Sunday, June 22, 2008

Getting the classical facts

Yesterday, I took -- OK dragged -- my two eldest to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. They were performing a set of 'Space Classics' which was basically stuff by John Williams plus a few others. When I was a child, this would have been right up there is a top class, highly rated activity. The pieces included much of the good stuff from Star Wars, although somewhat inexplicably, Jabba the Hut's theme which was a tuba beating out some grunts. But it also included other Williams' classics from Close Encounters, ET, Superman and Jerry Goldsmith's fantastic theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It also included three of Holst's Planets but that was mere filler. Sure, they have good moments but really they don't stack up to modern imagery.

That said, my son decided right from the start that this is not the place he wanted to be and for the next two hours he asked every 15 minutes, how much longer? To be sure, our view from the stalls was not too great but I had hoped some peaceful enjoyment of the music might sink in. But it was not to be.

During the intermission, I created a game. The conductor would introduce pieces and get stuff wrong. Talking about things like "Luke Starwalker," "CP3O," 7 planets in the solar system (even dumping Pluto he was getting confused with Holst's 7 other planets and it went on. He couldn't even tell his "Duel of the Fates" from "Across the Stars"! So basically, the game became: count the number of obvious conductorial errors. That kept things going until the end but the lack of accuracy did little to sell him on the experience.

My son has invented a rating system for 'funness.' For any given day, he rates activities of the day and gives us, his parents, a score. '1' is the benchmark. Exceed that and the day is classed as 'fun' but below it is not. It is basically a form of 360 degree performance evaluation. Most of the time I welcome the feedback.

Anyhow, prior to the MSO we had lunch, watched some street theatre and a few storm troopers (who I'll tell you this, look to short for a storm trooper) wandering around. And my son's rating: "It is a .5. It would have been 3/4's if the concert had been half an hour shorter." I had thought about leaving during intermission. His rating would have gone up but mine and my daughter's would have gone down. Besides he needs a little learning in making the most of what he perceives as a bad situation.

[Update: OK, maybe I should have just taken one kid as Emily Bazelon suggests].