What makes a good concert?

A confluence of things. The music, the performance, the venue, the sound, the occasion, the time of day or night, the audience, the state of mind of a particular listener, the way the music might strike the performers or listeners at a given moment, the effect of these things on each other, the eccentricities that make this concert different from any other like it, the samenesses that we look forward to.

The way children love to hear stories, poems, songs again and again, so do adults, but unfortunately we have to justify it to ourselves. Do I have time? Can I afford it? Of the many events I could attend tonight or this week, is this the right choice?

This time, my only question was about time, since I am pressing to put out the autumn issue of Folyosó and still have a lot of editing to do. The editing takes many hours because there’s so much basic correction and formatting involved. When editing, you can wear out your eyes and still miss some little thing—but then, there are pieces that make it worthwhile, again and again. There are students who take writing seriously—and playfully—and are grateful to find their way to readers.

But I figured that I could take my laptop on the train and work there—not always a given, since the train can be noisy and crowded, but worth a try. As it turned out, I had a quiet ride both ways and was able to get a lot done.

The concert (part of a fundraiser for the Waldorfeszt, an independent music festival that may or may not survive) was peculiarly moving, even within the Platon Karataev duo context, where that tends to be the case. One song that I didn’t remember hearing before became a new favorite. Other songs came to me in new ways, maybe because of how they were played, maybe because of what I heard in them this time.

I was not alone. The people around me were rapt, and I talked briefly with two fellow audience members afterwards (whom I have met before, at a recent concert). That’s another part of these concerts: whether you talk with others or not, you know you have something in common with them: this music you have been given, the coming out to hear it, and things you can’t define.

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  • “Setting Poetry to Music,” 2022 ALSCW Conference, Yale University

  • Always Different



    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In April 2022, Deep Vellum published her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.


    On April 26, 2016, Diana Senechal delivered her talk "Take Away the Takeaway (Including This One)" at TEDx Upper West Side.

    Here is a video from the Dallas Institute's 2015 Education Forum.  Also see the video "Hiett Prize Winners Discuss the Future of the Humanities." 

    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

    On February 22, 2013, Diana Senechal was interviewed by Leah Wescott, editor-in-chief of The Cronk of Higher Education. Here is the podcast.


    All blog contents are copyright © Diana Senechal. Anything on this blog may be quoted with proper attribution. Comments are welcome.

    On this blog, Take Away the Takeaway, I discuss literature, music, education, and other things. Some of the pieces are satirical and assigned (for clarity) to the satire category.

    When I revise a piece substantially after posting it, I note this at the end. Minor corrections (e.g., of punctuation and spelling) may go unannounced.

    Speaking of imperfection, my other blog, Megfogalmazások, abounds with imperfect Hungarian.

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