Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ruining a concert via cellphone

The final movement of Mahler's Ninth Symphony is a slow rumination on mortality, with quiet sections played by strings alone.

During the New York Philharmonic's performance Tuesday night, it was interrupted by an iPhone.

The jarring ringtone—the device's "Marimba" sound, which simulates the mallet instrument—intruded in the middle of the movement, emanating from the first row at Avery Fisher Hall.

When the phone wasn't immediately hushed, audience members shook their heads. It continued to chime, and music director Alan Gilbert turned his head sharply to the left, signaling his displeasure.

Minutes passed. Each time the orchestra reached a quiet section, the phone could be heard above the hushed, reverent notes.

Finally, Mr. Gilbert could take no more: He stopped the orchestra.

A Philharmonic spokeswoman said Wednesday the music director has never before halted a performance because of a cellphone or any other type of disruption.

As the offending noise continued in a loop, Mr. Gilbert turned in its direction and pointedly asked that the phone be turned off. The audience let out a collective gasp.

The ringtone—believed to be an alarm—played on.

The audience wasn't pleased. A Wall Street Journal reporter seated in the 19th row heard jeers hurled from the balconies. One man screamed: "Enough!" Another yelled: "Throw him out!" The audience clapped and hollered in agreement—and still the tone continued to sound amid the din. ...

And even more surprising, he said, the man who owned the phone, recognized by orchestra members as a regular subscriber, didn't immediately own up to it—or act to silence the device.

"I had to ask him many times," Mr. Gilbert said. "It was bizarre. Maybe he was just so mortified that he just shut down and was paralyzed."
--Jennifer Maloney, WSJ, on a plague of the modern age