Your Eyes Leakin’, You Ain’t Speakin’

Is crying allowed at classical concerts? Not grieving-relative wailing, obviously, but a few tears rolling down the cheek, and maybe a sharp, low intake of breath? A couple weeks ago I went to a concert by my homies the Daedalus Quartet and realized I was worried about whether I would cry while they played Beethoven’s Op. 127. (The music that makes me cry sometimes when I play it at home: late Beethoven, the Bach D minor Chaconne, late Schubert piano sonatas…that’s about it. I’m not counting music that chokes me up; the waterworks must actually start up.)

Crying at a classical concert, in which the musicians presumably strive to move you, should be a little different than regular crying in public. But for some reason the thought of crying at a classical concert makes me feel even more cringingly vulnerable than just crying in a park. At least when you cry in a park, people speculate on the reason, and maybe make up something respectable. But if I were to cry at a classical concert, everyone would know why. There’s something really embarrassing there, at least for me, a male socialized according to the normal pattern. And in considering the Daedalus concert, I realized that I’ve occasionally avoided otherwise interesting concerts because I was worried about whether I’d be able to maintain a dry-faced state as an audience member.

In the event, Op. 127 didn’t jar loose any saltwater, although I had a couple sharp intakes of breath, and a weird spine-melting feeling when the Daedalus made a fleet, icy, glassine sound during the always-odd coda to the finale — I had to make an effort to sit up. (That would have been tough to explain to my seat-neighbors!) But what do you think — is crying like coughing, or more acceptable? What if you saw your neighbor’s ocular precipitation — would you say anything, or just let it flow? (Please, please, please say the latter.) And (if you’re a little more comfortable with the whole idea than I am) what music sometimes puts something in your eyes?

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5 Comments on “Your Eyes Leakin’, You Ain’t Speakin’”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ruxandra ilea, Andrew L. Malone. Andrew L. Malone said: Is it OK to cry at classical concerts? […]

  2. Walt N. Says:

    Charles Dutoit leading the San Francisco Symphony in Berlioz’s “La damnation de Faust.” I was crying for a full minute after it ended. I would not have traded that experience for anything. Now, aren’t you worried you denied yourself the emotional experience of crying because you were worried?

  3. Jessi Says:

    Hey man, thanks for the shout-out! To answer your question, yes, crying is most definitely acceptable at concerts as far as I’m concerned. I heard the Takacs play Op. 130 at Tully about 5 years ago, and there were audible sobs from all corners of the hall (including my own seat) after the Cavatina. It was this amazing shared experience with the rest of the audience, made even more satisfying when the quartet launched right into the finale (the non-fugal one) as if the previous music had never happened. It was like Beethoven was shouting, “Ha ha! Up yours!”

  4. EvB Says:

    I agree with the lovely commenter above. Though I just wouldn’t start sobbing during something ridiculously upbeat, say the Overture to “Candide” for lack of a better example. Well, the exception would be if one had deep, sad, emotional connections with Candide, which is possible I guess.

    Personally, aside from works or portions thereof which I strongly connect with people who have passed away, I tend to get weepy at “Resurrection”-like moments — uplifting, heroic sections following an abyss. Examples include most Mahler symphonies (“Resurrection” included), Beethoven 9, etc.

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