Distracting audience member forced me to focus on music more intently than usual
Just as the lights were about to dim after intermission at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra concert last night, a man suddenly tapped me on the shoulder last night and asked if he could sit in the empty seat next to me.
He did, and proceeded to move about animatedly with the music, sometimes reacting to violent changes in mood, tempo or key, sometimes anticipating them. Then his cellphone went off.
I figured I had a choice: either shove him over the balcony rail, and risk hurting the people below, or marshall all of my meditative skills to focus on what was happening on stage.
The result? I've probably never listened so intently at Schumann's Symphony No. 2 -- even if it was Mahler's re-orchestration, which I don't care for.
On my way to the Star afterward, I thought about the chatter in church on Sunday mornings while I play the prelude. It forces me to focus more on what I'm playing, and to try and will the music to reach the ears of the people who are trying to have a reflective or prayerful moment before the start of mass.
Globe and Mail theatre critic J. Kelly Nestruck -- blogging for the Guardian -- had a related sense-focusing experience in watching the Metropolitan Opera's opening night performance of Das Rheingold in Times Square.
Noise during a live performance is rich fodder for debate and argument. Philosophically, I love the idea of opening the performing arts up to every passerby, even if it means just a few moments of conenction with a random pair of eyes and ears. In practice as a listener, I love golden silence and still attention. As a performer (and I'll use that term very, very loosely), I don't mind a bit of noise elsewhere.
I suspect we'll never find common ground.
Here's a fun, live riff on the ringing cellphone, thanks to Grant Baciocco of American musical comedy act, Throwing Toasters: