Disconnecting From the World for a Few Moments

Helsinki Mobile Phone Orchestra(Photo: Courtesy Helsinki Mobile Phone Orchestra)
Helsinki Mobile Phone Orchestra(Photo: Courtesy Helsinki Mobile Phone Orchestra)

A while back, my wife and I were at the movies.  A critical moment in the film approached.  The lead character is about to speak and…the phone rang.  Not mine, mind you, but the one belonging to the person in front of me.  Granted, it’s easy to forget to shut them off, even when reminded, but that wasn’t the problem.  Did she grab it, silence the ringer, and put it away?


The conversation went something like this:  “Hello.  Oh, nothing…just watching a movie.  Yeah, we could do that.”  I leaned over and said, “would you take that outside, or hang it up?  I could hang it up for you.”  Her response?  “Uh…I gotta go.  I’ll call you later,” followed by dirty looks and arms folded in disgust.  Her husband said nothing to either of us.

I’m all for musical experimentation.  How else do we get new things to hear, invent new sounds, styles, and ideas? A Stanford researcher has formed the Stanford Mobile Phone Orchestra and there are similar ensembles at University of Michigan, and in Helsinki and Berlin.

Watch the Helsinki Mobile Phone Orchestra play Phones in C by Otto Romanowski

However, if you want to carry on a phone conversation while you watch a movie or listen to a concert, do it in your living room, not in the middle of a performance.

One conductor who has had enough is Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.  He is Master of the Queen’s Music, Britain’s musical equivalent of our poet laureate. Sir Peter proposes that mobile phone offenders, which he terms “artistic terrorists,” be fined.

Do you think he’s over-reacting? Why or why not?  I’d like to hear from both sides.

If you do believe he needs to chill a bit, maybe you’ll change your mind after you read his explanation in this piece from BBC News.

And here’s one more video from the Helsinki Mobile Phone Orchestra – Finlandia by Jean Sibelius:

  • Tksoprn

    I was in a chorus performing Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion Sat of Holy week. All in attendance were asked to turn off cell phones, but naturally someone did not. At the apex of the work (and a totally silent moment) a very loud phone rang. It was very jarring. I can certainly understand how he feels!