Classical Audiences Do More Coughing? Statistics Say (Ahem) Yes.

Research says: take your cough drops with you to your next classical music concert.(Photo: theogeo (Flickr))
Research says: take your cough drops with you to your next classical music concert.(Photo: theogeo (Flickr))

You’ve shelled out hard-earned cash to hear a spectacular concert of beautiful classical music performed thrillingly by a world-class phenom. The concert hall is sparkling, the audience is all dolled up, the artist is sublime and you dare not even breathe for all the noise it would make.

Then out croaks a cough and all that ambience vanishes, like Brigadoon, in an instant.

If you go to a lot of concerts, then you’ve been there. Now research suggests that the audiences for classical music concerts do more coughing than other types of audiences do, according to The Telegraph.

A German economist studied the few statistics available on audience coughing and found that audiences at classical music concerts were more likely to cough during concerts than were other types of audiences. Moreover, classical music concert audiences tended to cough more during works of 20th century music and – are you sitting down? – during slower, quieter movements.

I have been on all sides of the concert coughing issue – as a performer whose performance is being coughed through, as a member of an audience with coughers and as the unfortunate audience member plagued by a coughing fit.

I will never forget this last experience. It was a performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations by a world-class pianist, and I was sitting in the middle of a row in an intimate concert hall with pristine acoustics. The Goldbergs – sort of a Mt. Olympus of the keyboard repertoire – was the only work on the program; once that train left the station, there was no getting off.

No sooner had the pianist begun playing the gorgeous opening Aria than did a tickle arise in my throat. Trapped in the middle of my row and devoid of cough drops, I tried to keep from coughing. When that didn’t work, I tried to muffle the coughing noise. Eventually, though through sheer force of will, I suspect, as much as anything physiological, the coughing ended.

And as I recall, for the rest of the concert you could have heard a pin drop, though at the time I wished for a more dramatic event, like, say, for a gaping void magically to appear beneath my seat, such that I in all my mortification could drop into it.

This experience taught me that concert coughers sometimes really are trapped, and sometimes they – I mean, we – are forever changed from the embarrassment of damaging the concert experience of others in the audience.

Have you ever had or been bothered by a coughing fit in a classical music concert? If so, tell us about it.

Read more: Coughing in Classical Concerts ‘Twice As Likely’ (Telegraph)

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