the person had given it to her, and she was giving it to me. I figured it was still polite to write a thank you note/email, however, all things considered. So I asked for the person’s contact info and whether she knew anything about me, so I would know how much I had to mention to explain who I was.
My sister replied back that she’d talked about me in the workshop (she has my permanent permission for this), especially about my advocacy work – and that said person must have remembered that she mentioned I liked music.
I proceeded to write back to her (and I quote): “Did she give it to you to give to me?!”
Turns out that yes, that was exactly what had happened. This person, hearing about me from my sister, had decided to buy me this iTunes gift card. I was floored! And I did mention in my thank you note that really, the world needs a lot more people like her. Talk about ways to spread a smile!
So that’s the story of the pressie. 🙂
The NSO was performing three pieces, with guest violin soloist Jonathan Crow (born in Prince George, BC – shoutout to Corey Walker, the BC rep to CAPP, who lives there!) for the violin concerto.
There was a bit too much talking for my taste at the beginning, almost none of which was about the music that would be played. Thanking sponsors, mentioning the programs for fostering music in youth by arranging for discounted rates to NSO concerts (which was nice to know about), and other stuff. Could definitely have done with less of that, I have to admit. I was there to hear the music.
First off was a short piece called Orchestralympics, composed by Andrew Staniland, who teaches Composition at the Memorial University of Newfoundland School of Music. It was interesting… but as Dad said afterwards, not really our cup of tea. (Well, he said it for himself, but I agree. It was nice enough, but not something I’d necessarily want to listen to more than once.)
Second was Brahms’ Concerto for Violin, Op.77, D Major. This was the piece that Jonathan Crow was the soloist for.
It was a beautiful piece, played with energy by everyone, but particularly Mr. Crow, whom I noticed played with his full body (aka moved almost all of his body depending on the energy level needed for each note). When I mentioned it to Dad during the intermission, he said that most soloists he’s seen do the same. (Might be part of why they become good enough to become soloists in the first place, putting their whole being into the music?)
After intermission, it was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, Op. 67, C minor – a very well-known piece. To my surprise, Jonathan Crow joined the orchestra violinists (he sat behind the last row) for this piece – I had thought that he was there to perform the solo, and that was all. (It was a lot of work, after all! Seriously. Can’t see how he had the energy to perform more afterwards, given the aforementioned “whole body playing”, let alone the energetic nature of the solo part in the concerto.) Dad was rather surprised as well, when I pointed him out just before the lights dimmed.
Another absolutely wonderful performance. Again, quite energetic, and very well played. Dad, who is a frequent attender of classical concerts (at least when it’s instrumental music, he doesn’t care for chorales), agreed with me, so it’s not just my thoroughly inexperienced opinion being offered here. 🙂
Now, unlike some, I don’t get images in my mind’s eye produced by music. (I kind of wish I did, it sounds like a lovely experience.) What I do often get is something linked more to my conceptual mode of thinking (see Let’s Talk About: Modes of Thought – Followup). Which means that occasionally, a bit of music will produce an idea that “pops” into my head. It doesn’t matter what kind of music, as long as I enjoy it, which is one reason why I tend to have music on when I’m writing (or even planning something out); it tends to help get my creative processes moving.
The reason I mention this is twofold – one for each of the major pieces performed. 🙂 At some point in the second or the third movement of the Concerto for Violin in D Major, when the orchestra is “having a conversation” with the soloist (the music seems to be doing back-and-forth elements), I ended up thinking of a country walk on a sunny day. It was nice.
And at the end of the third movement of Symphony No. 5 in C minor, when the strings are playing pizzicato (the strings being plucked rather than bowed), I found myself thinking of The Teddy Bears’ Picnic. Not sure why, that’s just what popped into my head. What made it all the more amusing was when I mentioned that to Dad as we were getting ready to leave, he replied that the exact same thing had happened to him! It seemed rather incongruous. I suggested it might have been something about the rhythm of the pizzicato, and he offered that it might also have been related to a particular chord that was played. But an amusing note to a wonderful evening.
Now, a few months ago Dad gave me copies of his collection of classical music (he’s always playing it in the car, and there are pieces I like that I didn’t have myself). I was certain that Symphony No. 5 was part of that (and it was, it just took me a few minutes to find it, because the titles are all in German, since it was a CD done of the Berlin Philharmonic), and mentioned that if the Concerto for Violin in D Major wasn’t, I knew at least one thing I would be buying with the previously mentioned iTunes card. As it turns out, that was also part of the collection, so all’s good.
Now, onto the handy tips for autistics at concerts section.
- For your own sake, bring a silent fidget toy! I spent the time before intermission really wishing I had brought something; my fingers were almost aching for something to play with, which detracted a bit from my enjoyment of the experience. (Not too much, since I kept my hands moving to the beat, but still.) I spent the time after intermission playing with my stylus, which has the same length and weight as a pen, but no clicking thing – but what I really wanted was my thinking putty or my squooshy fidget toy I picked up in Halifax last month.
Note: While spinner rings are handy fidget toys that don’t require you to bring something extra, they do make noise, so are not advised for concerts. At least not classical genre concerts. (At a rock concert, I suspect that there’s so much noise going on that no one would notice that little bit extra.)
- If you are light sensitive, beware and prepare! Particularly if you’re going to a concert with orchestra and/or strings, there are issues with reflection. There’s the brass section, for obvious reasons, and the heads of most basses (aka double basses or string basses) have brass on them – those were reflecting light particularly strongly at tonight’s concert. Even the polished wood of the strings can reflect light in a concert stage setting. I didn’t think to wear my sunglasses at first, so before intermission I spent most of the time with my eyes closed, or focused on the soloist in an effort to avoid the effects (not completely successfully). Luckily, I did have my sunglasses in my bag (Dad picked me up before dinner, while it was still light out, and was driving me directly home afterwards), so after intermission was a bit better. It was still not overly pleasant, though, and I think I’m developing a headache from the before-intermission light stuff. So… bring sunglasses, and be aware that the reflections will likely be bad as even with that. Either that, or keep your eyes shut. (Which can sometimes help people concentrate on what they’re hearing, depending on the person and their sensory issues plus executive function issues. It helps me at times.)
- This is more for anyone who might be accompanying an autistic to a concert, rather than autistics themselves, and relates to the previous two tips. Namely, if you see your autistic acquaintance/friend/family member doing any of the above – they have a reason for it. The reasons may not be the same as my reasons, but they will have reasons.
Note: If I think of any other tips, I’ll add them in.
Anyway. A thoroughly enjoyable and somewhat educational week of music experience!
This is a really interesting review. Trust me, there was too much talking at the beginning for a lot of us. I wish they could understand that we come to these concerts to hear music, not to hear people talking.
Your comments about the reflections are interesting. As you say, closing ones eyes can help in focussing on the music – I often find that having my eyes closed makes the experience quite different. And I, too, have closed my eyes to avoid distractions – even a wiggly person nearby can be a distraction. As far as the reflections go, I am pretty sure that people often go to some effort to make their instruments shiny. Maybe that should be reconsidered.
Thank you for the blog.
Thank you for replying, Deborah! I knew that Joan was there, but I didn’t realize you were there as well. 🙂 Hope you enjoyed the music – as I mentioned in this post, I definitely did! 🙂