…or “Comments on Concert Etiquette Part 2.”
Attention: At this time, please silence all cell phones and mobile devices. Thank you.
As I often do when talking about issues of sorts, I am posing a question for you to think over from the start to end of this post, and hopefully afterward as well, maybe even starting a dialogue of your own.
Concert étiquette can touch upon many matters of one’s presence at a public performance; whether it be for avant-garde theater, a country festival concert, a line of Irish dancers or a gallery opening. There are rules and sub-sets of rules for appearance, speech, arrival and departure and outward behavior. Sometimes a breakdown of the appropriate maneuvers for each respective event can leave you wishing to carry around an instruction manual so as not to offend. However, the occasional ruffle and widespread notice of lacked decorum makes rules seem more pointless than others.
To draw from one small example out of the many circles of entertainment and their expectations, it’s usually advised for events of the classical affair to have attendees coming through the doors in more formal wear or at the very least, what I would consider the type of clothing you would wear to the average business office. The Metropolitan Opera once again provides a succinct, real example of what they suggest for patron appearance at the opera, taken from their website’s FAQ Section.
What is the dress code?
There is no dress code at the Met. People dress more formally for Galas or openings of new productions, but this is optional. We recommend comfortable clothing appropriate for a professional setting.
Regarding the latter, I’m sure that pair of jeans you have stashed in your dresser with the mud-stain from mountain biking wouldn’t fit the guidelines –even if you did wash them with extra stain fighting detergent.
It’s no new discussion when jeans and fine arts attendance are thrown together. Just another detail of that age old ‘elitist’ realm. As someone who has sat through concerts in both pristine dress and the old abercrombie hoodie, (and believe me, for that I worried some kind of rotten fruit would come raining down on my head from rows above,) I can stomach both, as I didn’t get berated for casual attire but I also enjoyed devoting extra time and care to my outfit for the night on these separate occasions.
Devil’s advocate out to play though, taste for dress aside, let’s just pretend I’m a full out conservative when it comes to classical concert attendance. Let’s pretend I scoff and scowl and stick my nose up at anyone who dares walk in with sneakers and a logo’ed T-shirt. Barring anything outrightly offensive being printed on their clothes, nothing someone else wears will directly affect my experience. (unless the sight of sneakers makes your eyes burn…) So in this hypothetical scenario I sit, sneaker/T-shirt person sits, we both listen, clap and leave when it’s over and I never see them again. It’s their choice to look that way, no one says you have to copy them if you don’t like it.
Okay, so sneaker/T-shirt is back a few weeks later for another performance and has sat down next to you again in pressed black slacks, a white collared shirt with a tie and sweater over it to match. What a difference right? Now you won’t be stuck sitting next to the ‘weird person’ who ‘sticks out like a sore thumb.’ They’re much more presentable this time right? The lights dim, that ever famous cell phone announcement is read and then we enjoy the first few notes. …Halfway into the second piece, your seat neighbor’s sparklingly new mobile device starts playing a ringtone -and the company’s generic one at that! Seems like the device was really just purchased because your neighbor has no idea how to turn it off and you just want to shrink in your seat or grab the phone away and shut it off yourself.
These two concert scenarios being posed, I would have preferred to be back with my neighbor in his mountain biking denim. Extraneous noises during a concert is most certainly, directly disruptive to other people in a way that clothing is not (again, barring visible, offensive print.) There are those extreme conservative, purists who may shake their head at rowdy rock concert behavior and possibly associate such attendees at lacking poise. Really though, if you think about it, what are the chances that a first time symphony goer coming from a jam band background will start to spontaneously shout or headbang while the music is going? At worst they will hate the music and may walk out in the middle of the concert, vowing not to come back. However, even the most frequent symphony spectator may be found with a foot in the mouth, when, for all the possible preaching about lack of public propriety, their tiny little cell phone causes a whole concert to actually come to a startling, embarrassing halt.
In this way, I believe mobile devices are far more unruly than any one person’s track record and accompanying premature judgement of character for reckless jamming. If you don’t make a conscious choice to turn off/fully silence your stuff before you even sit down in your seat, then that’s far more rebellious than a lack of slacks. Furthermore, a few short beeps are far more worthy of frowning upon than screaming out like a teenage girl at some hottie frontman. At least those who scream know where screaming is acceptable, even if it’s passed upon by others in the same situation. It’s a matter of personal responsibility. Same goes for the presence of young children, though I do understand they don’t exactly have a silent setting… Sometimes courtesy and proper behavior requires thinking ahead and not just of yourself.
I for one, applaud the slightly more creative ways performers are biting back at disruptions. No one likes being singled out but I think any generic ring tone in a silent concert hall brands you more than if the soloist decides to mimic your phone like they do below. Though this clip isn’t new, perhaps the somewhat spontaneous nature of it going viral will cause enough matching shock to give pause the next time we decide what’s inappropriate at Carnegie Hall.
Lukáš Kmit – Violinist at a Jewish Orthodox Synagogue in Preseov Slovakia
The uncomfortable scene described in full HERE, with the New York Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert however, is fairly recent and although not as humorous, equally as poignant. Maybe we should go back to basics on what makes someone of “higher class?” …Like common sense behavior?
“Esteemed conductor Alan Gilbert was on the last page of Mahler’s “Ninth Symphony” when the building crescendo was interrupted by the distinctive marimba-ringing of an iPhone belonging to a front-row spectator. Gilbert paused the musicians…turned to the chiming iPhone offender and asked if the phone was turned off. When the person didn’t audibly respond, the conductor said, “Fine, we’ll wait.” When Gilbert was assured of a silenced phone, he spoke directly to the audience, stating, “I apologize. Usually, when there’s a disturbance like this, it is best to ignore it, because addressing it is sometimes worse than the disturbance itself. But this was so egregious that I could not allow it.”