Classical Music Uptight? Funky Flashmobs Say Otherwise

Flash mobs inject happy strangeness into the classical music scene.(Photo: Cave Canem (Flickr))
Flash mobs inject happy strangeness into the classical music scene.(Photo: Cave Canem (Flickr))

Let’s face it: the world has gotten pretty strange.

Mind you, some of that strangeness is a lot of fun, which is really no surprise. Culturally speaking, we’ve reached a point at which we are no longer at any time satisfied with the ordinary. The ordinary has become just that – dull, boring, give me a break, enough already. Give us action, give us excitement – at least give us something to blog about.

A good flash mob always does the trick, and the classical music world has seen some great ones.

What makes for a good classical music flash mob, you ask?

Aside from the general weirdness of breaking out a cello, or whatever, in the middle of some unlikely venue and holding forth, selecting repertory appropriate for the venue is important to the success of any classical music flash mob. How a performance of a piece of music is staged to bring order, if only momentarily, to the chaos of any public venue also can make or break a flash mob.

Limelight magazine recently chronicled a few successful classical music flash mobs. Here are two of the more brilliant ones mentioned in that story.

The musicians of the Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra get the award for Best Performance Art for their flash mob rendition of Ravel’s Bolero.

Their staging of this piece, starting first with only a conductor and a solo snare drum in the middle of Copenhagen’s Central Station, and adding musicians to the scene just as Ravel added them to his score, is as hilarious as it is brilliant.

It’s also just a good performance of the music in its own right:

The Danes also take the award for Best Use of Seating in a Performance Venue for this string quartet flash mob on a Copenhagen train.

I’ve always been skeptical about the practical advantages of train seats that face inward toward the center aisle. But now I understand: they’re perfect for any string quartet that wishes to rehearse or perform on a train.

Check it out: 

I’d love to see some classical music flash mobs around Central Ohio. How about a dozen or so marimbists playing chopsticks on Ohio State University’s Oval? Or a bevvy of harpists performing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” in front of the old Union Station arch? And let’s not even talk about what the double bassists could do.  The thought is too distracting for a workday.

So, if you were to design a flash mob for our fair city, what would you do, and where would you do it?

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