Allow me to preface this partial review with a disclaimer: I am not an etiquette Nazi. In fact, I myself possess little etiquette. Hell, I use the word “fuckin’” where other people use “uh,” as in “the guy from Shawshank Redemption? Isn’t that fuckinnnnnnnnn…Tim Robbins?” That’s but one example of my downright boorish persona. I bring this up only to provide a reference point for the next couple paragraphs. Suffice it to say, I haven’t read any of the books by, what’s her name, fuckinnnnnn…Emily Post. Hey, any review of a classical music concert that begins with Nazis, the F word, Shawshank, and Emily Post must have been some kind event.
This “review” is dedicated not so much to audience standards in a performance as to the effort to adhere to any standards in life at all, be they in a symphony orchestra audience, a car show, doing your job, or having sex with your partner(s). To make a long story short, the guy sitting directly behind me was a cougher. And not the casual kind where it just seems like they just have a little tickle in their throat. I mean the kind that sounds like they traveled back in time and came back with a case of measles that would have left them dead somewhere around Chimney Rock on the Oregon Trail computer game. It was such a percussive cough as well, and it literally made me flinch each time he did it. Perhaps if it had happened during Shostakovich 12 or Mahler 6 it wouldn’t have bothered me quite so much, but the first piece on the program was the Prelude to the “Afternoon of a Faun” by Debussy. I honestly can’t tell you a single thing about the performance…I was so busy trying to keep my composure and not have a mental breakdown that I almost completely ignored what was going on.
I’d like to speak directly to the cougher in question at this point.
You know, they provide cough drops in the lobby. The fact that you were coughing like that 15 minutes before the concert even began might have been a decent sign that a soothing lozenge was in order. Perhaps you were too busy thinking about how you were also going to fidget in your seat every 45 God damn seconds during the performance, failing to take into account the fact that the hall is mentioned by name in the prophecies of Isaiah (“verily I say unto you, my view is somewhat obstructed”), meaning that every squirm and twist is accompanied by all manner of squeaking and wheezing from the wearily depressed chair. Maybe you accidentally snorted some basil during your pre-concert meal at the Italian restaurant you thought was delicious. Whatever the case, your pitiful lack of effort to maintain even a remotely decent level of respect for the rest of the concertgoers was duly noted by the fat ass in front of you who left solely because of your embarrassing deficiency of tact.
I now return to addressing everyone.
Hold on, back to that guy for one more second.
Seriously, dude. Jesus.
OK, back to everyone.
All that should be required is that the audience make something of an effort to be as courteous and respectful of the music, the performers, and most of all, their fellow audience members. No one is saying that we have to sit in complete silence and with no movement of any kind. But we can at least give it a decent shot. As far as the rest of that crap you read in concert programs goes about proper concert behavior…whatever. You want to clap after the first movement? There’s nothing wrong with letting the performers know you appreciate them. You want to wear sandals and shorts? Whatever will make you comfortable enough to focus on enjoying the performance. But can we please just agree to put forth a reasonable attempt to be quiet? It’s not going to be perfect, and we know this, but that doesn’t mean we can’t shoot to be as courteous as we can.
I left my seat, was offered another seat by a very nice usher, and sat through a performance of The Singing Rooms by Jennifer Higdon, a piece for orchestra, chorus, and solo violin that also featured me still being able to pinpoint Captain McHackingcough each and every time he let loose the snare drum in his esophagus. The piece itself was interesting, from what I can remember not involving someone else’s insides, probably a little too long, but certainly of interest. I am only somewhat familiar with Higdon’s music at this point, but it was certainly a spectacle and not without significant musical merit.
I left at halftime, forsaking both the wonderful Noblissima Visione of Paul Hindemith and Bolero, because I simply couldn’t take it anymore. I’m somewhat ashamed that someone’s coughing shook me off my game enough to drive me to simply leave, but my head space must have been askew before I walked in the door or something. Needless to say, this half a concert will always be remembered by me for the incredible coughing exploits of the dipshit behind me.