There are many ways to react to the drama and emotional weight of great music. Most of us, when listening to a live orchestra, observe decorum and enjoy ourselves in silence. A woman attending a North State Symphony performance of Igor Stravinsky’s “The Firebird,” allowed herself a bit more expression.
A video taken of the event captures the result of this free-spirited soul who, likely awakened from a pleasant snooze during one of the piece’s quieter passages, shrieks like a slasher-movie victim during a sudden change in aural intensity.
Sure, it’s easy to assume that the music had lulled her to sleep and that the scream was a natural result of being startled, but we can also suggest, more charitably, that The Symphony Shrieker is actually trying to do away with centuries of outmoded audience tradition.
Her cry, in this sense, isn’t inappropriate. It’s a deeply human reaction to a moving piece of music. She screams because she has been startled by an abrupt tonal shift and, in her own way, adds to the music by incorporating her own emotion into its performance. Stravinsky returns to life and “The Firebird,” like that other legendary, winged creature, emerges from the ashes, renewed.
For too long we have been held back from reacting to symphonic performances with the same naked responses expected from audiences of any other type of live music. The Shrieker, whoever she is, is representing a new path forward—a revitalization.