proposed musical commission

We went to a concert tonight (Present Music), and I hate to grumble the same old grumble, but my new theory is that, just as cats know which people in the room dislike cats (and instinctively gravitate toward those people), certain people with hitherto-undiagnosed allergies to certain musical sounds (primarily quieter ones) are attracted to those very same musical sounds. I’m not sure what else would explain the outbursts of coughing, wheezing, and crumpling of cough-suppressant wrappers that invariably break out at such concerts. Those folks at least have the excuse that a cough is involuntary. Talking, however, is not: shortly after shushing (politely) the chatting couple in front of us – who were apparently under the impression that the musicians were just a video projection – the female of the party decided that a quiet moment during a string trio was the perfect time to file her nails. Added a peculiar, scritching percussive sound to the piece. Me, I was thinking of that Elvis Costello line about the filing of nails…as a reminder that lots of weight would make it harder for the folks dragging the lake to find the body.

I’m thinking some composer should score a piece for coughing, throat-clearing, chair-shifting, program-rustling, purse-rummaging, candy-unwrapping, and indistinct mumbling and whispering. Better yet, it could be an audience participation piece! Get it out of their systems, maybe.

PS: We’ll be on vacation for a week, so it’s fairly unlikely I’ll be updating this until then.



Filed under grump, noiselike

3 responses to “proposed musical commission

  1. Phil

    Oh, I’ve had concert disturbance experiences as well, and they aren’t fun.

    My most recent, and probably worst (in a way), was this past New Year’s Eve, at Trey Anastasio’s concert at the House of Blues.

    I was right up front, just behind the rail, and I never do anything like this, but I thought, hey, I have a camera phone I never use…let me take a quick picture to see how it comes out.

    So I took a picture of Trey and put the phone away. Somewhere, maybe 10 minutes into the next jam, my friend elbows me from behind and says, “Hey, can I see that picture you took?”

    I mean, for crying out loud, we’re still THERE. Is it worth interrupting my enjoyment of the show to ask me to see a picture of the exact same thing you can just look up and see live right in front of you?

    I was actually very upset over that. Pardon me.

  2. Anonymous

    I apologize for the anonymous comment, but I found your blog through the comics curmudgeon website, where I lurk from time to time. I myself am a composer (an undergraduate at the University of Colorado at Boulder), and I thought that it might interest you to know that there is already a piece exactly like you suggested someone compose. This piece is, in fact, not only composed to be about gum wrappers and nail files, it is a guerrilla audience participation project!

    The piece, written by John Cage, is called 4’33’’ (four minutes and thirty-three seconds). If you are a fan of experimental music, I may have just ruined the effect for you if you were intending on seeing it with no prior knowledge of the piece. Oh well.

    For the record, people making excessive amounts of noise during concerts drives me batty as well.

    As I’m sure you’re well aware, more information about 4’33” can be found on the internet…

    For lack of screen name, if you want to counter-comment I’ll give you an email address.

  3. 2fs

    Ha! I’m familiar with the piece…I sort of made a joke about it here, in fact… But it’s only a piece “for” gum wrappers, whisperers, and coughers if those folks are in the audience – insofar as I’m really proposing a piece (not very sofar), I’m talking about something that specifically scores such sounds – a bit less aleatoric…

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