Scientist ejected from classical concert for 'attempting to crowdsurf'

David Glowacki, an expert in non-equilibrium molecular reaction dynamics and visiting professor at Stanford, is removed by fellow audience members. He is said to have been experimenting with the rules of behavior.

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Crowdsurfing requires the support of the masses. MarkBarbour5/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Science exists to disrupt.

Sometimes, as we've discovered in recent years, that disruption can be especially painful to those stuck in their ways.

Sometimes, those primed to protect the status quo resist.

That may have happened in the case of David Glowacki, visiting professor at Stanford University. An expert in non-equilibrium molecular reaction dynamics, Glowacki attended a performance of Handel's "Messiah" at the Bristol Old Vic in England.

As Ireland's Independent reported, attendees were invited to express themselves more freely. For too long, classical concerts have been stuffy affairs. So here, clapping and whooping were actively encouraged. Shushing was frowned upon, too.

Glowacki, perhaps understandably wanted to examine how much these Brits meant what they said. So witnesses describe him as, among other things, attempting to crowdsurf.

The thing about crowdsurfing is that it requires the co-operation of others. In this case, it wasn't forthcoming. Indeed, Glowacki was removed from the concert.

Tom Morris, the artistic director of the Old Vic, told the Independent: "David was investigating what the nature of the rules are using the skills that make him an extraordinary scientist -- and for some in the audience, a slightly irritating one."

This is exactly the attitude that has divided the arts and sciences for too long. The arts claim to be the bastion of freedom of expression. When science probes that very freedom, it is slapped down like a drunken nerd at a frat party.

Glowacki explained it to the Independent like this: "Classical music, trying to seem cool and less stuffy, reeks of some sort of fossilised art form undergoing a midlife crisis."

I fear it has done for some time.

Glowacki claims he was "physically assaulted, knocked down to the floor and forcibly dragged out by two classical vigilantes."

He was not, he insisted, the worse for wear. He said: "This may be a consequence of me being American, but I can quite easily be provocative without the need to be inebriated."

In recent times, art has become a recessive presence in the face of science's resolute march. Science and technology have consistently invented new things and new ways to behave.

Could an artist ever have created the poke, the Snapchat and the Instagram share? I doubt it.

How quaint, then, that art still mans the barricades in the face of science's questioning of social and artistic norms.

It's true that if science keeps going down many of its current paths, we'll end up being little more than a number.

However, if art has its way, we'll still be staring reverently at the few square inches of the Mona Lisa in 500 years' time. Which sounds like no fun at all.

 

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