John: It's For You

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Ah, the cell phone. What an amazing little gadget: it plays music videos, records brief movies, takes and shares photos, sends and receives instant messages, and I think you can talk into them too. Has any other device connected us so efficiently? Has any other device set concertgoers at each others’ throats?

Our Soundcheck Smackdown today is about cell phones at concerts – some people find them to be a great way to share the experience, others feel they ruin it. Personally, I don’t know about the first group – if a concert is really amazing, the last thing I want to do is take my eyes off it to type a message telling everyone so. But the latter group is definitely wrong. Cell phones are not ruining concerts. At the risk of getting close to the NRA’s “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” I have to say that it’s not a matter of whether your cell phone will bother me… it’s whether YOU will bother me with it. If you’re standing in front of me at a concert and you’re blocking my view for long stretches of time because you’ve got that cell phone or portable video camera held aloft, well, you’re a schmuck and you’d find some other way to bother me if you didn’t have the electronic device.

The typing of fingers of keypads and the occasional snatched photo doesn’t bother me, and I kinda like the sight of all those little blue screens dotting the audience. It’s a reminder that we, the listeners, are part of this concert experience too. Of course, at a classical concert in a grown-up hall with seats and “no cell phone” announcements, the rules of behavior are different from standing in the back of a club. And maybe that’s part of classical music’s problem. If your cell phone starts ringing when Simone Dinnerstein is finally reaching the recapitulation of the opening Aria in Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” that’s going to ruin the moment. But if you’re sitting there with bated breath, loving that moment, shouldn’t you be able to quietly text a friend or take a quick photo?

Tell us: What’s been your experience with cell phones (your own or someone else’s) at concerts?