Is sleeping through a concert bad? | Aaron Gervais, composer

Is sleeping through a concert bad?

Recently I had a discussion with someone at a concert, about whether or not it was good to fall asleep during a performance. She said that, although she enjoyed the piece that had just been played, she was disappointed that it had been programmed so late in the concert, because it made her feel sleepy. So I asked her why that was a bad thing. She was adamant that the piece would be a better experience if she were able to concentrate all the way through, but I disagree. Paying attention is over-rated, at least in the “serious” music community.

Lots of music is great if you don’t pay attention, or can’t pay attention. Sometimes music helps me work, because I’m not listening to it actively but it blocks out other distractions. Sometimes I definitely enjoy the feeling of being lulled to sleep in a concert; of just barely being able to make out what’s going on, but catching glimpses of the experience through the fog of your dreams. It’s better, in any case, to the cold clear realization of, “Oh, this concert is pretty mediocre after all.”

So perhaps “I slept through your concert” shouldn’t be considered an insult. Perhaps it should be considered a good thing. They could have said, “I was bored during your concert and counting the seconds go by.” That would be worse. But falling asleep means that the music had a lulling effect. That’s a pretty powerful effect. And people generally like to sleep… so maybe “I slept through your concert” should be promoted to the ranks of “I really enjoyed your concert” or “Your concert made me think a lot” or similar musical compliments that have to do with affect.

What better compliment than, “Your music puts me out like a light; better than sleeping pills”? If you’ve done something with sound that is stronger than medical science, then why not be happy about it?