Last night, a high society smartphone faux pas at Lincoln Center: an iPhone marimba rang out during the final moments of a performance of composer Gustav Mahler’s 9th symphony at the New York Philharmonic. The marimba did not stop until the conductor stopped the performance and marched out into the audience to personally reprimand the offender.
A film student, Max Kinchen, was there to chronicle the experience on his blog.The phone started ringing in a boisterous moment in the music, he said, but it persisted until a quiet section of the piece, where violins and wind instruments clashed with the marimba. “Finally, in a move that shocked the whole venue, Gilbert [the conductor] put down his baton and signaled the players to stop,” Mr. Kinchen wrote. “The audience was dead silent for a moment, save of course for the terrible sound of the ringing phone. Then, suddenly there was the sound of a great shifting and rumbling as every single person in the hall reached for their pockets and made sure their phones were off. And still, the phone continued to ring.”
The conductor later said he locked eyes with a couple in the front row who seemed paralyzed.
“We’ll wait.” Gilbert said, sounding more like a chastising kindergarten teacher than a conductor. Myself and those around me cringed in embarrassment, both for ourselves and the nameless dolt who had forgotten to go to vibrate.
Gilbert continued to stare in the direction of the ringer, that was still ringing!
“Turn off the phone.” He said sternly.
Still the phone continued to ring. How was this even possible?
(My theory is the offending phone’s owner fell asleep during the performance, had set an alarm on his phone and forgotten to turn it off, and left his ringer on, leading to this perfect storm of social elite faux pa)
Whatever the reason, the phone kept on ringing.
This is when things started to get interesting…
“Get out!” came an angry call from one of the balconies. Call is a nice way of putting it, this shout was almost more of a growl than coherent words.
“Shut it off!” Came another voice.
The aggression and anger in the voices of these people was palpable. Soon, a whole chorus of “Turn off the phone!” and “Throw them out!” was rising from around me in the auditorium.
I can’t describe the tension in that room and possibly do it justice, The way the people were shouting made it seem like they were calling for the phone’s owner’s head on a platter. They wanted blood! This crowd of largely elderly, well dressed, seemingly cultured and sophisticated people were shouting and screaming like a group of island natives demanding a sacrifice.
And still the phone kept ringing.
The calls got louder, there was a sense of movement in the sector the phone was coming from. What were those people preparing to do?
And still it kept ringing.
Finally, finally finally, mercifully, it stopped.
“Is it gonna go off again?” Alan Gilbert asked. I guess the answer was no because Gilbert then turned to the rest of us and said “Normally, when such a disturbance comes up during a performance, the thing to do is to ignore it but this was so egregious that I had no choice but to stop. I apologize.”
At this point the place erupted in thunderous, intense, aggressive applause. This ovation was louder than the one when he eventually finished the piece later on. Some people gave a standing ovation.