Letter from a Chevalier to a Lady of No Quality

Dear Lady Who Was Sitting in the Middle of Row E at the Polish Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra’s All-Beethoven Concert, Enlow Recital Hall, Kean University, Hillside, New Jersey, February 6, 2016, between 7:30 and 9:30 pm:

I think it’s really cool that you brought your three young children to an orchestral performance, I really do. Audiences for classical music are starting to dwindle nowadays, and if classical music is to survive, it needs the support of the younger generation–like your three delightful little children.

But still, I would like to point out to you that

There is no talking during a classical performance.

Let me rephrase that.

Speaking is not allowed during the performance.

Or as Yoda might say.

Not allowed is speaking during a classical concert.

Speaking during the performance is, in short, verboten.

No, you cannot speak for any reason. Not softly. Not in a whisper. No, you cannot muffle the noise you’re making as you speak by making other kinds of noise, like unwrapping candy or shuffling loudly in your seat. I know this sounds mean-spirited and pedantic, but you cannot even engage your children in a Socratic dialogue about the performance itself, e.g., asking sweetie whether she “likes” the D Major Violin Concerto, or asking, out loud, after the first movement of the Fifth Symphony, whether “that’s it.” (It wasn’t.)

No, you cannot point out during the Egmont Overture that the curly metal instrument is a French horn (though it was), or interrupt a cadenza of the violin concerto to verbalize the fact that the violinist is “really good” (however true that may have been). Counter-intuitive as this may sound, a concert hall is not the place for a music lesson.  It’s a place where people listen to and watch the performance following the adult rule of shutting the hell up while it’s taking place.

Ahem. Look, the truth is that I’m actually a pretty nice guy. My ex’s tell me I’m a little rough around the edges, a little quick to spew hate (rancor, bile…) in all directions, but deep inside–a perfectly nice guy. I just, really, really like Beethoven. I like to hear it performed. I like to hear it performed. I like to hear it performed. Is that too much to ask?

I’m not saying, “Don’t talk to your kids.” No, not at all. I’m not even saying, “Don’t talk to your kids about Beethoven.” Who am I to dictate how you raise your kids, or what to say to them? Say whatever you want to them. I mean, what do I know? I don’t even have kids. I don’t like kids. Actually, I hate kids. And it’s not like I’m against kids or anything. Kids are important. As Shakespeare once put it, “the world must be peopled.” And kids are a big part of that. (By the way, don’t talk during Shakespeare, either.)

My point is, there are so many places where you can talk to your kids–the local park, your house, a sports bar, etc. You can even play Beethoven while you do it. It’s just that a concert hall is not one of those places, at least not during the performance. Kids are great, but that doesn’t mean they’re entirely portable.

So I just want to make a request. Please don’t do this again. If you want to see a classical concert, please please keep quiet during the performance. Seriously. If the kids are the issue, just leave them at home. Because if we end up at another concert together, and you repeat last night’s behavior, I’m going to have to khawajaenate you. And your little kids, too. You don’t know what that means? Don’t make me show you.

Yours truly,

The Khawajaenator

Ordre des Artes et des Lettres de New Jersey

4 thoughts on “Letter from a Chevalier to a Lady of No Quality

  1. We’ve discussed this before. Concert halls should adopt the policy of the Alamo Drafthouse theaters and eject anyone who talks after one warning. It might also help if they prefaced concerts with things like these:

    After that last one, in particular, I’d bet the kids would be gone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Awesome. But the problem is, the minute you introduce children into the equation–“I’m being rude, but it’s for the children“–all bets are off. You’d probably have to dilute the zombie video with trigger warnings and safe spaces in order to show it to children at all. And then they’d come back and talk during the movie.

      I mean, if you show people pictures of car wrecks and orphaned children, and they still drink and drive, why think that we’re going to solve the talking-during-the-performance problem via stern public service announcements? I was once discussing texting and driving in a class, and I had a student blurt out that she did it all the time, and didn’t see the problem with it. I said, “Well, you’ll see the problem once you crash into something while texting,” to which she responded, triumphantly, “I have,” followed by: “I was insured, so what’s the big deal?” I’ve had students submit plagiarized papers to Turnitin.com after I’ve explained how Turnitin.com works.

      We need to update Plato’s MenoMeno II. Instead of Meno’s asking Socrates whether virtue can be taught, it starts like this:

      Meno: Socrates, forget virtue and knowledge. My new question is, can adherence to very simple behavioral norms be incentivized at all, e.g., by showing scary videos, making threats, offering monetary rewards, or engaging in other appeals to the lowest motivational denominator?
      Socrates: Sometimes. It depends. Ever read Aristotle on hos epi to polu?
      Meno: No. What does it mean?
      Socrates: Roughly, no matter what you do, there’s going to be a few bad apples in every bunch.
      Meno: Wow.
      Socrates: Yeah.
      Meno: Seriously, Socrates, a few bad apples in every bunch? I’m not sure that’s even consis–
      Socrates (impatient): Just shut up and read it, OK?

      By the way, this version takes place in New Jersey.


      • One more instance of the old maxim, “against stupidity and incivility, the gods fight in vain” (as do the rest of us):

        HOBOKEN, N.J. — Every time a powerful nor’easter or tropical storm threatens New York, residents of this small city on the New Jersey bank of the Hudson River start having flashbacks to the devastating inundation they endured when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012.

        Hundreds of millions of gallons of water poured in from the river and left most of Hoboken underwater and many of its residents without power for a week. Almost immediately, city leaders decided that Hoboken had to be fortified against future floods.

        A solution seemed imminent in 2014. At a celebratory announcement, Gov. Chris Christie joined federal officials to herald the city’s winning a $230 million grant to finance a plan by Dutch architects to hold back the Hudson.

        But more than three years after the hurricane, Hoboken is just as vulnerable to a deluge and the plan to defend it is mired in controversy. Furious residents have sounded off to city and state officials, opposing any remedy that might diminish the city’s character or its biggest selling point: the dazzling views of Manhattan.

        Read the whole thing to have your mind blown by the stupidity of your fellow citizens. If the virtual submersion of the city didn’t convince them of the need for flood control measures, what would?


  2. Pingback: “Keep Your Mouth Shut, and Sit Down!” | Policy of Truth

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