By now, most of you have probably heard about the ringing cell phone that disrupted a recent New York Philharmonic performance of Mahler’s 9th Symphony to such an extent that Maestro Alan Gilbert stopped the show until the phone’s owner assured him that the offending device had, indeed, been silenced. The phone had apparently been blaring its “Marimba” ringtone for as long as 10 minutes by that point & some audience members were calling for its owner to be fined, ejected from Avery Fisher Hall, or worse. Honestly, I can’t say I blame them, & I applaud Maestro Gilbert for his actions. To give you an idea of just how loud the phone’s ring was, a friend of mine who was in attendance that night said the noise, which was emanating from the front row, could be heard in the farthest reaches of the balcony!
No, I don’t hate cell phones. I’m not our resident tech goddess – around here, that honor goes to Diana Ross – but I’m hardly a Luddite. I started WBJC’s Facebook page. I spend a lot of time online & buy most of my books, sheet music, & vintage clothing in cyberspace these days. I love to text & check email on my own cell phone, which is practically a body part. It contains both my personal & professional schedules as well as notes about all sorts of things: books I’d like to read, wines Jim & I have enjoyed, addresses of favorite stores & restaurants in New York, & who knows what else. Sometimes I even make calls on the thing. I also set it to vibrate in situations where a ringtone would be grossly inappropriate, including during my radio show, fancy dinners, & performances (& yes, that includes movies!)
Apparently the owner of the world’s most infamous iPhone is (to use his description) between 60 & 70 years of age & runs two successful businesses. He’s affluent enough to purchase front row seats at the NY Phil & own the latest technology – seems his phone is a recent acquisition - & I certainly don’t begrudge him either. I understand that the “Marimba” heard around the world was actually an alarm that the man didn’t realize he’d set, & one that cannot be silenced merely by turning the phone’s main ringtone on vibrate. We’ve all had trouble trying to figure out how our new electronic devices work. Back in the late 90′s, when I got my first cell phone, the thing had 911 on auto-dial & I accidentally pressed that button so many times one evening that the exasperated operator said she was going to send a police car over if I didn’t stop. I quickly learned how to reset the function in question! Which brings me to a couple of points: one, if you are going to bring an electronic device into a public place, especially a performance venue, you’re responsible for knowing how to silence it, & two, if you forget to do so, the thing starts making noise during the show, & you can’t for the life of you figure out how to make it shut up, PLEASE leave the room immediately. If a certain fellow in New York had done that, we’d all have a lot less to chatter about, wouldn’t we?
Alan Gilbert, cell phones, etiquette, Mahler, New York Philharmonic, tech