Experimental Music

Carl and Joyce loved going to hear the local choir sing. The tickets were fairly inexpensive and the choir always sang such lovely pieces. Unfortunately, they weren’t the only ones who loved the concerts. The choir grew in popularity over the years until the seats for their Friday night performances often sold out.

When the concert hall was full, it often felt uncomfortably warm. People would fold their programs into fans and whisper about the heat as they fanned at themselves and their friends. People would sneak in water bottles and try to sip at them without being noticed.

There were also the normal noises of coughing and unwrapping cough drops, or the snap of chewing gum, or giggles and whispers exchanged among young couples.   With a full house, these noises were multiplied.

Sometimes Carl’s hearing aid would pick up the background noises better than the performance. He would turn down the hearing aid and sit back in his seat, waiting for the performance to end. Sometimes he fell asleep.   Once, to Joyce’s embarrassment, he snored.

Carl and Joyce began to wonder if they really wanted to keep going to the concerts. “We don’t really enjoy them as much anymore,” Joyce said. “And in the end we might be just adding to the noise.”

“I only snored the one time,” Carl said. “It’s not like I spent the entire time texting and giggling like the three girls that were sitting in front of us.”

“I know,” Joyce said. “But you haven’t been able to hear most of the recent performances.”

“Let’s go one more time,” Carl said. “I’ve already bought the tickets. After that, we can see how we feel.”

The concert hall seemed especially warm that day. During the second piece, a baby began to cry and had to be taken out.   The girl sitting by Joyce spilled cola on her while texting.

A man sitting in front of Carl decided to film a song with his phone.   He held it above his head, right in front of Carl. Carl couldn’t see the stage. He couldn’t really hear over the normal whispers and gum chewing. He slumped down in his seat.

“Should we just go home?” he asked Joyce at intermission.

“Let’s see it through, out of respect for the choir,” Joyce said. “It isn’t their fault that we can’t enjoy the concert. If we leave early, it may look like we don’t like the performance.”

“All right,” Carl said. “But I think you were right. It just isn’t fun anymore.”

They settled back into their seats and waited for the performance to begin again.   There was a noisier hum as people began to return to their places. Joyce and Carl stood several times to let people push past them.

Finally, the noise began to die down. The choir filed into place and sat in their chairs. The audience waited expectantly. The conductor raised his hands, signaled the choir to begin, then sat on a nearby chair and began to look at his phone.

Choir members folded programs into fans and began to talk to each other.   They sipped sodas and chewed gum.   They took flash photos of each other and laughed. The audience grew noisy again as people began to whisper to each other in confusion.

Joyce looked at Carl and then picked up the program. She found their place and smiled and handed it to Carl.   He drew his finger down the scheduled pieces until he found the one after intermission.

It was an experimental piece entitled, “The Rude Audience” and was supposed to last five minutes. Carl sat back and smiled widely. A choir member was filming the audience. The man behind him stood up so that he could see, then began arguing with the man sitting behind him. Carl began to laugh.

He wasn’t the only one. All around him, the audience began to giggle. Members of the choir were holding up silly signs or painting their nails or starting popcorn fights. The conductor was talking into his phone and pausing every so often to blow his nose loudly.

At the end of the piece, the applause was thunderous. Even better, the audience were much more considerate during the rest of the performance. Carl never had to turn down his hearing aid or slump in his seat.

On the way home, Carl asked, “So, are we all done with going to the choir performances then?”

Joyce thought for a moment, “It did go better during the second half, didn’t it?”

“It won’t last,” Carl said.

“Well, we can decide whether or not we want to keep coming once that happens.   For now, I think we can go to the next performance and see how it goes.”

“I think that’s a great plan,” Carl said. “It’s a date.”