Concertgoers at Avery Fisher Hall were in for an unpleasant surprise last Tuesday evening, when in an almost unprecedented move, New York Philharmonic music director Alan Gilbert interrupted a performance for an audience member's ringing cell phone. According to the New York Times' ArtsBeat Blog, Gilbert stopped the orchestra during its performance of Mahler's Ninth Symphony to ask the unknown audience member to turn off the phone, which had been ringing ceaselessly throughout the movement.
The ringing started during what Gilbert said was the "most emotionally wrought part of Mahler Nine," a symphony that the Times says contains some of the "most spiritual and peaceful music ever written." When no one in the audience would 'fess up to being the owner of the offending mobile device, Gilbert sought out the location of the sound, while audience members screamed "Thousand-dollar fine!", "kick him out!" and "Get out!"
Eventually, a few audience members pointed out a couple in the front row where the sound was coming from. Gilbert politely asked the man to turn off his phone, then turned to the audience to apologize before launching into the final movement. "It was so shocking what happened," Gilbert said. "Usually you're in this faraway spiritual place in the piece. It was like being rudely awakened."
Although ringing cell phones are a common nuisance in concert halls, even during performances given by the world-renowned New York Philharmonic, Gilbert said this time the sound was too loud and persistent to ignore. But what I find most shocking about this story is not the rudeness of the offending audience member who didn't turn off his phone, but the viciousness of the jeers from the audience in reaction to the disruption; one blogger even said that they sounded like they were "out for blood."
Out for blood? Really? Because some douche who's probably never been to a concert other than Bonnaroo his sophomore year of college forgot to turn off his cell phone? I mean, granted, Mahler Nine at Avery Fisher Hall is not The Muppets at Loews Cineplex, but still, it sounds like these patrons-of-the-arts types would've pulled out their brass knuckles and rumbled, West Side Story-style.