Well, not strictly true. We aren't deaf in the sense that we cannot hear. But we have (hopefully temporarily) lost some hearing in the middle register, which we discovered last night at the WDCH during Shostakovich's Cello Concerto. There were moments when Peter Stumpf's bow was moving, but we just could not distinguish the cello from the other instruments in the orchestra, however pared down it was. It felt somewhat ironic that a concert we attended the previous Sunday at the same theatre was what caused this slight impairment. It made me a little mad at myself for forgetting the earplugs. An anonymous commenter on the talk rot blog had a go at me for complaining about my experience, and said I should have picked up the free ear plugs they were handing out. But deaf as I was, I don't think I was blind too. And checking with my mates who attended the same concert, none of us saw any ear plug booth, nor were we offered any plugs. Perhaps anon was one of the lucky ones spared from a week of having to lip read and strain.
The LA Phil was, as usual, excellent. Their rendition of Britten's Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes somehow brought it to life for me. Peter Grimes, the opera, never fails to send me to sleep. I think it, like all of Britten's music, is lost on me. Having never experienced that level of pain, conflict or suffering in my life, I lack the empathetic potential to understand his motifs. That said, Saturday night's Four Sea Interludes somehow struck a chord with us. Maybe we were just a little more familiar with the music now, and the dischords, while still harsh and unsettling, weren't too surprising. The unease generated by the third interlude, Moonlight, after the death of his second apprentice is a feeling I've had mild exposure to. It's a feeling of being trapped. Unable to shake off a feeling of blame even if you were not truly at fault. Pressure from all sides leads to a state not unlike being in a very narrow corridor, where you cannot turn, but must keep walking forward towards certain doom. (Alright, I exaggerate. It may feel like that sometimes, but that's just heightened emotions due to cabin fever.) Perhaps even with the sheltered life I lead, Britten's work will continue to become more understandable as life throws more kinks my way.
As I mentioned at the start, I was a little upset during the cello concerto written by Shostakovich. Close to tears even. I love the concerto. In fact, I have a great fondness for the sound of the cello. It is, for me anyway, the string that resonates the best with my physiology. The warmth of its notes, the pleasantness of its hum, the way it can be played to express great joy and yet can be bowed to convey great pathos; all these aspects of the cello are best appreciated in a cello concerto. So to have lost the ability to hear the cello was... upsetting. I hope it really is temporary. Unfortunately, hair cells do not regenerate in mammals, so if there was damage, it would be permanent. (Unless I haven't been keeping up with the literature and somebody has managed to use Math1 or anything in that ever-useful Sox pathway to induce regeneration...)
Fortunately, one doesn't require great hearing to enjoy Elgar's Enigma Variations. I like maybe half of them. Some are too pompous but the rest have moments of delicacy and intimacy that are surprising from Elgar. (Well executed by the LA Phil too; it could have gone OTT, but they kept it (can't think of a word here other than crisp)... neat.) Of course, the full-on conclusion to the variations was the usual Elgar of Rule Brittania and Pomp and Circumstance. I've never particularly sought out these pieces1. As a kind-of immigrant to Britain, I've never felt very comfortable with the nationalism associated with Elgar's music. I never want to join in. But perhaps that has something to do with the daily singing of my national anthem during my schooldays. It's off-putting now. That said, I do join in to Flower of Scotland at Murrayfield. Usually because the Irish and Welsh sing theirs so magnificently, I feel I should help the Scots along and produce a bigger sound.
Well, that concludes our season of the LA Phil at the WDCH. I have enjoyed every concert of the Saturday Symphony series, and am very glad that my inability to find P a decent birthday present is what led to the purchase of the subscription. I wish in the time we'd found somewhere to eat either before or after the performance. The cafe in the lobby, while pleasant as cafes go, always seemed a little pricey for what they served. Patina was always too busy. The Brasserie across the road wasn't always an option2. The late-night ramen places in Little Tokyo aren't much of an option if you don't know your way around. BCD Tofu is fine for 2-3 times, but the rush to get P home after soon dubu is not always fun. We don't know K-Town well enough to stop anywhere else. Next time, more research on the eating and drinking options will be needed to make it a real date night.
Elsewhere this weekend, the Modest Mouse concert3 was moved from the Greek Theatre to the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal Studio's lot. Part of the original reason for getting the tickets was to see the Greek Theatre. The last time we had tickets for the Greek, it was for Keane. And it was cancelled because Tom Chaplin had to go into rehab. This time round, the Greek was very nearly consumed with flames in a fire at Griffith Park. According to the guy from KROQ, the fire came within 200m of the theatre. Ooh. Close call. The other reason was that I quite liked the last album I bought: Good News for People Who Love Bad News, purchased because I liked the sound of the title. I'm not so sure I like the new album: We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. Maybe because I hadn't heard anything from it until tonight. It takes me time to warm to music sometimes. But I have a feeling that I think I like Modest Mouse because whenever I hear one of their songs on an iPod shuffle, I "rock out" a little. Hmm. For me, perhaps they will always be an iPod shuffle band. A full 45 min set didn't go down so well. (And I even remembered the ear plugs this time; thank goodness.) I really liked Float On (from the older album), even though I thought the lead singer was a little more growly than necessary. I guess that's his thing at live shows. It's a very butch performance. And a little hicky. Is that fair to say? I don't know if it's LA-specific, but at almost every pop/rock concert I've been to here, there have been several hick moments. But I tend to confuse "hick-ness" with drunkenness or with being stoned.
And speaking of drugs, I have a confession to make of my own gaucheness (I really am all the time, but like to pretend I'm not.) There came a point tonight when I thought I could smell something agricultural. Like the smell of P's father's farm shed just after the silage has been packed for winter storage. A slightly sweet, fermented, grassy, nitrogen-heavy smell. Either someone farted, or was using fertiliser in the amphitheatre. On telling P, he laughed. Clearly, I have never smoked hash, or I would have recognised it. Need to get out more? Probably. Pot must be almost customary here. At one point, we could smell cigarette smoke. One of our neighbours went to complain to the security staff who told her they don't normally stop anyone from having a smoke at the back. It wasn't until they learned it was a regular fag that they took action. So, if you want to smoke in California, make sure the contents of your roll-up aren't tobacco.
With that public service announcement, I leave you to go to my bed.4
1 Speaking of which, I finally learned of the riddle behind the Enigma Variations. It made me snigger with every variation. But I won't spoil it for anyone here. Seek it out if you must. It definitely wasn't obvious until I read the spoiler. After that, it was all that I could hear.
2 The Brasserie is the only place I've seen any Scottish beer in LA: Belhaven's Best. But EVERY SINGLE TIME we've asked for it, the darn barrel is empty. What's with that? If a beer is that popular, maybe it's time to have a second pump? Or a system for swapping over? Don't offer me a Murphy's instead. While it's a nice enough beer, when I have my heart set on a Belhaven, I want a Belhaven. Expat Scots have a much harder time in LA than English and Irish; there are no Scottish theme pubs here. And nobody, but nobody, sells Scottish beer. Apart from the Brasserie. Who won't serve it to us...
3 Hence the title of the post...
4 WTH? It's a quarter to 4 in the morning and a chopper is hovering over our heids. Damn this city. You can't get any peace even in the wee hours.
Labels: Gibson Amphitheatre, Greek Theatre, LA Arts, los angeles, music, walt disney concert hall