V.com weekend vote: What is the most annoying extra noise at a concert?

January 29, 2016, 1:15 PM · Cough drops, lollipops -- why is the crackly sound of a candy wrapper so annoying in a symphony hall?

Let's face it, classical music thrives on fine details, and the ideal backdrop for listening to it is silence. Those details come across best in a special space with fine-tuned acoustics for capturing and conveying the music as it is created.

Of course, those fine-tuned acoustics also serve to amplify noises that aren't actually part of the music: coughing, unwrapping candy, rustling papers, whispering, cell-phone beeping. That's part of the reason a small noise that normally would not be terribly annoying (turning a page) takes on a much more annoying quality in the context of a concert hall. We can be forgiven -- when we've dressed up, taken off the night, paid good money, looked forward to the experience -- for being a bit perturbed when a precious musical moment that some 90 people have contrived to create gets ruined by the beep of a cell phone.

A few days ago, Philippe Quint was laughing at himself over something that happened on an airport: "I was sitting on the plane, and suddenly someone behind me started to open a very loud candy wrapper. I am so used to giving dirty looks to the person in the audience making noise, that by habit, I gave this person THE LOOK - only to realize that I am neither performing, nor sitting in the audience!"

So Philippe is the inspiration for this vote: What kind of extraneous noise do you find to be most annoying in the concert hall?

offending wrapper
Cough drop, lollipop -- unwrap it before the concert!

Maybe it's something else, if so, please tell us about it below, in the comments!


January 30, 2016 at 03:28 AM · I voted back-lit rectangle noise, having a slight edge over talking.

I'm not enjoying the renaissance of copious, liberal application of heavy perfumes.

January 30, 2016 at 04:12 AM · I have to agree with Anne. We had to change our seats at intermission to remove ourselves from the obnoxious odor! It was truly annoying!!

January 30, 2016 at 04:47 AM · I almost had to remove myself from a woman sitting in front of me...who reeked of stale cooking odor. It is not just perfumes that are overwhelming.

January 30, 2016 at 06:15 AM · I think concert halls should actually provide the patrons with cough drops because the sound of coughing is the worst during a performance.

January 30, 2016 at 02:05 PM · Among my fantasies is to compose the Double Concerto for Concert-Goers and Orchestra. The male and female soloists are seated on stage, she with a purse, containing all those things that annoy an audience during a concert. The opening is marked Molto sussurando. He presents with a loud cough as the orchestra plays, then loudly whispers a request for a cough drop. She then rummages fortissimo through her purse before extracting a pair of cough drops. Together the duet crumple open the plastic wrappers then pop the hard-candied medications into their mouths, clacking the cough drops against their teeth.

I think you get the idea…

January 30, 2016 at 03:54 PM · Snoring is most distressing for a performer. As a listener, I was once sitting behind someone who while making no appreciable noise, must have been experiencing severe GI distress; every few minutes he produced the most noxious stench.

January 30, 2016 at 04:32 PM · I voted "People talking/Screaming baby," which turns out to have the highest tally at this hour -- 43% -- out of 120 votes.

My schedule precludes the concert hall these days. The former, people talking, I don't recall being much of a problem. The latter, screaming baby, I didn't experience firsthand; but that, to me, would have been the most disruptive and annoying of all. You can’t ignore it, and it demands action -- for the sake of the kid and other patrons. The concert hall is no place for babies. You'd hope their parents might show a little more consideration and not risk subjecting others to their, oh, so precious little ones in that environment. Some parents, it seems, have a little growing up to do themselves.

January 30, 2016 at 04:53 PM · Talking is not a huge problem at concerts, I agree with Jim about that. On the other hand I often find that someone will come on stage to make an announcement beforehand, and people will continue talking through that. I think that's very rude. As soon as that person comes on, your talking should end, abruptly. I also find it frustrating when I go to the movies and people continue their conversations through the previews. I like to watch the previews, and I think I've paid for that as part of my ticket price.

Children should not hold programs. Programs are noise-makers. Ironically programs are given to children precisely so that they can have something to do with their hands and presumably fidget less.

I'm okay with the person next to me unwrapping a candy or a cough drop. I'm not okay with them doing it v*e*r*y s*l*o*w*l*y because they think it's quieter that way. It's not.

Interestingly even though (or perhaps because) I'm a nervous performer, I'm less bothered by these behaviors when I'm on stage than when I'm in the audience for a concert or recital that I've been anticipating for weeks.

January 30, 2016 at 06:48 PM · I was in an orchestra giving a concert in a town - let's just say it's not a usual concert venue! We were doing the Eroica with George Hurst conducting - one of my favourite conductors - and we'd worked very hard on the hushed opening of the second movement. All we could hear was the rustle of sweet papers. George stopped us and told the audience off, then we re-started the movement. With the requested dead silence. The silence persisted at the end of the piece, with virtually no applause, and in my time in the orchestra we never played there again.

January 31, 2016 at 05:47 PM · The bottom of each page of the program should say "Please don't rustle, fold, spindle, staple, or otherwise mutilate your paper program while the performance is underway. Especially not during the quiet bits. And for God's sake don't let young children hold them at all. Otherwise Maestro Whats-His-Name is going to get crabby."

I've often thought that audience members -- except for the really truly snobby ones -- would actually appreciate a page in the program that reminds of of basic program etiquette, such as when it's okay to applaud, what to expect if you remain in the lobby two minutes into the first piece after intermission, avoiding rustling your program, where to send checks for making donations, etc.

February 2, 2016 at 07:25 AM · For me it's less the unwrapping of candies but smacking noises that set my teeth on edge. And sure enough, I always end up within hearing range of someone who is sucking and smacking happily away on his cough drop.

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