According to a widely-reported article originally published in the January issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, recent research has shown that there is indeed a correlation between consumer consumption and reported happiness. The surprising aspect of this link was the realization that ownership of objects did not contribute to an enhanced state of joy. The euphoria derived from material purchases was found to be weak and short-lived. Instead, it was those people who spent money towards the savoring of new experiences who reported a direct correlation between their purchases and their continued levels of joy.
As artists, I believe that we inherently and innately apprehend this phenomenon. Musicians will often spend their bottom dollar on concert tickets or travel to festivals, and conversations among professionals often veer toward reminiscences of life-altering concert experiences.
I am no exception to this rule. I only consider an object to be precious when I have utilized that material good towards the creation of memorable experiences. My favorite purchases remain the trips to beautiful locales, the extravagant meals, the drinks imbibed among friends. And especially the concerts.
For me, two concert experiences stand above the rest as influential events that would shape my remaining experiences.
The first was a performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra that I attended as an undergraduate. They used to sell $2 tickets on a first-come, first-served basis beginning one hour before concerts for seats in the last two rows of the auditorium. These seats were renowned for their horrible views and exceptional acoustics, and every week I would stand in line with a friend waiting to hear whatever music was on that week’s subscription concert. I learned a great deal about the tradition of the orchestra in these lines, listening to the long-time regulars reminisce about their favorite performances. For me, these tickets served as a lifeline, helping me to immerse myself in classical music in order to fill the lacunae created by my previous obsession with rock. And it was a performance of Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto with Schlomo Mintz as soloist that finally turned the tide and allowed me to viscerally experience the power of orchestral music. After that concert, I was a convert to acoustic musicianship (albeit, one who still enjoys electronic sound!).
The second was a solo recital of Messiaen’s Vingt Regards by Pierre-Laurent Aimard at Symphony Center in Chicago that I heard while working towards my Ph.D. This performanceâ€”entirely from memoryâ€”captured the grand religious statement of this massive piece in a way that wrung every possible emotion from the gloriously exhausted audience.
And so in these difficult economic times, I urge composers and other musicians to continue supporting your peers, to continue to experience live music making. Each concert that you attend might be that transcendent experience that remains with you for the rest of your life. And scientists confirm that your money will be well spent.