Music: Trans-Siberian Orchestra

I had never heard of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra until my husband mentioned, a few months ago, how much he would like to go to one of their concerts. When I found out that they would be performing in our area, and that my company offered a discount on the tickets, I made arrangements for Jon and me to attend.

When I read that their style combines elements as disparate as classical music (which I like) and heavy metal (which I dislike), I wasn’t sure how well I would like it. Someone told me that the mix leans more toward classical than heavy metal, which sounded promising.

Yesterday evening we went to the group’s production of “Beethoven’s Last Night“. I don’t know enough about rock music to say what parts of it were heavy metal, but classical was definitely not the dominant style. Some of the earlier numbers had quite a bit of classical sound, but as the concert progressed there seemed to be less and less. (And the encore numbers, presumably chosen to best exhibit the band’s virtuosity, were all rock.)

From what I read today, the band’s style would be considered progressive metal (which according to wikipedia is a subgenre of heavy metal), and their productions are rock operas. What I can say from my own experience last night is that it is way too loud for my taste. Even classical music isn’t appealing to me if the decibel level is too high.

I liked some parts of it. It’s an interesting story. I had read the online summary, but it is really brought to life by the poetry (and the superb narrator Bryan Hicks), music, and special effects. The use of lasers, video, and various other visual effects help establish the mood, and immerse the audience in the production rather than letting them be mere listeners or spectators.

Sometimes, though, there was just too much of it. There are times in a story when sensory overload might make sense, but if you do too much of that the effect is diminished. Once you have overwhelmed the audience with all the sound and light (not to mention a bit of heat sometimes from the pyrotechnics), how can doing more of the same have much effect?

I was reminded of the finale in most fireworks shows, where subtle effects are abandoned and the goal is just to produce as much light and sound as possible in a short period of time. It’s impressive – as long as it doesn’t go on too long. If it does, I go from being impressed to be bored and just wait for the assault to end.

That’s how I felt many times last night – my eyes and ears were being assaulted, and not just at crucial points in the story when it enhanced the narrative. And if the music is so loud that I can’t make out more than half of the lyrics, that detracts from rather than adds to the story.

From the reactions of people around me, however, most of the audience didn’t share my assessment of the production. They clapped with great enthusiasm at the end of each number, sometimes with a loud chorus of “Whoo!” I reminded myself that extroverts use different neural pathways in the brain, and no doubt the majority of the audience was extroverts.

I guess it’s not really their fault they need so much stimulus, it’s just the way their brains are wired. According to The Introvert Advantage, the primary neural pathway is different in extroverts and introverts, and the neurotransmitters needed on those pathways are also different. Extroverts need dopamine, while introverts need acetylcholine.

As it happens, however, extroverts are not very sensitive to dopamine, and they need adrenaline to produce enough dopamine for them. Therefore they need plenty of action and sensory stimulation. Introverts, on the other hand, are more sensitive to dopamine, and are easily overwhelmed by the level of sensory stimulation that extroverts require.

After the concert, my husband purchased a copy of the CD of “Beethoven’s Last Night.” He played it at home, and noted that it just wasn’t the same without the throbbing bass line that you could feel, not just hear. I agreed – it wasn’t the same, it was better. (He did admit that there had been some lyrics he had missed in the live concert but could hear on the CD, due to the absence of that loud bass line.)

One Response to Music: Trans-Siberian Orchestra

  1. modestypress says:

    In terms of evolution, there must be some reason we have introverts and extroverts in our species. Perhaps the extroverts say, “Look! There’s another tribe in the next valley. The women look good. Let’s check them out!” Thus maintaining genetic diversity. The introverts say, “Look! There’s another tribe in the next valley. Let’s get out of here!” Thus promoting survival when the other tribe turns out to be sociopaths.

    If you examine the history of “classical” music, most of the composers we now consider “classic” (and perhaps boring to some) were at one time considered radical and irritating and discordant. Beethoven for example.)

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