What sublime beauty is the sound of a cello, particularly in the hands of someone as gifted as the young Narek Hakhnazaryan, particularly in a piece as well-conceived as the Dvorak Cello Concerto, particularly with the support so many gifted principals as are in the Pasadena Symphony Orchestra, where I was playing in the second fiddles on Saturday night.
Thus were my thoughts during an especially quiet, cadenza-like section of the second movement, when the blaring tones of a cell phone startled me from my reverie. As with so many things technological, the ringtone persisted with no regard for its environment until its owner located and silenced it.
Am I calling for the summary execution of the offender? No, though certain scenarios did flash through my mind.
I'm sure the owner of the cell phone was mortified. Most people who own cell phones have experienced at least one terrifyingly embarrassing moment of out-of-control, inappropriate ringing that interrupted something important. I understand.
No, what struck me was the glaring contrast between the beauty of sound we had been experiencing and the profane noise that poured out of the phone. That profane noise? It's the background music of our lives.
Our lives are accompanied by sound of our cell phones, the music from tiny computer speakers, the unchosen tunes in groceries and lobbies and clothing stores, music delivered through earbuds, computer chip music embedded in toys, the list goes on.
It's clear that we need music, why else would we fill our lives with it? But this kind of music also reminds me of faux food that dominates the American market: stripped to its essentials and packaged for convenience, it loses its quality, its nutritional value, its aesthetic, its ability to nurture us.
By contrast, a symphony orchestra concert is a sanctuary of music, performed in a building created for the purpose of silence and sound, with musicians playing with great care on fine instruments. The pieces are carefully composed, carefully chosen. A conductor directs the energy of the music. It's a place where you can leave the noise of the modern world at the door, let go of everything else for a few hours and experience the kind of live music that resonates with your very being.
We need it more than ever.
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