Where Would We Be Without It?

“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.”

― Carl Sagan

I missed the solar eclipse this morning, sitting in a public space where I heard two adults in their 60’s talk like teens comparing notes about rocks bands. I left my seat to distance myself from their conversation. Two thoughts ran through my head- why do people talk so loud? And the other I realized wasn’t important because their taste for hard rock and heavy metal might be equivalent to my taste for classical and opera. Although there is so much to know about classical music, I can’t claim to be knowledgeable but I do know what station is programmed in my car.

This summer has been filled with outdoor concerts. I once heard that Mozart’s favorite instrument was the sad and desperate viola. I have to say mine is the lovely delicate harp. That’s because not even the conductor is certain of how it works. The harp is a mystery yet where would Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers be without it?

I was happy to see so many young faces in the crowd at the Hollywood Bowl last Friday night. No doubt the USC Marching Band contributed to their presence. But on another note, I have to say that today’s audiences are unaware of the dynamics of musical etiquette, so I will offer these tips:

When you hear the Star Spangled Banner, get up out of your seat! You don’t need to place your hand over your heart, that’s for the Pledge of Allegiance, but do sing! It’s respectful and while everyone has problems with the high notes, try anyway, you’ll be glad you did.

Read the program beforehand, you will probably notice between two and five major compositions of music, with several movements listed as subcategories of each. No applause necessary. It is best not to clap between movements of a larger composition. I know it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between movements and keep track of where the performers are in the course of the program, particularly if you are unfamiliar with classical music. But it’s very different from jazz where you clap at each individual showcasing their talents. If in doubt, about whether or not clapping is appropriate, look at what the conductor is doing, and follow the lead of the experienced audience members around you.

Also note that a slight pause after the end of a composition is sometimes granted by the audience before applause begins, which is basically a way of savoring the “magic” of the music before breaking the spell with clapping.

When applause rings at the end of a composition, you may hear other members of the audience shouting “Bravo!” or “Brava!” This is acceptable at the completion of a performance, and simply means “Well done!”

Audience members may stand (as in standing ovation) when a performance is particularly noteworthy. A further extension of appreciation by the audience or individuals is exhibited when flowers are presented to the soloist(s) during this time of applause.

Now onto today.

For the first time in what feels like forever, the air was cool again, a different kind of cool, an autumnal coolness. That kind of light crisp air that feels flirtatious. Ever since late May, the mornings have felt thick. The world moves slowly. It has to or you will die. The light is so bright I call it a blinding white and everything is bleached out to the point where all the colors are gone until the evening brings sweet relief.

But today was different. I awoke to a chill. Last week an entire day was overcast and I loved it. I drank my tea in bed under the covers. We (Coco and I ) took our morning walk and then went out for pan dulce at La Monarca in South Pasadena in a light weight cardigan over my tee.

I walked around and felt the cool air on my cheeks. It’s amazing how the change in weather can make your soul feel so many things. Today felt like new beginnings. I felt hopeful. The same way I felt when I first arrived in the early autumn to New York City so many years ago. The way a perfume can take you back to a memory, that is what autumn’s air does to me. It takes me back to the excitement of new and all the possibilities are as endless as my dreams.

The photo was taken at the Bowl, as a representation of the cusp of summer and fall. The last of the summer fruits have hit the markets, with sun ripened plums in dusty hues of green, yellow and blushing berry. The end of the nocturnal summer parties spilling way to what nature will bring tomorrow in the never-ending cycle of the seasons.


  1. Very well said. I love your descriptions. I’m working on a newsletter myself and this gives me inspiration. Thanks.

  2. So glad it inspired you, it’s what I constantly aim for, to inspire, to entertain and to enlighten in one way or another. It’s certainly what I wanted to do for my students, although I seemed tough at times, I knew they had it in them and the best secret to writing, is no secret at all- it’s simply to do it!

  3. Oh, what wonderful tips you have given and that can and should be applied to every concert/opera/public gathering (you name it!). Want to know why they talk so loud? Because they are slowly going deaf from all that LOUD ROCK MUSIC. It’s poetic justice. If that sounds harsh, well, so be it.
    Cheers, M-T
    P.S.: Your last comment on my blog post was just beyond wonderful! Thank you so much.

  4. I hope the tips reach at least one person and that they make a difference. I forgot to add when the Musical Director comes on to applaud and when he lifts his arms for the orchestra to rise, another applause. Today’s audiences may not have taken music appreciation classes as we did, so instruction is paramount.
    P.S. You’re welcome my dear friend.

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