17 comments on “Symphonic Spoilers

  1. Oh, you’re going to the symphony… that’s wonderful! I think knowing a piece of music well allows you the enjoyment of anticipation, especially something complicated like symphonic music. Having a piece of your soul that can recognize and respond to a swell in the dynamics or the repetition of a melody can enrich the experience. In general, spoilers don’t bother me… even if I already know what’s going to happen it is still a lot of fun to watch it unfold. Then again, I’m a person who has read Pride and Prejudice so many times that I’m well into double digits, so it’s pretty clear that repetition isn’t an issue for me. Have a fantastic time!

    • I definitely don’t have a problem with repetition. I re-read all the time, and some books are even better that way. But if my initial experience was tainted by learning a spoiler I would rather have not known, I might not enjoy the book enough to want to re-read it. I prefer going in as blind as possible that first time… a lot of times I won’t even read the publisher’s summary.

  2. I think you hit the nail on the head with what you said about music being more emotional. As a result, every re-listen intensifies the emotion felt the first time around. For me the ultimate (especially with classical and modern symphonic music) is to hear a familiar piece I know well performed live, to know what the next movement is going to be and that pleasant surprise when the conductor and orchestra does it just that little bit differently than the recording I’ve heard so many times.

    Stories don’t have that. You might gain a deeper appreciation for the underlying themes and character development and the cleverness of the plot with re-reads/re-watches, but the story itself stays the same and you can discover it only once. Knowing the story before you actually experience the story takes away that first-time discovery, which is ultimately where a story provides the greatest joy.

    It reminds me of something I once read that Kenneth Branagh said about the difference between plays and films. I can’t remember the quote exactly, but it came down to that with a movie, you edit the film, and you’re done. You can watch the exact same film in perpetuity. With a play, every performance is different. You never see the exact same production twice. For me the same applies to experiencing stories and experiencing music.

    • That’s a great point about plays. Live performance – in any medium – definitely has that advantage over something that doesn’t change. At the same time, sometimes you just want to know exactly what you’re getting and might not appreciate those subtle differences.

  3. We’re going to the musical “Nice Work If You Can Get It” tonight and I was just looking up the music and clips on YouTube, as I haven’t heard much of this one. Come to find out, it actually has lots of familiar music! And I want to know that before I go! It IS different with music. Interesting observation! Before concerts, we are always listening to whatever music we expect to hear. But if you spoil a movie or a book for me, I’m crazy bugged! Yep.

    With music, we listen to it over and over and over and over.. .with books, we re-read it over and over… a few times, but not hundreds of times like we do music. Can you imagine how sad it would be if we only listened to certain music songs, our favorites, just a few times? Hmmm… wow, you’ve made me think anyway! :)

    • Musicals (also operas, if you’re into classical) are an interesting middle-ground. On the one hand, it’s nice to hear familiar songs (can’t tell you how many times I’ve had that “oh, THAT’S where that song comes from” moment), but on the other, I still like to be surprised by the story. But I’d probably be less worried about spoilers in a musical because the plot is only part of the enjoyment, and even if I know what’s happening, I can still appreciate the music. And, like KokkieH brings up, a live performance is always going to have some degree of uncertainty to it, which adds to the experience as well, no matter how familiar you are with the material. Have a great time!

  4. Hm… what an interesting comparison. I sort of feel like what you do isn’t the same as the spoilers you’re talking about. Like you said, listening to the music beforehand – you’re still getting that initial experience. You’re still absorbing the full thing, from beginning to end. I don’t consider that a spoiler. To me it’s more like listening to an audiobook before deciding to read the physical book. I wouldn’t say you’re spoiling yourself, just that you’re experience of it is different than what it could be because you’re in a different environment using different mediums to absorb it, etc. For me, you would only be spoiling yourself for the symphony, in the way relating to the spoilers we talk about in reading, if you go online and find out “Oh, everything will get super quiet and then you’ll hear a large cymbal and then TRUMPETS!” Like, not having experienced the whole thing but just getting bits and pieces of it. That’s robbing you of the experience because you didn’t go on that journey you’re on, someone is just feeding you pieces of it.

