Cough vigilante

Please excuse me, but I have reached a threshold and need to vent. Are there that many sick people going to concerts or are most of these recorded coughs intentional? I am beginning to feel something like road rage and find myself daydreaming about forcefully escorting them out of the concert hall to the thunderous applause of the musicians. Do you recommend therapy, (for me,) or should I just take advantage of Eldragon’s [best beer] tweak before listening sessions? Most all input appreciated. Charlie
HAHAHAHAH....... I really don't listen to much "live" recordings of classical music at all, but have noticed the same thing. The local classical station ( WFMT Chicago ) was broadcasting a concert and it was LOADED with hackers, chokers and wheezer's. I found it EXTREMELY annoying just listening to it over the air, let alone if i had paid good money to try and enjoy it. My suggestion is to shoot the bastards BUT use a silencer when doing it : ) Sean
I recently auditioned several preliminary DAT masters taken from the mixing board of Delos recording sessions. These featured the Dallas Symphony Orchestra with Andrew Litton. The coughs, sneezes and other unwanted noises you mention in your posting were indeed present, along with the music. To avoid this occurring on the final release, cough drops are issued at the door, along with posted requests for patrons to turn off all electronics, including Palm Pilot alarms, beeping watches, pagers and cell phones. Then just before the concert, there is a polite but pointed announcement made reminding everyone that a master recording is being made of the performance. The audience is requested not to spindle or drop papers, jewelry, pocket change or keys, and if possible, avoid unnecessary movement until a break in the performance. After all these precautions are taken, flaws are repaired or diminished digitally in post production. The final result is that people such as yourself, may enjoy the music with fewer interruptions than if you had attended in person. These annoyances present in a final release are controlled to a great extent by the conductor, the producer and the engineer involved. Fortunately, there are artists that share your frustration and seek the same level of perfection you desire. It is accomplished by first gaining the respect and cooperation of the listening audience and then when required, using technology to produce a release that is as close to perfection as a live audience recording will permit.
I recall someone once referring to a live piece of music that we went to see as "Double concerto for violin and hacking cough".
Here in NJ, Maestro Macaal has had to turn in the middle of some concerts and beg the audience to try to keep their coughing to a minimum. When recording for archives or for Delos, the announcements mentioned by Albert have been made as well before the concert. The same acoustics in the NJ Performing Arts Center that make it possible for Macaal to bring the orchestra to a pppp on some pieces also work the other way--he and some of the orchestra members have told me that coughs can sound like bombs on stage. My practice has been that if I have a bad cold and cough, I'll have to give my tickets to a friend; otherwise I think that inattention is a reason some otherwise healthy people cough at these performances, and I must admit that does grate on me at times. And don't get me started on the time I was at a NY Philharmonic concert a couple of years ago and cell phones went off TWICE in the performance!!! That is inexcusable. Thanks for letting me vent, Charlie, you are not alone.
i'm a little shy about admitting this. when i was a mischievious teen attending classical concerts i would cough during a lull in the program just to see how many others would react to my suggestion and follow suit. result never less than two, haha.
...and how ironic that some concert-goers "time" their exclamations for the quieter passages, somehow "thinking" this is LESS interruptive of the music!
Well, spring is coming, and with it higher relative humidity in artificially heated halls, and consequently fewer scratchy throats needing clearing. Phew!
Do you know the difference between Orlando and a cup of yogurt? The yogurt has an active culture. It is impractical to list in the concert program all the things that people shouldn't do during a classical music performance, but here in O-town, it's tempting. The admonition might read: During the concert, please refrain from coughing, sneezing, whispering, shuffling your feet, reading your program with a penlight flashlight, rustling the pages, dropping your program on the floor, making noise while retrieving it, letting your wristwatch go "beep beep" at the top of every hour, shuffling your feet, crossing your legs and hitting the seat in front of you or the person next to you with your foot, or making a minute-long ordeal out of trying to quietly unwrap the cellophane from a piece of candy during the quietest passage of the entire concert. I have witnessed all this and more here in Orlando, the cultural epicenter of the universe. But my all-time favorite episode was the one in which our little ol' mayor gal took the stage to read her pre-concert proclamation, declaring the entire week a tribute to our visiting orchestra from Russia. After presenting the conductor with the honorary keys to the city, she left the stage. Shortly thereafter, the lights dimmed and the orchestra began to play. Only then did our illustrious mayor make her way down the row to her seat (we have no center aisle), tripping over feet in the dark and excusing herself all the way as she went. When she finally found her seat and plunked down in it, she was right next to me. Throughout the entire concert, she and the gentleman seated on the other side of her, presumably her husband, exchanged comments about the performance. No wonder the number one radio station in town has a country format. Let's hear it for hillbillies tryin' to act all grown up and big city-like. Believe me, a simple cough pales in comparison.

