This Saturday, for the first time in… I don’t know, years… my husband and I are going to the symphony.
And in preparation, I spent some time earlier this week listening to Holst’s The Planets, one of the pieces on the program. I sort of knew “Mars” already, or parts of it, anyway… but the rest was completely new to me.
And I got to thinking… why do I do this? Why am I so eager to listen before I go hear it played live? While I don’t remember ever hearing this specifically, I just have this vague leftover sense from college, something convincing me that I’ll have more appreciation for the performance if I have at least a passing familiarity with the music.
Wait, isn’t that exactly the argument that pro-spoiler people use in talking about books and movies? I’ve always rejected it. Yes, re-reading (or re-watching) can be appreciated in a different way, but I still want that first untainted experience, to discover the story organically, the way its creator intended.
And I stand by that. I will always believe that spoilers, even if they don’t ruin the experience, at least diminish it. (And I’m not alone… for a psychologist’s perspective, check out 3 Reasons Why the Psychology of Spoilers is Wrong.)
So why is it different with music?
For one thing, I’m not actually denying myself that first untainted experience… it just happens to be here at home rather than Saturday night. And that’s fine. After all, for better or worse, sitting at home is the way I experience most music.
For another thing, music is more abstract than a plot. If I read the plot of a movie online before I go to see it, I might not remember every detail, but a lot is going to stick with me. Listening to The Planets, though… I’d have to listen to it more than just once for any but the most basic things to stick. I’m still going to get caught off guard if there’s a sudden dramatic twist in the music; I might remember being surprised by something at some point, but chances are, when it happens, I’ll still be surprised. And I’m not going to not enjoy the music leading up to it because I’m just waiting for what I know is coming.
On the other hand, if I know the main plot twist of a movie, not only is there no possible way I’d forget it, but knowing it ahead of time would completely color the way I see everything that comes before it.
I guess the really big difference is that I process a story intellectually, but I listen to music emotionally. Not to say I don’t get caught up in the emotions of books and movies, but the path of how we get from A to B to C is always there as well. I can’t pretend I don’t know things that I do. I can’t only feel the emotion.
With music, though… yes, I can process it intellectually. Probably not as well as I could ten years ago, and I do miss doing that… but even at the height of my days as a music major, I could still turn that part of my brain off, close my eyes, and just let the music wash over me, and just feel it, and let it affect me without thinking about how.
So, maybe it’s weird that I want “spoilers” of my music, but I really don’t think it’s the same thing at all. (If anything, it would be like watching a movie at home before going to see it on the big screen… more impressive on the big screen, sure, but the original experience was still as intended.) I was just thrown when I realized I was using the exact same terminology that people use to talk about spoilers and whether they’re good or bad.
What are your thoughts on spoilers? What about re-reading (or -watching or -listening…)? Is there any medium in which you’re more comfortable knowing ahead of time what to expect versus being totally surprised?