on discipline

“The hills are alive with the sound of music...”

The Hollywood Bowl, situated in the Hollywood hills of Los Angeles is truly iconic. Being the largest amphitheater in the United States with a seating capacity of 18,000, the Bowl has witnessed many stellar performances ever since its inception in 1922. The area around the Bowl hosts picnic spots where music enthusiasts can bring wine and food and dine and make merry. I love going to the Bowl for a variety of reasons but today I am going to focus on discipline.

In India we have a screwed up sense of discipline. It’s fashionable to be late. If you walk in to an appointment half an hour later, you are considered to be an important person. In America, you can’t afford to be late. It might cost you a job, security, and most of all, credibility.

I am always amazed at the discipline exhibited at the Bowl. The outdoor summer concerts begin at 8 p.m and you can fix your watch on the basis of this because rest assured they would begin exactly at 8. The people are seated in their designated seats. At the last classical concert I went to, there were two rows of seats empty before me. In India, people would scamper up from the seats behind and move forward. Here no one does that. People sat huddled together in their seats, without an inch of space to move or croon their neck but this did not cause them to move ahead.

Every concert begins with the US national anthem. You will witness 18,000 people rising on their feet with great patriotism looking ahead eagerly at the American flag. I remember, in India, we had to be told “please stand up for the national anthem” before you got at least 50% of the crowd to stand up. The rest 50% just didn’t care.

The Bowl concerts are great fun because they let you bring in drinks and food. Unlike in India, however, people hardly litter or cause disturbance to their neighbors while eating. People don’t talk; their phones are silenced or switched off. People in big groups are mindful of the neighbors. When the concert begins, there is silence that prevails.

The kids need a special mention. Here, I’ve seen 4-5 year olds attentively listening to Dudamel conduct Tchaikovsky, without complaining or being bored. The West inculcates in children an aptitude for art, music, and the real good things in life. My mother used to attend a lot of Carnatic music concerts while I was growing up. I remember the tantrums I threw to escape being pulled along for a concert!

All this suggests a great sense of discipline among the Bowl goers. People stand in queues, they are mindful of other people, they respect each other and they are all here for a collective cause- to listen to some great music. Discipline need not always be seen as conformity, obeying the rules. In the case of the Bowl, discipline can be seen as respect for the higher form of music, the music being the end all of everything, even greater than the musician itself. Respect the music because that’s what you are truly there for.