Everything Can Be Heard Here

At the Elbphilharmonie you can hear every note – even in the highest seats – but also other sounds.

A concert at the Elbphilharmonie is a unique experience for both audience and artists. Guests and musicians alike rave about the precise acoustics in the Grand Hall. You can hear even the most quietest note, even from the highest balcony.

However, the opposite is also true: even presumably quiet noises from the audience are clearly audible in the entire hall. The artists on stage and the other guests, who are concentrating on the music, can be unsettled by disturbances in the balconies.

Armenian State Symphony Orchestra Armenian State Symphony Orchestra © Daniel Dittus

»At the Elbphilharmonie you can hear everything: every note, every cough, and every ringtone.«

Radio station NDR 90.3

Silence is Also a Part of Music

»Music begins not with the first tone, but with the silence before. And it ends not with the last tone, but with the sound of silence afterwards,« aptly summed up legendary klezmer clarinettist Giora Feidman. It’s when the audience falls silent that the magic of the moment in the concert hall takes over.

And the intensity of a performance is displayed not in its loudest parts, but in the quietness after the last chord, when the tension drops and one can literally hear time passing.

The Copy Cat Effect

»Music begins not with the first tone, but with the silence before. And it ends not with the last tone, but with the sound of silence afterwards.«

Giora Feidman

A ticklish throat is something unavoidable. Nevertheless, every concertgoer knows the moment when the atmosphere in the hall is so suspenseful and quiet that one could hear a pin drop. It’s up to the artists as well as the audience to make sure there aren’t any disturbing sounds.

It’s scientifically proven that yawning is contagious. The research about audience noise in a concert hall is perhaps still undeveloped. However, one can also observe that during the short breaks between movements an audible cough or clearing of the throat sets off a whole chain reaction. Whoever must clear his or her throat should do this during the louder parts of the piece when it’s less noticeable instead of in the quiet breaks.

Jean-Guihen Queyras / Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Jean-Guihen Queyras / Yannick Nézet-Séguin © Claudia Höhne

A Couple of Tips:

  • If there are doubts about when to applaud, it’s better to wait a few seconds and observe the artists.
  • Instead of coughing into your hand, muffle the sound with either a scarf, handkerchief or another soft material. And wait for the loud parts of the music.
  • Cough drops help against dry throats, and are available free of charge at the coat check. But please don’t noisily unwrap them during the quiet passages.
  • Whoever is seriously unwell should consider giving the ticket away as a gift and brightening up someone else’s day.
  • Comments and rummaging loudly in a handbag should be saved for the intermission.
  • If the concert doesn’t quite hit your musical taste, please be considerate of the other concertgoers and the musicians, and wait to leave until the applause at the end of a piece.

Apropos applause, the colleagues from the BR Klassik have given some thought on this topic:

Clapping: Yes or No?
Clapping: Yes or No? © BR Klassik

Photos and Mobile Phones

A selfie in the concert hall before the concert as a souvenir or for the family WhatsApp group is, of course, allowed. In fact, one can use the convenient #elphiselfie hashtag. However, during the concert, taking photos and videos is strictly forbidden: they disturb the concentration of the musicians and other audience members and infringe on music copyrights. Even a quick look at the smartphone with its glowing display annoys other concert guests more than one could imagine. So, put away the phone and camera and just enjoy the moment!

© Kaufmann Music Center / New York

Whoever in New York is caught with a ringing mobile phone must go onto the stage and play the bassoon! At least that’s what the sign at the Kaufman Music Center threatens.

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