April 2013

Concert Etiquette: Some Dos and Don'ts for the Modern Concert Hall

April 8, 2013 00:20

*This 'article' was inspired by real life experiences experienced by the author and is intended to be funny.

The modern audience is very different from audiences in the past. It retains the discerning ear and adds on some newer elements-products of 'modern times'. The role of the audience at any concert is an important one, and I have compiled a brief list of some of the more advanced techniques employed by audiences around the world. Although these complex skill-sets have taken decades to accrue and thousands of combined practice hours, they are surprisingly easy for the Modern concert enthusiast to pick up. I guess it has something to do with how amazingly good humans are at adapting to new situations. But I digress.

1) The Ringtone Medley

This is probably the most basic of all audience techniques and will form the foundation for more advanced exercises (don't worry; we will get to these later). Remember that request to turn off your cellphones at the beginning of the concert? If you don't do it, it's probably because you have already instinctively mastered this technique. If you do remember, IGNORE this ridiculous 'request' as if your life depended on it. Be cool though, we don't want anyone to suspect anything. Teamwork is essential if this technique is to be successful. The perfect performance of the ‘Ringtone Medley’ involved multiple cellphones going off simultaneously. Performers will never admit it but they LIVE for these stolen moments during concerts! Musicians really love music.It's what they think about 24/7. Any good musician should be extremely thrilled to hear a distorted techno version of Fur Elise in the middle of their solo performance of a Bach Partita. If a performer tells you otherwise; it means that they are afraid that the ringtone will sound better than their playing. In conclusion, ALWAYS LEAVE YOUR CELLPHONE ON!! It's a rookie move to turn it off, seriously.

2) The Chatterbox

This technique requires more mental focus than the 'Ringtone Medley'. The premise is simple: one deeply committed audience member decides to give a running commentary on the performance, similar to the sort of thing a sport commentator does. If a duet performance is required, two people can indulge in rambling small talk about last year’s weather in loud whispers for the duration of every slow movement on the program. Although this skill is focused on solo performances by audience members, any beginner can pick it up easily. Just remember to ignore disapproving looks-avoid eye contact at all cost!

3) Laughter is the Best Medicine

Laughing is something we all do naturally and easily. Well-timed laughter is often what makes or breaks a performance. Here are some pointers:

a. Laugh loudly and often

b. Always laugh in between movements (this fills in those awkward silences quite nicely)

c. Laugh whenever the performer makes a mistake (it helps diffuse the tension)

Laughing in the concert hall is way better for you than laughing outside the concert hall. If you laugh during concerts you will probably live twice as long!

4) When to Start Clapping

Are you always unsure when to clap? Do you ask yourself questions like: “Should I follow the crowd or strike out on my own?” Well, it’s really simple if you remember these rules:

a. Clap as soon as the performer starts playing the final note (or whatever you think is the final note, it doesn’t matter in the end)

b. Clap in between movements (IMPORTANT!!)

c. If you are really enjoying yourself at ANY point, CLAP along with the music-preferably out of sync with the performer’s tempo-no one wants to hear a fake metronome.

5) A Note on Programs

Since most concert-goers are flummoxed by these crinkly pieces of paper; I think this topic deserves its own bullet point. Some members of the audience insist on reading the program. Well, do what you must, but please try to do it during the quiet sections of the performance. The performer will appreciate hearing the crackling of programs during an Adagio movement because it means that there is a small chance that audience knows what he or she is playing.

6) The Pianissimo Solo

This is probably the most advanced technique of audience performance repertoire and requires tremendous focus and hours of dedicated practice. Only the most serious concert-goers even attempt this: novices beware! To begin, simply pay close attention to the dynamics of the piece and once you hear a decrescendo, start imaging the Sahara desert. This is very mentally taxing so it is probably a good idea to try this out in the safety of a practice room with a recording before attempting it during a live performance. Thinking of the Sahara desert should make you thirsty, which in turn should make you feel like coughing. It is an excellent way to ‘warm-up’ for your performance. Once the musician on stage reaches pianissimo, cough as loudly as you can. Skilled audience members some times throw in a sneeze or two as well, but that sort of thing is like the Paganini caprices of audience repertoire, so don’t be disappointed if it takes you decades to be able to perfect this technique.

7) The Cough Drop Maneuver

Even the youngest concert-goers can accomplish this tricky maneuver with ease. Basically, pretend that you are in a slow motion scene of a sci-fi movie (this will get you into the correct mental state) and proceed to unwrap a cough drop as slowly as humanly possible. The crackly-er the better!

However, if you are planning a number 6 performance I would not suggest eating cough drops.


Well, I think I covered everything. Happy Concert Going!!!! ;)
(c) J. Joseph 2013

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