The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: Copenhagen, Denmark sure likes Flash Mobs. Just listen to members of the Copenhagen Philharmonic performing Grieg’s “Peer Gynt” and Ravel’s “Bolero.” | May 15, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

I remember a “60 Minutes” story about how the so-called “melancholy Danes” are actually the most satisfied citizens in the world.

True, they pay a lot of taxes. But in the interviews, it quickly became apparent that people like that just fine since such taxation also brings them excellent health care, state-paid higher education, generous maternity and paternity leave, public transportation, and many other social and personal benefits. (And so far, I don’t hear Denmark included in discussions of Europe’s debt problems.)

Maybe that level of public satisfaction also helps to explain why members of the Copenhagen Philharmonic like to stage “flash mob” versions of symphonic music in subway cars and railroad stations

To remind people: Flash mobs are populist in nature;  and though apparently spontaneous and spur-of-the-moment, they are in reality very well planned and synchronized events where music just starts happening outside concert halls or the usual and traditional venues. Some flash mobs are instrumental, but most seem to use group singing, especially for the “Hallelujah Chorus” by Handel.

Do you like the good life? Not for nothing is Copenhagen known as the “Paris of the North.”

Here, for example, are two videos of the flash mob events that have gone viral.

The first one, from last year, is Ravel‘s “Bolero” played in the city’s main railroad station. It has brought over 5 MILLION hits to YouTube. It is also a perfect piece for a gathering flash mob as the repetitive melody and rhythm hop around from one instrument or section to another.

The most recent one, just a week ago, is a version the soaring and stirring “Dawn” movement  of Grieg’s popular “Peer Gynt,” which the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra played in Madison at the Wisconsin Union Theater a couple of season ago. The Danes play it in a subway car full of commuters. So far, that video has brought in over 2 MILLION hits — and brought me to tears. To have such beauty in the amid the hubbub of our daily life and at the beginning of the work day is truly inspired! I expect many more millions of hits to come.

Take a look and listen:

And just to remind you: Flash mobs also happen in Madison at the Farmers Market, the state Capitol and the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Here is a link to several:…0.0.yo3I5hOWatA

What do you think of the flash mob phenomenon in general?

What did you think of these Copenhagen flash mobs?

What make Copenhagen special as a place for flash mobs.

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. “Dawn” brought me to tears, too. I would treasure the memory were I to find myself in the midst of a cultural flash mob in a railroad station. Unfortunately Madison doesn’t have a working railroad station – not even a working bus station. So what Madison location should MSO think about for their first flash mob?

    Comment by Emily W — May 16, 2012 @ 1:34 pm

  2. “What do you think of the flash mob phenomenon in general?”

    I love it. I’m a big fan of non sequitur and I (mostly) like it when life throws surprises at us. Probably why I like Monty Python.

    The exuberance of the flashers (?), the reactions of the observers, the shock of the planned spontaneity. They don’t always work – what does? But often they’re great fun.

    My personal favorite is the also the first one I ever saw: “Do Re Mi” in the train station in Antwerp, Belgium (of all places). I love the looks on peoples’ faces and the guy and the little girl at the very beginning who start the whole thing off.

    By the way, on a recent road trip the family fell into an inadvertent spoonerism, so now we call them Mash Flobs.

    Comment by Marius — May 15, 2012 @ 8:25 pm

  3. Cultural flashmob (with strong music, theater, dance or art elements) I think is a fantastic way to reconnect with the audience. Susan above brought up a good point—there’s too much Muzak out there; however,that doesn’t mean what has been included into the canon of Muzak is always bad. We hear Vivaldi a lot as background music; does it make “The Four Seasons bad”? Not really. Flashmob is just like the growing “eat local” and farmers market movements. It’s an excellent way to let people realize that music doesn’t just magically come out of a speaker or pair of headphones. It’s created by musicians with flesh, blood, sweat and emotion; and everyone can connect to it. It’s not the only way to make such connection, but it surely is a fun way to start!

    Comment by Jerry Hui — May 15, 2012 @ 12:13 pm

  4. If it’s good music, a flash mob is a joy. If it’s the same junk music blasted at us at restaurants, gas stations, shopping malls and from commercial radio, it’s assault and battery.

    Comment by Susan Fiore — May 15, 2012 @ 9:20 am

    • Hi Susan,
      I will absolutely second that opinion!
      But usually: so far, so good.
      Thanks for reading an writing.

      Comment by welltemperedear — May 15, 2012 @ 9:40 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,201 other followers

    Blog Stats

    • 2,077,070 hits
%d bloggers like this: