I enjoy the prospect of watching, via the internet, the impact a flash mob performance can have on a group of innocent and unsuspecting bystanders. It is not that I have seen one live. And I have certainly not participated in one, as they require a certain talent either musically or vocally in order to help perpetrate a well-rehearsed semblance of impromptu virtuosity. It is just that even when removed from an event by time and space, the joy of the music being performed carries through the digital machinations of our technology to somehow caress a soul that inhabits an isolated place such as my home office.
I stumbled on my first internet encounter with a flash mob when researching my piece on Schiller’s, and subsequently Beethoven’s, Ode to Joy. One of the proffered links was to a scene on a plaza in Spain, where a little girl, putting money in a hat, launched an inspiring performance of Beethoven’s Ode. And even though I suspect she was a plant to get the process started, the resulting performance – with its ever increasing ensemble of musicians and singers – made use of this sublime theatricality to delight its audience with what the poet and the maestro intended, joy.
For whatever reason my convoluted thinking devolved to, I have come to view these performances as acts of compassion. The music is always uplifting, ranking Ode to Joy or Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus at the top of the chart of flash mob encounters. After all, you never see, or at least I have never seen, a flash mob dedicated to a rousing presentation on depression. Somehow the magic we can find in a hit-and-run collision with the type of exuberance found in Brahms, Bach, Beethoven or The Boss just doesn’t lend itself to the solemnity of a funeral dirge.
Compassion is literally translated as “co-suffering” or “suffering together”. But I am of a mind that we demean passion by considering it to be the sole province of suffering, as in a passionate artist suffers for his or her art. I am just not endowed with a sense of agony being a perquisite of ecstasy when it comes to doing anything creatively. Therefore, if no one objects, I would rather think of passion as the euphoric force which compels us to do something positive (with its angelic provenance) as opposed to doing something from any type of excruciating zest (with its implication of demonic revulsion). This would make compassion an act of grace, whereby anyone – no matter their state of mind – would find their life enhanced by a virtue of no commercial value.
Flash mobs exemplify the power of positive tinkering with a spirit of exhilaration invading the mundane; carols, choruses and concertos being staged in malls, lobbies and on street corners. The secrecy with which they maneuver their audience into an unexpected and unearned chance at beauty makes them co-conspirators with a passion to charm the happiest as well as the most jaded of us. Unfortunately, unless we know someone in the band, we simply cannot plan to be in the right place at the right time in order to be surprised by joy. But we can always find complicity in the internet with its many links to the conspiracy of musical compassion. Enjoy!