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Pesky chimes of the times

/ 06:08 PM September 30, 2012

Cell phones and their vast repertoire of ringtones have become so much a part of our daily lives that they’re disrupting, not just people’s conversations, but symphonic concerts as well.

Not too long ago, a concertgoer’s rudely blaring ringtone repeatedly stole the show from a performance at New York’s august Lincoln Center, irritating the orchestra conductor so much that he called a halt to the proceedings, until the pesky and insistently intrusive contraption could be switched off.

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As this latest wrinkle in the pop-social fabric further ruffled the already harassed sensibilities of lovers of classical music, people who make it a point to keep track of minutiae like this have hastened to remind everyone that this is by no means the first time that cell phones and their tinkles, cries, woofs and bleats have gate-crashed some pretty important occasions like Barbra Streisand’s acceptance speech at an awards show; one of former US President George Bush’s news conferences; and Gwyneth Paltrow just as she was expressing her gratitude for winning an Oscar best actress for her stellar performance in “Shakespeare in Love.”

Tacky trend

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When will the tacky trend become so pervasive that it finally ticks everyone off—a ringtone rudely interrupting the jurors at an impeachment trial just as they’re announcing their all-important verdict?

Truth to tell, however, unwanted interruptions or intrusions at concerts are nothing new for local concert lovers. Long before the cell phone was invented, there was a time in the ’60s and ’70s when an otherwise respectable fan of classical music would attend concerts—and regularly interrupt them with his uncontrollable vocal “tics” (he would occasionally let loose with a sort of “half-hiccup” that sounded like “hi!”).

Well, you can imagine our amazement and consternation the first time we heard him unexpectedly go “hi!” at a concert! What, we wondered, was going on? But, other music lovers were used to his spontaneous exclamations and took them, more benignly—and even fondly, because his unique vocal fillip had become a regular part of Manila’s cultural scene!

But there’s more: One fine night, we were enjoying another concert and, what do you know, aside from our “hi” exclaimer, there was another “unique” person in the concert hall, and he had a different vocal tic, which went something like “li!”

Well, that was the most unforgettable concert we had ever attended, with “Mr. Hi!” occasionally sounding off and, sometime later, “Mr. Li!” chiming in!

It wasn’t that the two “exclaimers” wanted to distract us or call attention to themselves, they simply couldn’t help it! But the “interactive” sounds they made were truly one for the pop-cultural books!

We don’t know what happened to those two “hiccuping” gents—maybe they finally got over their vocal tics, or realized that they were stealing the show too much and just enjoyed themselves by listening to classical music records at home. In any case, thanks for the unique musical memories, Messrs. Hi and Li!

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