Friday, March 26, 2010

Laugh Drops

Last Friday evening I was thrilled to be in attendance at UB’s Slee Hall for a concert featuring my nephew Matt’s internationally known and critically acclaimed percussion ensemble, Talujon.  Talujon is a “five man quartet” with more drums and percussion instruments than a music store.  Marimbas, kettle drums, chimes, bongos, cymbals, drum kits, kalimbas, gongs - you name it – the stage was overflowing.

As one might expect of a percussion concert, most of their performance was loud.  But this is a classical music hall so certain rules apply, spelled out in the program booklet – no noise allowed during the performance.  No cell phones, no talking, no humming, no coughing,  no unwrapping of candies or cough drops!

When Matt made his Lincoln Center debut a number of years ago, my sister in law, who had gathered the clan for the occasion, drummed (so to speak) into our heads that any audience noise whatsoever would have us ejected from the premises, causing a disgrace to the entire family and a blot on Matt’s permanent record.  I coughed once or twice the night before this concert and in less than five minutes she had presented me with a steaming mug of honey and lemon tea.

One piece that Talujon performed was one of those very avant garde over-the-top far-out modern pieces which consisted primarily of unorthodox materials being coaxed into even less orthodox sounds.  Two performers were at opposite sides of the stage and two others were on the right and left aisles of the audience.  We were “surrounded.”  The lads were equipped with spruce branches, wine glasses, water, trash cans, cap pistols and many other toys.  Until the cap gun part, most of the piece was excruciatingly subtle and terribly hard to hear.  Probably due to their collective unease, the audience became noisier than the performers at several points.

It was during this piece that I realized one of the audience members seated behind me was either trying to suppress a cough – or a laugh.  The sounds he was making (and I could tell it was a man making this noise) were little whimpers and sharp outbursts and intakes of breath, repressed snorts and somehow desperate-sounding shaking noises.  I thought at first that I could fish in my purse and pass back a forbidden wrapped cough drop, but thanks to my days as a preacher’s kid trying not to laugh in church, I quickly realized it was laughter he was trying to stifle, and, as far as I know, there are no such things as laugh drops.

I caught a quick glimpse of this poor man after the piece had ended and as his wife was handing him a tissue to wipe his eyes.  His face was crimson and he was still trying to catch his breath.  I believe it was the spruce branches that had gotten him started and the cap guns that had finished him off.   

So the Talujon concert was a night to remember in many more ways than one and I sincerely hope that no one ever invents anything like laugh drops.