Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra Some time ago I was at a concert of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. A smashing performance that makes you think that classical music actually belongs more in Asia than in the old world. Sunwook Kim (the pianist) and Myung-Whun Chung (the conductor) made the concert into a great event.

As always during such performances there are times when the orchestra plays so loudly that you cannot hear anyone else. You are immersing yourself in a sea of sound. Nothing can disturb that. No matter how much you feel an itch, you won't scratch it because you are focused on the music.

Not so when in the music there is really sensitive scene going on. When the hero dies in the arms of a beloved, when darkness descents over the stage and only delicate sounds are heard. That's the time when someone starts to cough. In a room of 1000 people there is always someone who coughs. Some research into this area by Professor Andreas Wagener from the University of Hannover suggest that coughing during concerts is twice as likely as in normal life. He confirms what I also have observed. A cough never comes alone. Someone starts it, yes, but then it becomes an epidemic. To quote the prof.

It is also non-random, in that coughing sometimes appears to occur in sort of avalanches or cascades through the audience so there are some patterns.”

The prof does not have an explanation for this phenomenon. Neither have I actually. I sometimes think that people simply don't drink enough water (and maybe too much alcohol) when they go to a concert. A dry throat gets an itch and before you know it, you start and cannot stop. Another factor might be that people are simply not used to keep their mouth shut. Literally!! They cannot cope with the silence. Something has to be done to disturb it.

And then are these accidents of life. Shit happens. You have ordered tickets for that wonderful concert and when you go it happens to be in the middle of the flue season. Other people have paid as much as you did to get there. Yes, they don't feel well, but not bad enough to stay home. Before you know you are in the middle of a cough concert that even the loudest orchestra cannot suppress. You wish these people away. Far to a distant galaxy. And you wish that the theater had a special star trek beamer installed. Beam them out Scotty!!


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