When a Lozenge is not enough

Anyone who attends classical music concerts on anything like a regular basis will be familiar with the phenomenon: the rousing chorus of coughing that breaks out at the end of a movement (and occasionally in the quiet bits during a movement).

This is not often discussed (that I am aware of) and it does puzzle me somewhat. Normal coughing is a reflex action occuring as a result of the build-up of phlegm in the throat, and it difficult or even impossible to control. This cannot be the explanation for the coughing that occurs during a concert, which is generally carefully timed. Since it is not something that I do myself I cannot say definitely what motivates those who do. I assume that it is a way of relieving the nervous tension of being required to sit still and silent for several minutes on end. Perhaps a course of meditation would help regular perpetrators, or perhaps each audience member could be issued with a lozenge before the concert.

Still it probably wouldn’t help eveyone. My father spent some time working in Germany, and during that time he was a regular audience member for the Berlin Philharmonic. On one particular occasion he was sitting right in the front row of a concert featuring Yo-Yo Ma, when he (my father) broke into an uncontrollable coughing fit. That’s what I call doing it in style.

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