Every time I read a post such as yours I'm reminded of why so much of my money has gone into elaborate stereo equipment and sources. Am full up with the coughers, whisperers, candy unwrappers, cell phoners et al. BTW, it's no better here in the big city; just a bunch of Northern hillbillies who also don't know decorum from a tropical fish. Exasperating, ain't it?
This isn't PLS1, but his wife, EMM4 (don't have my own log-in yet, as this is my first post).

In 30 years of concert-going, it's gotten worse. At CSO concerts in the 70's it wasn't too bad, even in the winter, but we sat in the Gallery (best acoustics) and Solti and the boys were so loud one couldn't hear the coughers anyway. Plus the little old Viennese widow next to us (we had her late husband's seat) handed out cough drops and hissed at offenders, so our section was pretty well behaved.

These days at SF symphony concerts, the coughing problem is as you all have noted, outrageous, almost as bad as the movies. And the audience is remarkably stupid about when to applaud (please, folks, not between movements, and let the pppp die away before leaping to your feet). But the orchestra is a bunch of slackers and the acuostics suck anyway, so it's just a further annoyance.

On the other hand, opera audiences in SF, at least in the Orchestra section this season, are quite well behaved (but I nearly died last season stifling a cough that started at the opening notes of Vissa d'arte; I had tears in my eyes throughout the aria, although not from the performance.) Lesson is, one can stifle even the worst cough if willing to give all for Art.

Back in Chicago, we once had box mates at the Lyric who were impossible (coughing, talking, snoring, etc.) Finally, we and the other couple in the box campaigned to drive them out, an effort which involved, among other things, glaring, hissing and even hitting them with rolled-up programs. The last straw was during Rheingold, when the offending husband whispered sotto (not very) voce to his wife, "that's the Tarnhelm", whereupon all 4 of us turned around and hissed, "No shit!". They did not renew the next season.
EMM4, your efforts have qualified you for the official "cough vigilante" club membership. Welcome aboard!
EMM4, if you ever move to the NYC area we're calling you in as an enforcer at the NJPAC!
You're touching on an interesting phenomenon. Even in winter, sitting in a tram or bus, sitting in some waiting room or flying in a plane, you'll notice less coughing than even with small audiences in a musical event. I've often wondered why this is. Perhaps a saying in German can give a hint here, where the statement of "I'll give him a cough" is a sign of veiled disagreement, combined with some anger. So, to my mind, there are so many people, who just cannot be still, cannot bear to have others perform and take the stage. So they have to make themselves heard. All this is not conscious of course, but its a sign of discomfort and a subtle rising of inner anger. Why go to concerts then, may you ask, well, many go, because its "done", get bored and and unconsciously have to voice it. Also coughing wells up in the short intermission between different movements of a given piece. It is as if they now also want to have their "say". Only MHO, a hypothesis however, which I'm comfortable with. Cough-cough! to all who disagree, " denen huste ich eins " or I'll cough them one..which is what this saying is in original German.
Detlof, seems you're on to something there. I had always attributed these noisy phenomena to nervousness or wondered why the world's representatives of the common cold invariably congregate around me, wherever I sit, in any venue, in any city! A noteworthy exception being a gentleman next me recently, visibly suffering from a whopping cold -- who, as EMM4 above, was dead quiet throughout the concert...
On another footing, can you all imagine the plight of some people having to sit still through 2 1/2 hrs of Wagner -- because "it's done" (and miss their favourite TV show, too!)... Better still, Mahler's 8th?
Greg, its Bruckner who does this to me!!! (Except his chamber music, though) Cheers,
I have been following this thread for the last two days and planned on contributing my thoughts on this unfortunate phenomenon today Sunday. Detlof, you have expressed my thoughts on this perfectly. I can only add that unfortunately, this behavior is not found only in "high brow" concert halls; I say "high brow" because that is the shallow realm that the experience of attending a fine performance stays in, for some individuals. We find the same behavior, and worse, at Jazz clubs where so many in the "audience" are clearly there not for the music, but to socialize at a "hip" night spot, and think nothing wrong of talking incessantly.

But please, let's not give up on or become cynical about the live music experience as a result of this annoyance. No experience is perfect, and in a way, this is a reminder of some of the things that make the live experience so great: the unpredictability and energy, good and bad, that goes with the territory. Live, feeling, human beings making art on a stage for an audience will touch us in a way so deep, that as Detlof points out, is just too much for some to handle.
Frogman, how right you are, I remember the great Abdullah Ibrahim, at this time he still called himself
Dollar Brand, getting livid with rage at the famous "Africana" Jazz Club here in Zurich, because the folks just chatted away. He was (rightly!!) so rudely outspoken, that he was not allowed to play anymore at the club. We were friends then and went out and got wonderfully drunk. A few weeks later he flew off to the US and was discovered by Duke Ellington...........
Thanks for sharing. Regards.
Detlof, very interesting. Just when I want to call on my "darker angels" I am reminded of the fragility of the human psyche. Damn, you take the fun out of a good ass whippin. [:)] Really, I could only hope to have any of you to attend a concert with. Happy listening, coughing and all. Charlie
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