The New York Philharmonic, the oldest symphony orchestra in the United States, and also the orchestra with historically the most restive audience members, has announced the planned installation of a new “Listener Speedy Exit Ramp” which will enable to patrons to leave their seats either during or after a performance in less than 2.5 seconds.
The “LSER” is a response to longstanding requests from subscription holders for a faster mode of self-ejection from the concert hall. The Philharmonic’s audiences already hold the world record for abrupt departure from concerts. The LSER will be a particularly comforting addition to the concert-going experience for patrons anxious about contemporary music, as in the case next month when music director Alan Gilbert will present “Le Grand Macabre” by the twentieth century master György Ligeti.
The new ramp, which resembles an extremely fast escalator, will run from the middle of the hall, between Rows M and N, and ascend to an exit door at the loge level. Patrons will now be able to find themselves on Broadway and West 65th Street in record time. “They should be able to exit the building in a matter of seconds, outta there even before the first idiot yells “brava,” said a Philharmonic spokesperson.
(audience members will be able to exit concert hall in 2.5 seconds)
“This ramp will automatically start up during the final chords of the last piece of every program, and it will be running and ready for use even before the music has stopped” said the spokesperson. “It’s connected to a state-of-the-art computerized ‘Schenker Sensor’, which collects all the pitch data in previous passages, collates it and then can accurately identify the arrival of the true tonic. It then sends an electric impulse that throws a switch—on goes the escalator and, presto-change-o—out goes your patron.”
Another high tech addition to Avery Fisher Hall will be a new three-bulb signal light, similar to your standard traffic light, to be installed on the back of the conductor’s podium. The red, amber and green lights will also help to alert audience members to the approach of any final stretto or coda-styled harmonic resolution, thereby giving listeners valuable advance warning for early departure from the concert.
“We recently commissioned a survey of our audience members and found that roughly 20% of our listeners are unable to tell when a piece of music, even if it’s Beethoven’s Fifth, has ended. They don’t know prolongation from their Cousin Frank. We are hoping that providing these stop and go lights, which we will call our “Terminal Closure Indicator,” will help our subscribers to better negotiate the ins and outs of the listening experience.”
Hellmouth reporters did a quick, unscientific survey of Philharmonic patrons and found overwhelming support for both the Listener Speedy Exit Ramp and the Terminal Closure Indicator.
(new TCI tells alerts listeners when and when not to leave seats)
“It’s a great idea,” said Mrs. A.J. “Muffy” Wadsworth III of Darien, CT, who was interviewed with her friend leaving a recent matinee. “Last year we heard that Mahler piece with singers—you know, the one with the poems by that Chinese fellow—and we couldn’t for the life of us tell when the damn thing was over. Three times I grabbed my purse and coat and said to Dibsy, “Let’s go dear, if we hurry we can catch the 5:50 from Penn Station. But then that singer just kept droning on and on—something about an earwig. No one in our section could tell if it would ever end.”
The Philharmonic says that the escalator will cause some issues that they hope eventually to solve. Patrons with seats behind it will have limited sight lines. More problematic, however, may be the substantial noise generated by the ramp while in operation.
A Hellmouth reporter embedded in the audience made this unauthorized recording of a recent trial run of the Listener Speedy Exit Ramp. Listen carefully and you can hear the exit ramp’s motors automatically kick in at the arrival of the final tonic.
Copyright © 2010 by John Adams
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