BRAVE NEW WORLD SYMPHONY
by L.E. McCullough
© L.E. McCullough 2000
When listening to Cubs games on your headphones during concerts, be considerate of those around you. Periodically during the concert, pass the radio down the row or across the aisle so that other patrons can also keep abreast of the score. — Mind Your Manners, Clues to Classical, Chicago Tribune
At the Shakespeare Festival of Dallas, a crucial scene in “The Tempest” was interrupted by interference and snippets of conversation. The signals from audience cell phones had tangled with the actors’ wireless microphones. — Dallas Morning News
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I’M AN OLD MAN NOW, but I recall with fondness the great performances that inspired me to become an Artist, away back in the first decade of the new century. . . there was that stirring rendition by our local symphony of Brahms’ Concerto in D-flat Minor for Palm Pilot, Baritone Pager and Children’s Cell Phone Choir. . . the raging drama of A Laptop Named Desire with poor Blanche delivering the immortal line: “I have always depended upon the software of strangers!” . . . the afternoons whiled away in bliss at the ballet, entranced by the Dance of the Sugarplum Gigabytes.
Hard for us sophisticated moderns to believe, but not all that long ago some of our most cherished musical instruments were deemed “intrusive”, much like the early pianofortes of Mozart’s day.
Admittedly, the first orchestral tone implants were crude affairs that often set entire woodwind sections to strumming their clarinets and caused tympani players to pound the head of the nearest oboist.
Finally, bowing to the jangling vox techuli of the marketplace, dowdy tradition yielded to bold innovation; composers and playwrights realized they couldn’t compete with the new technology, so they adapted it, transforming supreme annoyance into sublime art.
I studied Video Techophony at NYU (minoring in Renaissance White Noise), received a Master’s in Ambient Musicology from the renowned Juilliard School of MusicInfoNetics and had the honor of being part of the team that pioneered the Hum-A-Tune Interface, whereby random musical fragments circulating among the subconscious brain waves of front-row season ticket holders were instantly translated into sounds emanating from the instruments onstage, creating the historic Simultaneous Symphony Series.
My first real artistic recognition came when I introduced the attachable BLURTEX cere-modems, which incorporated comments and body functions of chattering audience members into play dialogue:
“But soft! What wind through yonder window breaks? It is nigh intermission and my bladder is straining as Juliet that flirty tease gargles her lines and yet I am too bored, oh that I were a glove upon a winning poker hand, what of that, bright angel pasta Alfredo?”
Now, everyone can participate in The Classics — Shakespeare ’B’ Us!
Of course, there will always be nay-sayers and moldy figs with their weepy nostalgia for the days when an audience quietly and attentively listened to a performance.
Imagine — letting some “individual” composer or playwright dictate a singular artistic vision without prior approval from series sponsors and paying customers!
As if the besotted mutterings of the gent slumped in the third row balcony weren’t just as important to the plot of Lohengrin as the so-called “libretto” that Wagner fop cooked up!
And here in 21st-century America, what better expression of our cultural heritage than that masterpiece of family values by that rappin’ rustic, James Whitcomb “Frosty Punkin” Riley:
An’ Little Orphant Annie says,
When the modem blazes blue,
An’ the C-drive sputters,
An’ the printer goes woo-oo!
An’ you hear the browser quit,
An’ the screen goes gray,
An’ the segmentation memory
Is all squenched away,
Oh, the Hackers’ll flame you—
Ef you don’t watch out!
Now, that’s what we call art. . . . with a capital R.
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