[f_minor] NYPO Mahler 9th interrupted by cell phone

Robert Merkin bobmerk at earthlink.net
Sun Jan 15 22:54:41 PST 2012

Here's the excruciatingly painful (and funny) story about "Patron X" from The NY Times:


The New York Times 
Thursday 12 January 2012

Ringing Finally Ended, but There's No Button to Stop Shame


They were baying for blood in the usually polite precincts of Avery Fisher Hall.

The unmistakably jarring sound of an iPhone marimba ring interrupted the soft and spiritual final measures of Mahler's Symphony No. 9 at the New York Philharmonic on Tuesday night. The conductor, Alan Gilbert, did something almost unheard-of in a concert hall: He stopped the performance. But the ringing kept on going, prompting increasingly angry shouts in the audience directed at the malefactor.

After words from Mr. Gilbert, and what seemed like weeks, the cellphone owner finally silenced his device. After the audience cheered, the concert resumed. Internet vitriol ensued.

But no one, it seems, felt worse than the culprit, who agreed to an interview on Thursday on condition that he not be identified - for obvious reasons.

"You can imagine how devastating it is to know you had a hand in that," said the man, who described himself as a business executive between 60 and 70 who runs two companies. "It's horrible, horrible." The man said he had not slept in two days.

The man, called Patron X by the Philharmonic, said he was a lifelong classical music lover and 20-year subscriber to the orchestra who was friendly with several of its members. He said he himself was often irked by coughs, badly timed applause - and cellphone rings. "Then God, there was I. Holy smokes," he said.

"It was just awful to have any role in something like that, that is so disturbing and disrespectful not only to the conductor but to all the musicians and not least to the audience, which was so into this concert," he said by telephone.

"I hope the people at that performance and members of the orchestra can certainly forgive me for this whole event. I apologize to the whole audience."

Patron X said he received a call from an orchestra official the day after the concert. He had been identified by his front-row seat. The official politely asked him not to do it again, he said, and the man took the opportunity to ask to speak to Mr. Gilbert, to apologize in person.

The men talked by telephone (it was a land line) on Thursday afternoon. Mr. Gilbert said he told Patron X, "I'm really sorry you had to go through this," and accepted his apology.

Before that, the disruption became the marimba ring tone heard round the world, prompting feverish commentary on blogs and comment forums about performance interruptions.

In a Twitter message, the composer Daniel Dorff said, "Changed my ringtone to play #Mahler 9 just in case." A YouTube poster superimposed a marimba sound over a performance of the piece by Leonard Bernstein.

The episode seemed to serve as an extreme example of how one of the staples of modern life can disrupt a live performance, because of both Mr. Gilbert's reaction and the guilty party's long delay in shutting off the cellphone.

Actually, Patron X said he had no idea he was the culprit. He said his company replaced his BlackBerry with an iPhone the day before the concert. He said he made sure to turn it off before the concert, not realizing that the alarm clock had accidentally been set and would sound even if the phone was in silent mode.

"I didn't even know phones came with alarms," the man said.

But as Mr. Gilbert was glaring in his direction, he fiddled with the phone as others around him did, just to be sure, pressing buttons. That was when the sound stopped. It was only in the car going home that his wife checked the settings on his phone and found that the alarm had been set.

Cellphones often go off during all sorts of performances, but the Mahler incident was a rarity: It happened during one of music's most sublime moments, it did not stop after a few seconds, and it emanated from the front row, where it was impossible for Mr. Gilbert to ignore.

The Philharmonic said the ushers at Avery Fisher Hall - who work for Lincoln Center, not the orchestra - should have intervened. Lincoln Center said it was investigating.

Both Mr. Gilbert and Patron X found something positive in the episode.

"It shows how important people still feel live performance is," Mr. Gilbert said. "This is something people either consciously or implicitly recognize as sacred."

The patron agreed. The incident underscored "the very enduring and important bond between the audience and the performers," he said, adding, "If it's disturbed in any significant way, it just shows how precious this whole union is."

James Barron contributed reporting.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 12, 2012

An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of the composer who sent a Twitter message about the cellphone interruption as Dorf.

- 30 -

----- Original Message ----- 
  From: DJ Were-Panda 
  To: Discussion of the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould. 
  Sent: Sunday, January 15, 2012 9:10 PM
  Subject: Re: [f_minor] NYPO Mahler 9th interrupted by cell phone

  The Economist did a piece today on the matter.  Before people start seeing red on bliss intruded upon by digital devices, I'd like to direct you to a quote from the article:

  The New York Times reported that the gentleman in question, interviewed by the newspaper but not named, had received a brand new company iPhone a day before the concert, replacing his BlackBerry smartphone. An alarm had been set accidentally, it appears, and he was only able to silence it after much fumbling in his pocket. A spokeswoman for the Philharmonic told Babbage that the hapless interrupter, a front-row season subscriber, is mortified, and that the orchestra and staff feel for him.
  (end quote)

  Full article here: http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2012/01/mobile-phones?fsrc=scn/tw/te/bl/marimbamahler

  Regards, DJWP


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