The Santa Rosa Symphony Orchestra's Sunday afternoon concert a week ago ended with a splendid performance of Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony, which was his last great work and ends, not with his customary crashing finale (think 1812 Overture) but by drifting off into silence — his musical version of death itself.
In the last measures the notes grow fainter and fainter and finally fade away. It's a sad and beautiful ending. Or it is intended to be.
However, on Sunday afternoon, as the last notes were fading, there came the distinctive merry jingle of a cell phone ring tone, from somewhere in a corner of the balcony.
We've all been there — at plays, films and lectures, even at funerals. But this was the ultimate. As the orchestra's conductor-emeritus, Corrick Brown, was heard to mutter on the way out: "There is no place in classical music where it could have been more inappropriate."
Or more clearly discernible. If anyone there ever doubted the acuity of the acoustics in the Green Music Center's Weill Hall, they question no more.
As another audience member has suggested: "Perhaps 'Smartphone' is an oxymoron."
I have had telephones in general under consideration for some time.
It began last year when my daughter informed me that she has discontinued her landline — that's what everyone younger than a Boomer calls the instrument that once sat on our desk or hung on our kitchen wall. Now it's a "landline." And, apparently, people who have kept up with technology don't need one anymore.
Well, that gave me pause. ("One moment please" as the lady called "Operator" used to say.)
This consideration of communicative progress intensified when a woman at a recent gathering pointed across the room to a young girl who was deeply absorbed in what looked to be reading matter.
"See there," the woman said to me. "That girl has never seen a phone book before. She's nine years old and she's never seen a telephone book."
Then, a couple of days later I was talking with a 20-something friend about my glasses. She asked if I used them to read the newspaper. I said I did, and also to read the phone book.
"Phone book!" She seemed startled. "You still have a phone book?"
As it turns out the telephone book is as interesting as the phone itself.
What will Brownie troops use to make doorstops for family Christmas gifts? What will "he-men" rip apart to show their muscles? What will target shooters use to show the power of high-velocity bullets?
There's a whole body of phone book lore out there. As we all know, if you put two phone books together, page-by-page, two automobiles cannot pull them apart.
Did I learn that in physics class? Nope, I learned it from a school child who saw it on TV's "Mythbusters."
It so happens that I have several phone books in my bag of historical tricks. Sonoma and Lake Counties, 1907 and 1908; Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino, 1918, 1926, 1936, 1948 and 1954. The '48 book came out of someone's attic and is missing a couple of corners chewed off by a passing rodent, but it's still helpful when you are looking for old names and addresses. The numbers are of no use at all.