In 1890, steel magnate Andrew Carnegie liked music. In 1891, steel magnate Andrew Carnegie purchased, built, and owned music. For practically as long as it’s existed, Carnegie Hall has been the destination–the apex–for musicians of all kinds. Alvin (of Alvin and the Chipmunks) even stole a golden harmonica from a terminally ill child to play there. And recently, yea even recently, my wife and I got to attend a concert there. Our benefactor? Why, Groupon of course. Our obsession with Groupon will merit its own post entirely, but suffice it to say that attending a concert at Carnegie Hall by presenting a Groupon voucher bar code was a humbling experience for all parties involved. I’ve discovered that there’s only a very minor difference between shamefully handing someone Groupon tickets and dealing drugs: no one really wants to be there, and everyone’s glad when it’s over.
We had a bit of an inauspicious trip to The Hall (as people in the know call it) because just outside of it, we passed by a thoroughly intoxicated gentleman sitting on the steps, rocking himself back and forth, smiling, and releasing such a thunderous stream of pee that it soaked through his pants onto the sidewalk below. This man was serious about appreciating music, and he took “leave it all on the stage” to a new (and incorrectly located) level.
But we soldiered on. After all, that was outside The Hall; we figured that once we got in, it would be a bastion of class. And indeed it was. We made our way to our seats, and took in the room. It really was quite beautiful, so we started talking about what we assumed we should be talking about–how the intricate molding on the ceiling was “quite a bold relief” and using the word “Rococo” a lot. We used it a Rococo amount.
Our Carnegie Hall expectations took another hit, though, when an elderly man sat down in front of us wearing a bucket hat, shorts, and a tuxedo t-shirt. Where were the white gloves? Where were the tails? Where was the monocle ready to drop from the eye at the slightest moment of astonishment while his wife exclaims “I say, what a scandal”? Not to be found on this man or, it turns out, on any other person in attendance.
But soft! The concert begins! And then any veneer of respectability in the audience disintegrates. Because right next to Shortsy McTuxshirt is a pair of French teens who cannot keep their tongues off of each other for the. entire. performance. The garcon makes absolutely sure that he has kissed every discernible centimeter on the madame’s hand. And then, just when you think they’re taking a break by whispering sweet nothings into each other’s ears, they’re licking each others ears! The girl’s father is sitting right next to them and is clearly not into it. Although it would probably be worse if he were.
But if one closes one’s eyes, one can still enjoy the music all on its own. Ah yes, a beautiful back-and-forth conversation between a lively piano and a laconic violin. But wait a moment. What’s that sound? Is it two Asian schoolchildren who have fallen asleep and are snoring louder than the violin? Why yes, it most assuredly is. The audience’s betrayal is complete.