Thursday, October 27, 2005

Sounds off music

When are people going to figure out that all you really need to be a good concert audience is to be quiet? Not to shuffle your feet around or adjust your seat noisily. Not to open and close opera glasses with a snap. Not to whisper sharp little critiques into your neighbours ear while the orchestra is playing. Not to make out as though the future of planetary procreation depended on it. Not to entertain your four year old. Not to drop books / programs or anything else that will hit the floor with a resounding thud or a reverberating clack. No, not any of those things. All you need to be a good audience is to bloody well SHUT UP!!

I mean okay, so maybe there are cultures where coughing loudly through the entire first movement is a sign of appreciation. Perhaps there are planets where devoted aficionados spend days, nay, weeks, finding the one lozenge wrapper that will give the perfect crackle when it's opened in the middle of the adagio. There may even be some remote corner of the galaxy where no opera is considered a success unless at least a dozen children cry out how bored they are in the course of it. But where I live, music is not a participatory sport.

How would all these candy-munching, face smooching, child trawling visigoths feel if we came and did the same to things they (presumably) care about? If we sought them out in the privacy of their sordid back-seat assignations and played Beethoven loudly in their ears just as they were getting past second base. If we went along to their labour rooms and stood around pointing and making loud comments through the entire performance? If we made them sit and listen to the William Tell overture every time they unwrapped another toffee? If all they want to do is munch and kiss and accidentally drop things, why come to a concert, why not just stay at home and watch Monday night football instead?

What amazes me about these people is the precision with which they always manage to come in at exactly the moment where the noise they make will be most easily heard. It's almost as though they have their own little score with all the best interruption points marked. So the orchestra will spend five minutes building into the sort of triumphant crescendo where you can barely hear yourself breathing - and no one will make a sound. But let the music descend to a single sustained note on the flute, and suddenly everyone will need to clear their throats or lean back in their creaking seats. It almost makes you want to jump up and ask if there's an axe-murderer in the house.

Okay, so sometimes you can't help stuff. If you need to sneeze or cough, there isn't really much you can do about it. But at least people could keep their lozenges and stuff unwrapped and not eat things during the concert that make noise (I've actually sat two seats away from someone who brought pistachio nuts, pistachio nuts! in her purse). And at least they could have rules about not bringing in kids below five (or ten. or fifteen.). And why can't concert theatres have a special soundproof box or something for people who know they have a cold and are going to be coughing a lot?

Personally, I've decided I'm going to write a symphony. It'll be called Falstaff's Symphony in F Op 1 SUNS 2 (SUNS stands for Some Unpronouncable Naming System) and will be scored for two dropped programs, two cranky brats, one horny couple, two ringing cell phones, four TB patients, a doddering old lady who sings along to everything, and lozenge wrappers. What's more, when they finally perform it, I will sit in the front row with a violin and play single notes on it every now and then just as a random disturbance. Let's see how they like that.


Mrudula said...

I would like to add socialites in kanjeevaram sarees and anklets who arrive just when the performance is about to begin, so that I have to listen to their sarees rustle and their ANKLETS (for a concert!!!!)CHIME. Or the women who hold doner passes and sit in the first three rows so that their jewellery reflects the light from the stage and they can show off their diamonds when they turn. Or those moronic, tone deaf men these women come with (they want to show off their women)who think mobile phones are accompaniments to the artist. Hariprasad Chaurasia walked out of a performance when one such tone deaf idiot didn't switch off his phone. I wait for the music season to begin in December. Then I have to make excrusiatingly painful decisions about which performances to miss. Then buy tickets, which are obviously in great demand. And when the demand is overwhelming I have to resort to cunning(read ask for favours) to get them. At the end of this tamasha when I find the first three/four rows taken by people who have auditory paralysis I hust feel like smashing their skulls with a sledgehammer. Whew! That felt good! The music season is round the corner and my trauma begins...

Falstaff said...

Mru: I don't know which is worse though - people who get donor passes and show up and act like idiots, or people who have donor passes and don't show up at all, so that after you've struggled to get tickets it turns out that half the auditorium is empty because the people with donor passes didn't make it.

For me the problem with people with donor passes is not even how they behave, it's more the general principle that people who probably weren't that interested anyway have effectively crowded out people who would have loved the performance. This really irritates me, mostly because I'm usually one of the people crowded out.