There is an excited, constant babble of voices that seems a quiet cushion under the discombobulated mess of notes that don’t make a tune as each instrument is eagerly warmed up. Now and then, there is a crash as percussion and stands are rearranged and dropped. As the number of musicians grows from a quartet to their full measure of 250, the mezzo forte crescendos into a cacophony of senseless noise, until the world’s tiniest man takes his place upon a box that makes his stature match his presence. He calms the deafening thunder to silence, then calls for a tuning note. That rearranges the noise into organized chaos, and Shostakovich begins. Everyone tastes a rushed fast-food dinner washed down by water that tastes like a rather clean toilet, which is quickly muted by the taste of moist wood and metal for some.
The whole room smells of the percolating sweat of adolescents, but it hides under the smell of a library of old, molding books shelved alongside new ones which is overpowered yet by the smell of damp, warm metal and the rich, bold, beautiful scent of old wood and clean, powdery-white horsehair muted by the sharp smell of rosin (a musician’s cocaine) and the clean scent of minor notes still tingling in the reverberating air.
As the conductor pulls down his baton to shape the music, each musician pulls his precious instrument closer to him, affectionately stroking silver, steel, gold, brass, wood, and strings. Easily quantifiable: the dollar amount these instruments cost. Impossible to count: how precious those noisemakers are to their owners.