    I’m not sure if that makes complete sense, but in my head they’re slightly different.

    That being said, I do think you may an interesting point about being able to consume music emotionally versus the intellectual way you consume reading. I do think when we have our brains on it leads to more thinking and analyzing and issues like that, whereas we could enjoy the story so much more without any cares in the world if we just stay tuned with our emotions. Sometimes I feel like I’m not enough of an emotional reader, but don’t know how to change that!

    • It’s really not the same. But you know, even if I did read a “Cliff’s Notes” version and learned where all the big moments would be… it still wouldn’t put me off the same way story spoilers do. It’s the difference between knowing something’s going to happen and experiencing it as it happens. In that way, I guess I can understand the people who like (or at least don’t mind) spoilers. But for me, it goes back to the difference in the way I experience them. I kind of like that thinking about music this way gives me a new understanding of the way those people think about books… but I will still remain avidly anti-spoiler myself.

    • I’m curious, do you give the same attention to the story? Obviously knowing the songs can give you some hints as to how the story goes. But beyond that, do you become as familiar with the action and the plot as you do the music?

      • Depends on how complete the cast recording is. I listened to Wicked for months before I saw the show and had some idea of the plot, but the dialogue and action on stage do add a lot to how it all fits together.

  5. hat’s an interesting angle to think about spoilers from. I don’t know what way I listen to music, I just know I have to let it absorb me and float around me and it does make me feel emotional so I suppose that is an emotional process, I’ve just never thought about that before. I also know it’s rare for me to like a song or a piece of music on a first listen (but it does happen occasionally) but the more I hear something I like, the more I appreciate it. I love musicals and before going to the theatre, I will always get familiar with the music too as I know it will mean more to me that way.
    Enjoy your symphony, sounds like it will be a fun outing.

    • Emotional is the best way I can think to describe it, even though it might not always evoke particular emotions. It’s more just that I’m experiencing it without thinking about it. So… instinctual, perhaps?

  6. I wanted to comment on this post when I saw it, but I usually read blogs on my iPad – so commenting is a pain — and then I forget to go back later and say something. But – I agree, to an extent. Monika might have additional insight on this one too!

    So, if you’re going to see a professional symphony, I agree that definitely listening to the pieces beforehand can be AWESOME… however, I’ve found that listening to original cast recordings of musicals – RIGHT BEFORE GOING TO SEE THEM (which are less abstract, to be sure) often can ruin it for me – even if it’s a professional production because the vocalists will invariably do something different which can be great – or awful. Even though instrumentalists can do the same thing, without a trained ear it can be more difficult to notice therefore – no spoilers. :) Does that make ANY sense?

    • I don’t usually listen to the music before seeing a musical, but depending on the show, a lot of times I’ll find I’m familiar with some of the songs anyway. But not being familiar with any particular version of the song, I don’t really have that issue when the singers put their own flair into it. I actually saw a relatively new musical last year, Next to Normal, and it was AMAZING! I’m so glad I knew nothing about it going in. It was really such an incredible experience, story and music both.

  7. Love this post, and I think you’re spot on that it’s just different with music. Especially in this case, LIVE music. On both an emotional and an intellectual level, really. Every conductor, every performer is going to have a different interpretation. A slower tempo. A note held ever-so-slightly in a flute solo, and that’s enough to give you goosebumps. You know? And with masterful works like this, there is ALWAYS something new you never picked up on before – cool harmony in the french horns, a counter-melody in the cellos, etc. Even with pieces I’ve studied and performed many times over, I usually find something cool and new to me. And that’s exciting. :) Enjoyed reading your thoughts on this!

    • And that’s the stuff you can really only catch once you do know a piece really well. Going into the concert on Saturday… I almost may as well have been listening to it for the first time. But I was still glad I’d done my “pre-listen,” so I at least had a vague sense of the feel of each movement. We’re going again in February and they’re playing some Mozart, Brahms, and Beethoven, all of whom I’m obviously more familiar with than Holst (and the Beethoven they’re playing is his Eroica Symphony, which I’ve listened to several times). So I’m really looking forward to that one.

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