Call me, don’t be afraid, you can call me

I shouldn’t be surprised that so many of my elderly listeners have cell phones in their pockets or in baskets attached to their walkers. Living in a senior facility can feel isolating, and a cell phone offers connection to family and friends. I understand why they don’t want to miss a call. But when I’m performing, I’d really like cell phones turned off, or at least silenced.

I know that people of all ages sometimes forget to do this. It’s not the end of the world for me if a cell phone rings while I’m playing, but it is distracting. And it bothers others trying to listen to the music. What really baffles me is why someone would answer a call and have a conversation during live music. A few weeks ago, a man in my audience did just that, but he took things a step further. He spoke for quite a while—loudly, to be heard over the music. Then he handed the phone to his wife so she could also chat.

Years ago, at an evening community orchestra rehearsal, a businessman seated next to me in the cello section needed to keep his cell phone on in order to receive work-related calls. When his phone vibrated, he answered it with a quiet “Hang on,” and quickly exited the room. I appreciated that courtesy.

Canadian pianist and composer Marc-André Hamelin found a way to channel his frustration with cell phones ringing during his concerts: he wrote a song. His 2001 “Valse Irritation d’après Nokia” or “The Ringtone Waltz” is based on an all-too-familiar Nokia cellphone’s ringtone. The piece lasts one minute. Be sure to listen for the last few notes, played as if dialing a number on a touch-tone phone:

Copyright © 2014 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.

This entry was posted in Audiences, Piano performance, Volunteering and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Call me, don’t be afraid, you can call me

  1. Sandy Shores says:

    Well, I am familiar with (as are many of your readers here) of a guy who plays in a large musical group who leaves his cell phone ON during rehearsals and performances and stops playing to take the calls. Very distracting and rude, if you ask me! Many of you will know exactly WHO I am referring to. Some people just have no courtesy at all.

  2. Linda Triemer says:

    Interesting piece in Wikipedia and the Nokia tune: “The Nokia tune (also called Grande Valse on old Nokia mobile phones) is a phrase from a composition for solo guitar, Gran Vals, by the Spanish classical guitarist and composer Francisco Tárrega, written in 1902.[1]
    In 1993 Anssi Vanjoki, then Executive Vice President of Nokia, brought the whole Gran Vals to Lauri Kivinen (now Head of Corporate Affairs) and together they selected the excerpt that became “Nokia tune”.[2] The excerpt is taken from measures (bars) 13–16 of the piece. The tune, which Nokia has registered as a sound trademark in some countries,[3][4] was the first identifiable musical ringtone on a mobile phone.[5] It first appeared in the Nokia 2110, which was released in 1994.[6]
    The tune is heard worldwide an estimated 1.8 billion times per day, about 20,000 times per second.[7]
    Hong Kong singer Khalil Fong, a Nokia spokesperson for Greater China, composed a song called “Coconut Shell” (椰殼) which features a segment of the Nokia tune played on the erhu, a Chinese two-string instrument.
    Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin wrote a short composition entitled Valse Irritation d’Après Nokia based on the tune.[8]”

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