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Jessica Duchen
Saturday 27th February 2010
Quiet, Please!

It's everywhere. First we become interested in concerts with "relaxed" atmospheres that supposedly will attract young people who don't want to be told they can't talk during the performance. If a bit of quiet yakking is permitted, the theory goes, it'll be more like a cool rock/jazz gig or the cinema. But then we realise we don't like this very much.

Now, though, it turns out that many of the cool rock/jazz people don't like it much either: just have a look at this, a series of interviews on the topic from yesterday's Independent, after Simon O'Hagan last week argued that people should be quiet at rock gigs.

This morning a health warning from the Daily Mail on the outsize troughs of popcorn and fizzy drinks that people guzzle in the cinema led to some full and frank comments on BBC 1's Breakfast about how the cinema is no longer a pleasant experience because of all the crunching, munching and scrabbling around at the bottom of the box: the commentator remarked: "We want to hear the film!"

If every form of art-for-a-seated-audience pulls together, maybe there'll be some progress...

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February 28th, 2010
11:02 AM
I've not been to many rock gigs, fearing the excessive volume as someone who plays music for a living. I went to Pink Floyd at Earls Court a few years ago. The light-show, projections and pyrotechnics were spectactular, and I had expected really high quality in the sound. But as usual it was just too loud and distorted as a result, and I had to resort to cotton-wool to preserve my hearing, which has the unwanted effect of muffling the treble. Perhaps I need some higher quality ear-plugs, but why should I need them at all? It also didn't help that there was so much smoking (not all ordinary tobacco either, I suspect) inside the venue, which was clearly marked "no smoking", and the staff were not prepared to do anything about it. When I hear live recordings of pop concerts or see them on TV, the audience noise, singing-along or cheering and waving of hands in the air are enough to put me off going again - I last noticed these when Kraftwerk were shown on TV, a fairly cerebral group who are hardly appropriate for that kind of thing. The concert was broadcast on BBC4 with subtitles in German, which was rather impressive! When I took a group of my school pupils to hear this group 20 years ago, the concert started an hour late and the whole audience stood up for the entire gig, which was in the Mayflower Theatre where we go for opera in Southampton. I spent the time perched on the back of my seat. Pointless!

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About Jessica Duchen

Jessica Duchen is a music journalist and the author of four novels, two biographies and several stage works. She writes regularly for The Independent and BBC Music Magazine. Her latest novel, Songs of Triumphant Love, is published by Hodder.

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