Sunday, June 14, 2009

Admission, granted

I like concerts.  I like going to concerts.  I like them to the near-exclusion of recordings from my life. But I must admit that I'm not always a perfect concert-goer.  I have, for example,  yawned during a concert. Yawning is rude and distracting to both the performers and the audience.  I shouldn't yawn during a concert.  I have also fallen asleep during a concert*.  That should probably be avoided as well. During intermissions, I sometimes move to more expensive seats that have been vacated. And, of course, as a penurious student, I did steal my way into more than one concert. Sometimes whole concert series or festivals. On occasion, I have left concerts at intermission and — albeit with somewhat less frequency — I have departed the hall in the middle of a piece.  I have coughed, to be sure.  Also sneezed.  I have made crispy plastic noises while opening packages of mints or cough drops, trying to avoid coughing or sneezing. I have sat in squeaky chairs and been unable to stifle all sqeaks.  I have worn shoes that squeak. When suffering stress, my jar has been known to crack.  Not quietly. I have dropped programs, books, sun- and/or reading glasses, articles of clothing, backpacks, briefcases, picnic baskets,  canned beverages, and — but only once — a bentō box during concerts.  I have expressed displeasure by not clapping.  But for all that, I do not talk while music is being played during concerts and I do not have a mobile phone, pager, portable music player, or wristwatch with an alarm that might go off.  Nor have I ever worn clothing so distractive as to compete with the music for the audience's attention.  To be absolutely fair, most of the things I have dropped have fallen on cushioned chairs or carpeted floors.  And while yes, a fallen bentō box is indeed annoying, but a tiffin or a schoolchild's tin lunchbox or carkeys or a handful of cutlery would be that and more so! My cracking jaw is a legitimate medical condition.   And supressing a cough or sneeze is often a hell of a lot more distracting than actually having the damn cough or sneeze and getting on with it.  And, pardon me, but I have never booed, hissed, or demonstratively exited any performance that didn't really have it coming.

In fact, I'd say that altogether, I'm just about your perfect concert-goer.   


* I have never fallen asleep in a work of Morton Feldman's, by the way.  But I have watched three men — my father, the late musicologist and philosopher Daniel Charles, and Feldman himself — all doze off during Feldman concerts.  Charles, a large man, snored loudly — if ironically — throughout a performance of Feldman's Piano, but somehow managed to wake, as if by some form of electric shock controlled by clockwork, promptly and impressively, given his gallic tonnage, at the piece's end, rising to his feet and shouting "bravo!"



Lisa Hirsch said...

I dropped the full score of Naive and Sentimental Music on the floor between the first and second movements of its San Francisco premiere, with Alan Gilbert conducting and Adams in the house someplace. I was sitting dead center in about row 10 of the orchestra section of Davies, too - because I was reviewing the concert.

fredösphere said...

I'm going to ignore the likelihood that your cracked "jar" was really a "jaw" and instead imagine what it was that was released into the environment when the jar cracked. Lightning bugs, maybe? Ten years worth of carefully collected and hoarded farts, perchance? Mayhap it was your last $14.83 in pennies? Peradventure you carried a jar full of low-carb marmite into the concert hall? Or Albert Einstein's pickled brain? I'm dying to know.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Or perhaps this is related to Wallace Stevens's Anecdote of the Jar.

Daniel Wolf said...

Sorry to disappoint, Fred and Lisa, but it's another one of my typos (damn speech recog. software). But I'm enjoying your suggestions so much, that the typo is probably best left in.

I've never actually cracked a jar in a concert (actually, Nicholson Baker does mention a piece he was thinking of composing, while studying at Eastman, requiring a percussionist to crack open a sealed SkippyTM peanut butter jar). But if it's any compensation, here are some of the objects I've dropped in concerts which I failed to include in the list above: umbrellas (several times), a camera bag, a trombone case, a dopkit, a pacifier, a flashlight, opera glasses (several times), sheet music, newspapers, uniball micro pens, a rapidograph pen, a flyswatter, a basket of strawberries, and spare change.

(Geez, do you think I should have myself checked for Parkinson's or something?)

However, if I were to open a jar during a concert, I'd probably go with either a jar full of marbles or soap bubble solution, depending on my mood.

Daniel Wolf said...


When you dropped the score, did it land flat on its surface or on an end?

I find that a surface slap is much more impressive, acoustically, than an edge wack.

Lisa Hirsch said...

That score landed absolutely flat, and woke up the dozing guy next to me. How you could doze through a huge and interesting piece like Naive and Sentimental Music escapes me.

What is a "dopkit"?

Daniel Wolf said...


A dopkit is a leather traveling pouch traditionally used by men for carrying shaving items. Odd word.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Indeed it is. And if filled with the right objects and dropped during a concert, it would make a good addition to the percussion.