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Drunk, Sober, High: Recital Hall Tuning

There’s nothing like the classical tunes straight from a violin or piano to put the mind at ease — even when it’s under the influence.

With the Penn State School of Music opening its new recital hall this week, administrators were looking for volunteers to simply sit and enjoy the beautiful music as the venue was tuned. We chose three lucky writers to willingly get drunk, high, or stay sober for the event. These are their recollections of the occasion.

Drunk

I’m by no means a classical music folk — nor a big jazz boy — but there was something peaceful about being filled with the vibes of what the School of Music had to offer and way too many rum & cokes.

The interesting experience started like any other night out — I pregamed much longer than intended, was going to be late, and missed even more because I had no clue where I was going. Here’s a lesson: Figure out where you’re supposed to be going before drinking, and if you do want to trust your instincts, don’t start looking up where the venue is while you could’ve just looked to your right and seen that you were next to it.

Once I finally did get inside, the room was amazing. Sober, High, and I settled in to some violinists, who truly bump. Then some dude came on the stage — probably with the School of Music, but it’s more fun to think he was just a fan — and told them, in more official terms, to play some bangers.

This was truly like research. Whether it’s “Dancing Queen” in the Gaff, or violinists with their ~fancy~ tunes, drunk people will rage. I was feeling the vibes of those strings. 

The recital hall holds 400 people and it was far from full. Still, I was taken back a bit by how many were there. There are some classy folk in State College, apparently. None of them looked excited, though. It was like they were analyzing it, which I guess makes sense, but why so serious?

Meanwhile in our corner of the arena, I just sort of smiled and grooved my head offbeat from the tunes. It felt like we stood out, I guess. It just doesn’t make sense why you’d come to see this and look like you aren’t enjoying it at all. I mean, imagine the students on stage looking out at the stone-cold mob.

It did seem like High was more used to this than either Sober or I were. While Sober was Shazaming the music, and it returned as variations of Avicii songs (???), High’s mom called and didn’t seem like she was phased by, “Yeah, I’m at a classical music recital.” High also could name the instruments, some of which I’d never heard of, and helpfully pointed out at one point, “It’s that one — the big jawn.” Who ever said Philly folk aren’t classy?

Sober

Going into this, I was a little nervous about the probability of me staying quiet because I have a terrible cough. I also had to pee during the first performance, but I was too scared to leave because I didn’t want to miss anything or risk being shut out from a performance.

Drunk and High didn’t arrive until the second string quintet, so I sat through the first string quintet alone struggling to figure out what songs were being played. No one announced or introduced any songs all night. This was definitely meant for more cultured students.

It was interesting to watch the directors interrupt to critique the performers. They ran though performances more than once, testing different combinations with the sound absorbing devices on the walls. To my untuned ear, they all sounded the same.

I was doing French homework, but High and Drunk staring at the ceiling lights after High pointing out that they look like stained glass windows, and Drunk asking, “Do you think they stole them from a church?” was too funny for me to ignore, especially considering there was a performance going on.

I laughed so hard it triggered my cough. While trying to stop because I didn’t want to be disruptive, I missed what led to High saying, “I’ll be the priest.”

When the crew opened the doors below the benches for the grand piano to be brought onto the stage, Drunk leaned forward and said to me, “The bulls have been released,” and then had an epiphany. “That’s where the statue is.”

The solo pianist was exceptional, but I have no idea what she was playing because, again, no one told us. She seemed passionate about all three songs, and it was captivating. But after her performance, it became difficult to experience the concert separately from Drunk and High.

The soloist was asked to play one more song. After she started, Drunk looked at me again and said, “This is the Charlie Brown theme song,” while High tried to figure out the actual song. I still don’t know if that was a real guess. I Shazammed the song on Snapchat in an attempt to help and it told us we were listening to a live vocal performance of Avicii. High said not so quietly, “This is not Avicii.”

I think the most memorable part of the concert wasn’t the concert itself; It was a set of curtains closing across the room during the jazz ensemble. As a curtain came over the walls, High said, “You can’t watch,” as if chastising the wall for misbehaving. When Drunk and I asked for clarification, High said, “The walls are being punished. They can’t watch anymore.” After that, neither could I.

High

I was actually very excited for this. I’m a big jazz and classical folk and was looking forward to enjoying some nice music. I also found out that the new recital hall was what was being built behind Forum all last year, so I was interested to see what the final product looked like. I was pretty blown away — the building was so beautiful and looked like a great place to catch a show.

Sober was already there, but I had to wait for the first performance to finish before I could get inside the main hall. I got to hear a really nice man talk all about how the place was built and how lucky the students performing there were.

It was all very soothing, and my high ass was enjoying every minute of it. Drunk met me outside and we went to sit next to Sober in the main hall. All the performers were so talented and it was great to just mellow out after a long day. It looked like a church inside — even the lights looked like stained glass windows.

Drunk and I started talking about some other uses this building could have, like the world’s greatest ping-pong arena or a gladiatorial combat zone. During this, however, is when my parents decided to call me to wish me a happy birthday. It was a sudden and surprising turn of events that left me flabbergasted and unsure of how to react. I stumbled through the conversation, seeming to laugh more than talk, as Drunk and Sober cackled next to me like two maniacal banshees.

Like a true journalist, I took notes. So, here are some other thoughts:

  • Pianos are shaped like a penis with one testicle — a “Lance Armstrong,” if you will.
  • Every time one of the piano players started off, the beginning chord progression made me think of “Sound of Silence.”
  • The JoePa statue has a new potential home behind the stage where they keep the piano.
  • I could not for the life of me figure out what language the opera singers were singing in.
  • Despite what Sober’s Shazam said, the piano piece she searched was not Avicii (RIP).
  • The music professors were really in the performer’s faces, always interrupting them to ask them to play louder and play “more lively” pieces. This was “not supposed to be fun,” according to one guy. Drunk and I thought one lady professor was a fan the entire time who just wanted to give her two cents on everything.

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