Later: The Vienna Philharmonic

To my left, there is a fat man in dress pants scribbling on his program. To my right, a woman who won’t stop questioning me about why I, a student at this University,  would be at the orchestra by myself amongst these hundreds of people on a Friday night.

“Oh, you write for the Daily Cal,” she says when I answer the question in terse tones (“I’m press,” I say). “So are you a student of Music, too, then? …. No? Oh, really? Physics? Wow. So how are you going to know what to write about, then? Why are you here?…No one else wanted to cover this concert? You were the only one? They where all too busy for this? Tsk. Is the Daily Cal still a radical liberal rag?”

Clearly, the Vienna Philharmonic is not something meant for common denizens like me.

But in the first few chords of “Tristan und Isolde” all pretense is lost. On your fifth listen to a Radiohead album, you might finally be able to convince yourself that it means something to you. Wagner, instead, grabs you by the shoulders with the first tone. Even as you hate yourself for seeping quietly into a broth of romantics in the concert hall seat, you can’t help but let in all visions, void of explanation, that the music brings. The order that jars are placed on the ledges of cellar windows, the way that fabric folds, the startling redness of the blood that goes through the tiny veins in human eyes—richness in small details, like the most subtle dissonance of tones, is always what overwhelms.

The Orchestra—the raw force of it—was meant, even if unintentionally, exactly for common denizens like me.

At the performance’s end, the lady behind me is yelling “Ja whol! Ja whol!” For a second, it’s 1800, and I’m in Austria. I think of the time I saw Mozart’s ghost, the Berlin Opera, and what the world must have been like before there was Hitler or the internet. A second later, it’s 2011 again, and the Woman to My Right is glaring again, waiting for me to move out of the way so she can exit the long aisle of seats, adjust her coat and wait sternly for her slower-moving husband to meet her smiling at the top of the theater.

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