Since classical music is dramatic, concerts are good theater. So theater rules apply. Everyone focuses intensely, a) not to distract anyone, and b) so we might internalize every sound & their implications in hindsight. Alternating increasing contrast between opposing themes, breaks the tension near the end. Listening itself, the capacity to focus and catch patterns, colors and themes over longer periods, are some of many blessings of classical music. Guessing works. And repeated listening is rewarded. In a series of waves, the composer and musicians set up a very long build to a smashing climax near the end of each work. Inevitability is balanced with surprises when it’s done right.
Taking the church metaphor a bit further, sedate musicians in long black tails might resemble priests in robes, performing the sacred texts, composed by long-dead saints, conducted under the authority of an accented bishop, likely from Europe, to serve a congregation of true believers.
Silence then is the powerful sacrament to the sonic experience, lending utter contrast to sound. To focus in the present moment is a form of meditation; letting go of our instincts to react physically, completely internally, becomes another great gift. To internalize musical feeling, including dance, is power to imagine. The easiest way to start is to close your eyes to the music. A quartet looks about the same, no matter what it plays. Try to take it all in the ears, like the blind. Follow one line and then another. Accept the flow of surprising emotions and thoughts without judgement. Don’t yell, flinch, shudder or grunt. Breathe deeply.
Church services and concerts are inherently dramatic… like any KISS show. Role-playing, melodrama, plots holes and coincidences are necessary for a neat ending. An audience chooses to suspend its disbelief, to force satisfaction and search for deeper meaning in life. There are no wrong answers; only incomplete ones. As audience we bring to classical concerts the same aggressive strategy we use going to a movie, rock show or wrestling event: feel grateful to be there, prepare to be amazed, look for patterns.