Saturday, September 23, 2006

Cell phone concerto may be music to your ears

It's one musical performance where your cell phone can -- and should -- ring.

U.S. jazz composer David Baker is encouraging people to use their mobile phones during the debut performance of "Concertino for Cellular Phones and Orchestra" that will open the 20th anniversary season of the Chicago Sinfonietta classical music festival next month.

During the 15-minute composition, members of the audience and the orchestra will be asked to use their cell phones at various points throughout the piece with red and green lights telling them when to turn their phones on and off.

"I think some people would think it is insane to even think about trying to combine the cacophony of cell phones with the pristine purity, sometimes, of an orchestra," Baker, 74, told Reuters in an interview.

He also said this was first time in his career that he had finished a piece but did not know what the result would be.

"There's just no way to replicate 1,000 cell phones going off at once," he added, comparing the idea to that of a jazz band.

Baker, who has more than 2,000 jazz, symphonic and chamber compositions to his credit, said people will also be encouraged to randomly increase and decrease the volume of their ring tones and try to recognize familiar tune fragments on the ring tones sounding on orchestra members' cell phones.

He said he hoped the contrast of chaos and structure in a constantly shifting orchestral scheme would replicate how cell phones create both order and chaos in our society.

"There's a wonderful balance ... because that's how our lives are," said Baker, a music professor at Indiana University.

Chicago Sinfonietta Maestro Paul Freeman came up with the idea of the cell phone concerto at an airport in Prague on his way home to Chicago.

"It just hit me," said Freeman, reached in Chicago.

"Sitting among these cell phones and people talking and laughing and arguing I thought: "Ah, there must be a way of refining this and making it into some kind of musical composition."

Both admit the toughest part of the idea will be to get people to participate. And what if they don't?

"Girl, my heart stops thinking about it," said Baker, adding: "It would be like your soloist didn't show up for your concerto."

Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited.