Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Audience Etiquette

One a far more humble scale, I have snickered along with the booing crowds.
The singer in question was middle aged man who had chosen to perform a
particularly demanding piece of Hindustani classical music. His voice gave up
on him on the intricate "alaap". The crowds went berserk and shouted "Go home,
old man". Even as the boos rose to a crescendo, the singer did not stop. He
completed his recital ignoring the disruption. The audience grew even more
rambunctious being unable to make him leave the stage like they wanted.
Later, I wondered about the right and wrong of what happened that evening.
The audience who pays to watch a performance is within its rights to complain
if the artiste does not meet their expectations. Whether booing a performer off
the stage is an acceptable form of
protest is entirely questionable. The booed
singer is between a rock and a hard place when the audience takes to taunting
their effort. To acknowledge it and walk away like this tenor did would have
been bullied, to plug along like nothing happened would be no less humiliating.
He has to pick his poison and live the consequences of his choice.
The connection between a performer and the audience is at best a slender thread,
finely tuned and precariously balanced. Once snapped, the mood is ruined for both.
We said that the old man had no right to subject us to that abomination of Raga
Shree but he may have argued if we were true aficionados we would have shown
more sobriety, given him a chance to regroup instead of intimidating him.

Paying for a concert ticket did not give us the right to heckle someone who had
spent years learning the art to entertain us for less than an hour. Maybe as
consumers we extend the right to berate a plumber who bills us but cannot plug
our leaky faucet to a musician who fails to delight us wit
h his music - we forget
that there is a world of difference between the two.

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