play it so / by Matthew Thompson

"play it so that flies drop dead in midair, and the audience starts

leaving the hall from sheer boredom." 


   This being how Shostakovich apparently instructed his orchestra to play the opening bars of his 15th String Quartet in 1974. Goddamn. Suppose, I could see how a line like that would rub some folks the wrong way. I say there's nothing better than a performer who pushes back at his or her audience, boxes their ears a bit, jabs them in the chest. This, to me, means motion. The performer is requesting an engagement - get up and react for chrissakes - I'm being asked to participate. That, or it's an undisguised acknowledgement of the dom/sub relationship between the person on stage and the people in their seats, which has its own heightened kind of psychosexual appeal.

   In either case, it's better than being a spectator. Nothing worse, nothing more lifeless, than being a goddamn spectator. If all I wanted was to be a spectator, I could just stay at home, lie down on the couch, tip the tiny television flat onto my face.