The Maddening Crowds:
"Fans of classical music are widely perceived as cultured and sophisticated and unfailingly polite, but this is an urban myth. The savage, conscienceless, blue-haired ladies who attend the afternoon concerts at Avery Fisher Hall will break your legs in the mad stampede for the exits at the end of Handel’s Messiah. People routinely bring sandwiches and soda and coffee into the concert hall, fan themselves with their programs, crinkle paper bags, and take an hour to unwrap the foil-entwined lozenges they should have popped into their mouths at intermission. They giggle and whisper and refuse to turn off their cell phones and just generally behave like slobs; but if they are sitting anywhere near me, I let them have it. Both barrels. Right between the eyes."
A satirical article, by Joe Queenan, in The Weekly Standard looks at the travails and responsibilities of a sophisticated concert-goer in modern times; it is not an easy job, but someone must do it.
A few years ago, I was offered two very good tickets to a New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden. I invited my daughter to the game, but almost immediately my wife complained, “Why don’t you ever let me go?” So I gave them the two tickets and went to see the legendary pianist Alfred Brendel at Carnegie Hall instead.
Perhaps you have had a similar experience and thought to do something equally drastic.Yet, you resisted such impulses because it would make you equally gauche; and besides it would ruin the evening for you and, possibly, others. Perhaps, there ought to be some sort of test to screen out boors and bad behaviorus; there is an article I read elsewhere that discusses the advances in artificial intelligence (AI), that is, machines that would think and act intelligently, and which (who?) would "know" how to appropriately respond to classical music and the other enlightened arts, possibly surpassing humans in all areas of quantifiable social mores. This might be the ticket to a better concert experience.Even though my wife and daughter were rooting for the visiting Philadelphia 76ers that night, Knicks fans were very nice to them, and they came home saying that they had had a wonderful time. Nobody spilled beer on them, nobody swore at them, nobody in any way detracted from their fun. Which was awfully nice of them, considering that the Sixers won by 30 points.
Meanwhile, 25 blocks north at Carnegie Hall, I was having an entirely different experience. From the time the geriatric-but-nimble Brendel began tickling the ivories, the three tourists seated in front of me started running their mouths. In German. That was bad enough. Worse was when one of them lifted his right arm and began playing air piano right along with the virtuoso on stage. He did this straight through the Haydn and straight through the Mozart. He did it in languorous, theatrical, ostentatious fashion. At intermission, I leaned forward and asked the woman if she and her friends were from the House of Annoyingness.
“No,” she said. “Does such a thing exist?”
When the second half of the concert began, she and one of the men were gone, but Herr Air Piano was back. Worse still, he was now seated directly in front of me. The first time he lifted his arm to simulate a luxuriant glissando I tapped him on the shoulder and told him to stop. The second time he did it, I grabbed him by the forearm, forcefully yanked it down and said, “If you do that one more time, I’ll break your arm off at the shoulder. I swear to God.”