Cello? Yes, I am in a once-in-a-lifetime concert with my phone on | Stuff.co.nz

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OPINION: I thoroughly enjoyed the Yo-Yo Ma concert at the Christchurch Town Hall on Tuesday night.

What the excellent review on Stuff on Wednesday missed, though, is the fact that phones rang throughout the concert.

I’m not talking one phone, I’m talking enough that I lost count.

It was embarrassing.

There was even a woman whose phone rang multiple times and instead of switching it to silent, she just turned it off each time and stuffed it back in her handbag.

Ma, the consummate professional, didn’t miss a beat. I suppose it’s part of performing these days. But how distracting it must be to be up on stage playing six Bach cello suites from memory and someone’s phone is playing a polyphonic version of the catchy 90s hit Horny.

Jason Bell
Yo-Yo Ma was the consummate professional in Tuesday night’s concert at the Christchurch Town Hall, despite the incessant ringing of phones, Johnny Moore writes.

Six suites, phrased just so, and all from memory. I repeat this fact because I have such a poor memory that I’ve already forgotten I wrote this in the previous paragraph.

And it wasn’t just the phone calls that distracted people. Some people seemed unable to tear themselves away from their phones for five minutes in order to enjoy the performance.

You could see them in the crowd, faces ghoulishly illuminated as they subbed out from the experience they were part of and subbed in to scrolling and swiping.

A woman in front of me spent the entire show on her phone. I could see what she was looking at because she wasn’t just distracting herself.

Do you know what she needed to see?

Facebook for about a second and a half, instagram for 20 seconds, Stuff, Snapchat… it seemed that opening the app was giving her a dopamine hit but once she was there she needed another and all that could achieve that was opening another stupid app.

I see it at Yo-Yo Ma, I see it in the streets and I see it most disturbingly when people are driving.

We are completely and utterly hooked on these devices and it’s becoming normal.

A trailer of The Music of Strangers, a documentary released in 2015 about Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble.

Please don’t see this as some self-righteous position. I am just another fallible human and I too find myself reaching for my phone like an automaton. I’m just trying my best to acknowledge this urge.

Because just like y’all, I am essentially a baboon and while we like to think we’re agents of free will, really people much cleverer than the majority of us have worked out how to trigger our monkey brains.

We’ve outsourced our brains to the cloud and I worry we’re paying top dollar to become drones.

Phones are electronic leashes and we are signing up for the role of digital slaves.

Whatever happened to being mind-numbingly bored? Now there’s an old person question.

Maybe I need to go back to church if I want to experience that feeling again? Or is everyone in church messing about on their phones too?

And is being mind-numbingly bored a better state than being controlled by digital overlords on the internet selling us crap we didn’t even know we wanted?

I dunno. But the least we can do when we spend big bucks on a ticket to see a genius perform a once-in-a-lifetime show is turn our phones on silent, sub out of the ‘net for a few hours and try to enjoy the show.

I think the little girl in the front row had the right idea, an idea I used to try when as a child I had to endure church: have a snooze.

At least it’s more polite than ruining the show for others who came to see a master in full control of his craft.

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