The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music etiquette: Kick ‘texters’ out of concerts, plays, movies

November 3, 2009

By Jacob Stockinger

It happened again over the weekend.

There I was, sitting in the dark in a theater on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, waiting for the show to start.

No sooner had the lights gone down than I noticed four young female students – two sitting in front of me and two sitting to my left – take out their cell phones and start texting. texting

They texted.

They texted.

And then they texted some more–both receiving and reading and writing and sending.

They texted throughout the performance, including the intermission, which is when you should check your texts if you need to.

It now has happened to me during concerts, during movies and during plays.

True, there are advisories.

In each case, people were asked before the performance to silence or shut off all alarms and cell phones.

But apparently the texters think this doesn’t apply to them.

So for the entire duration of the show, the four young women texted. (Maybe there were men texting too, but I didn’t see any doing it except before and after the performance and during intermission. I wonder if it has anything to do with gender roles and communication. Any thoughts, readers?) texting2

One young woman tried to hide her texting in a cave-like cavity she had made from her open purse. All that did was disseminate the screen glow further into a larger, more diffuse aura.

The clicking itself is distracting – you are wrong if they think texting doesn’t make noise.

But the most distracting part was the light plus the rudeness of being inattentive to the performers and indifferent to the people around them they were distracting.

Such a lack of etiquette is something that simply shouldn’t be indulged.

(I recall President Obama’s State of the Union speech when everyone focused on the Republican Congressman who shouted out “You lie.” But I was just as outraged when I saw Republican Senator Jeff Sessions texting during the speech and when President George Bush did it during a press conference by Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.) textingbush

If you don’t want to attend an event, then don’t go to it. But don’t ruin if for others — and for yourself – by texting.

It really is a form of disrespecting the performers, other audience members and even the texters themselves who, no matter what anyone says about multi-tasking, can’t possibly be getting enjoyment or enlightenment from the performance.

Here is what I propose:

First, post a sign of the walls outside or inside the venue saying no texting or cell phones during the performance — kind of like some place are doing for driving. textingsign

Each performance should also be preceded by a spoken or recorded announcement asking patrons to shut off wrist watch alarms and silence cells.

The announcement should also say that anyone seen texting during a performance will be escorted out of the theater or concert hall, the cinema or lecture hall, by an usher or some other staff member — and not allowed back in.

These days a lot of talk in the arts world concerns how to reach younger audiences.

But that effort can’t be one-way.

If you attend an event, you owe it to the performers, to other audience members and to yourself to pay attention to what you are seeing or hearing. And to be, at the very least, polite and courteous and considerate of others.

And if you do not pay attention by acting in a disruptive way, then you forfeit your right, purchased through a ticket, to attend the vent. Out you go — expelled or kicked out form a place you don’t really want to be or deserve to be.

Do you agree or disagree with me?

Am I being too harsh?

Am I being too much of an old fogy?

What do you think should be done to prevent texting in concerts, plays, movies and lectures?

Or is it something we just have to get used to?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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