It happened again. I was recently at a concert of—for lack of a more appropriate term—contemporary classical music, and the set up time for the piece took longer than the actual piece. The piece was very intriguing, but the wait certainly wasn’t.
It reminded me of a friend who had invited me to dinner at around 8 p.m. but didn’t serve the entrée until nearly midnight. The meal was fabulous but by the time it was ready, hunger had been replaced by exhaustion. This is similar to how I felt the one time I visited the quaint Tibetan Museum in Staten Island more than a decade ago. It was a really great place, but it took me two and a half hours to get to it and only about half an hour to see everything there was to see. I haven’t been back.
Maybe it’s just New York impatience but it seems to me in all of these cases that the ratio of preparation time to experiential time was somehow out of whack. Is it really worthy taking so much time to get to do something when it takes so little time to actually do it?
Yes, I know that there are many worthwhile things in life which require a great deal of preparation, often for scant temporal gratification: e.g. the building of ice sculptures; eating a pomegranate. And certainly the composition of a piece of music often takes much longer than the piece itself does. I spent several years working on a solo guitar piece that lasts only about two minutes. But at the same time, I would never have subjected an audience to watching my compositional process.
When you’re keeping folks at bay in anticipation of something, like music or a meal, it might not be a bad idea to never lose track of the preparation time/experiential time ratio, even if it means that the end result might be somehow less ideal than what you had hoped for. I’m sure that for every additional minute someone is kept uncomfortably waiting for something, there’s an automatic dissatisfaction factor that grows exponentially higher and clouds the waiting party’s ability to discern the worthiness of what is being waited for anyway. Perhaps the wait should never be longer than the experience, or maybe half its length: e.g. a ten minute piece of music should have a maximum set of time of five minutes; or if eating a meal takes approximately half an hour, you should ask your guests to arrive no more than fifteen minutes before it’s ready; or if it takes you an hour to get somewhere you should spent at least two hours there, etc.
Then again, last fall I took a bus from New York to Boston to hear a BMOP concert and came back the same night. The concert was so good that I’d do it again in a heartbeat. But I still won’t buy fresh pomegranates.