Performance Review

First, I was intrigued by the poster I saw; just one ancient Chinese character with the date, time and location type-set under it; black against a white textured paper.  “Very Zen,” I thought.  It was warm and humid and the staples holding the poster on the wall had already rusted and some of the color had run down and become absorbed by the thickness of the paper.   “Kami” was another Japanese idea that came to mind.

I decided to go expecting to experience some kind of sacred Japanese court music.  The space was small; too small for something imported.  Also, I noticed lots of warm greetings and recognition among the audience; nothing at all like the happenings in larger spaces.  This seemed a little more like how I imagine life in a country church, except the attire was quite a bit more eclectic.  I felt a little self-conscious, like I should have brought a letter of introduction.  And, by the time we were seated, every chair was filled, so I had no comfortable DMZ between myself and my fellow concert-goers.  We were elbow-to-elbow and breathing the same air.  The lights dimmed and four musicians (carrying clarinet, tuba, cello and percussion instruments) walked out to traditional applause at (what seems to be a Dallas tradition) a quarter past the hour.  They also wore suits which, with their long hair and beards, gave them the look of bankers or lawyers that had been stranded on some deserted isle.

The first sound that seemed definitely part of the performance was a soft wail coming from the stage.  (I am not inclined to mention who or what instrument produced the sound for reasons which you will discover later.)  The sound was immediately answered by a baby from the audience.  The audience tittered and oo-oo-ed about it which, thus, caused another response from the group.  From that point on I closed my eyes and was removed from the realm of cause and effect.  I perceived a consciousness that was “performing” through the group, the audience and even myself.  At first, I was afraid to breathe for my thinking that my every move was not only noticed but magnified and embellished by this consciousness.  I felt like running away but I was trapped by the others on either side of me whose attention remain fixed on the four musicians.  I also knew that my leaving would become the prominent theme throughout the rest of the concert.  I had to learn how to adapt but I had never experienced anything so unsettling and so reflective that even my agitation seemed to dominate the mood of the “music.”  I put “music” in quotes because I am still not sure what it was; a dance, a dance of thinking and feeling?

I cannot single out any particular sound or event past those opening wails, and I know this makes this review a total failure.  I cannot compare my experience to anything else nor am I able to even say whether I liked it or not.  It did not seem to have anything to do with “like” or “dislike.”  Even past, present and future ceases to be meaningful in this context.  I found that I was in a fully conscious state while, at the same time, being able to perceive myself and others in other states of being.  (I am afraid that my description will be misleading because it borrows words from religious and/or philosophical concepts.)  The feeling of being a consciousness which encompassed the whole was the most profound for me.  I was everyone and my thoughts were the cause of all that happened.  But, who was I?  Certainly not the same person who is attempting to write this review.

The last “performed” sound was the ringing of a gong which faded into a comfortable silence and then enthusiastic applause.  Yet, again, who were we applauding?  When the crowd was giving each other their warm goodbyes much of my shyness returned.  I still really did not know anyone (even though I had become one with them!)  I managed to exchange a few knowing glances with the others as I made my way out.  It was raining.  I improvised with the splashing of the cars as I walked home.