Wild Night at Philharmonic After Phone Interruption

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - 12:31 PM

Alan Gilbert conducts the New York Philharmonic Alan Gilbert conducts the New York Philharmonic (Chris Lee)

Alan Gilbert was right. 

Last night, in one of the quietest parts of the final movement of a gorgeous New York Philharmonic performance of Mahler's Ninth, a cell phone started ringing ... and ringing, and ringing, and ringing. Alan Gilbert, who was on the podium in Avery Fisher Hall, glared in the direction of the phone, but it kept right on going. Then, the music got louder, and we all assumed that whoever owned the phone had done something about it. But minutes later, when the music got softer again the phone was still going (an iPhone marimba ringtone, which sounds like this):

So Gilbert stopped the performance. He then turned around and indicated that the phone should be turned off. It continued. The conductor then said to the phone’s owner, who was sitting in the front, “You have a phone... Fine, we’ll wait.” And we did, with audience members standing up, pointing in the direction of the offender, and shouting things like “Throw him out!” When the phone was finally silenced, Gilbert turned to the audience to apologize.

"Usually, when there's a disturbance like this, it is best to ignore it," he said. "But this was so egregious…" And he was right. It was egregious. The audience clearly agreed, giving him wildly supportive applause.
After resuming the fourth movement of Mahler’s Ninth from an appropriate place, and bringing the symphony to its exquisite conclusion, Alan Gilbert left his hand in the air. The indication was clear: "Here. Enjoy the silence." And we did. Not a soul clapped until he began to lower his hand, at which point Maestro Gilbert and the Philharmonic enjoyed a heartfelt ovation -- for the music and the response.
Anyone who thinks this was an act of ego should give it another think. I was there. I don't know why the owner of the phone, or someone near the owner, did not get it to stop, but there was absolutely no way the music could have reasonably continued with that accompaniment. Bravo, Alan Gilbert. You were right.

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Comments [254]

Michael Novia from New Canaan, CT

I've always been intrigued by the pyschological import of disruptions. From sneezing, coughing, clearing the throat to kicking or grasping the back of seats, to the shuffling of the feet and talking or walking in late. Never mind the opening of wrappers!! Although many excuse away the inherent intent of disruptions, I think (from much study and experience) that they are "hysterical" quirks at best and intentional, malicious rejections of the the Arts at worst. I tend to believe the latter far more than the former, but what does it matter really? I must say that the words of du Maurier's Svegali come to mind: "Pig Dog Monkey." Is it better to not think this, to not perseverate on the disruptions, and to miss the beauty of the music... or to know very well that these disruptions are purposeful and really know the sublimity of the music? Are the two mutually exclusive? My grown daughters think I'm wrapped too tight!!

Apr. 24 2012 10:19 AM

You have to shut the cell phone all the way off, no power. Otherwise the alarm can sound even though it may be on silent ring or airplane mode.

Jan. 20 2012 03:53 PM
Edward from Kissimmee, FL

Some things are unavoidable. That being said, once a person has breached such etiquette they should correct it immediately. Several years ago I went to Tanglewood on the Tanglewood on Parade day and opted to sit on the grounds with a picnic dinner. During the performance an infanct (so young they could not possibly appreciate a concert) started crying loudly. After listening to this for several minutes, I finally shouted loudly, "either shut that baby up or take it out of here!" Most of the people in the area stated clapping and the woman took the baby out.

Jan. 16 2012 08:19 PM
Charlotte Nugent

In all the discussion of this incident, I still do not have a reasonable explanation of why this man let the phone ring and ring without trying to do something about it. I have had a phone go off "by accident" in the middle of a church service and instead of going crazy trying to turn it off I just slipped out of the church as fast as possible. I think that the man was trying to pretend it wasn't his phone. But to let it ring and ring and ring....I can't imagine doing such a thing.
The tyranny of today's technology is scary. I am in heaven when I go on retreat to a place called Omega, in Rhinebeck, New York. No cell reception. I just say "Sorry, no cell reception". It's more blissful than anything else.
I'm sure this constant "being plugged in" to the technology is ruining any chance for serenity or peace of mind.

Jan. 16 2012 12:04 PM
DMiller from NJ

Who knows if venues will ever institute a policy to check electronic devices at the door? Until then, I will make sure to remove the battery from my phone prior to a performance. This seems to be the quickest and most concrete solution.

Jan. 16 2012 07:53 AM
Pat G. from Long Island, NY

In fairness to the poor owner of the cell phone involved in Thursday's fiasco, has everyone/anyone seen the NY Times account of what actually happened? Apparantly, the man (a long-time Philharmonic subscriber and doner) had a new iPhone--just rec'd that day and unfamiliar to him. He HAD turned it OFF. Unfortunately, somehow an alarm (the sort you set to remind you to take medication, etc.) had been set (not by him). Even though the phone was OFF, the reminder turned it on an made it ring. He knew he'd turned the phone off so when it started, he never thought it could be HIS phone. Before this afternoon's concert at Carnegie you can be sure my friends and I all checked our phones to see if unsuspected alarms could turn the phone on at an inopportune moment. (The older phones in our group didn't have the problem.) Although I, like most respondents, was originally outraged at the breach of concert etiquette, now I'm really feeling sorry for the poor man. As the Times article noted, Gilbert and most of your blog's respondents do see some things as "sacred" -- that's nice to know.

Jan. 16 2012 12:17 AM

SORRY FOLKS! It was ME calling my psychic adviser about my chances of having an affair with a WQXR dj we all know.....

Jan. 15 2012 05:27 PM
C.L.Clemo from London

I regularly attend concerts in New York and if I had heard about this disturbance with a mobile phone without knowing where it happened my first guess would have been New York without question.

The audiences in New York are the worst in the world; they play with their phones, cough endlessly, rustle papers, fidget with their handbags and leave noisily before a performance has finished.

Co-incidentally I attended a Mahler 9 at Carnegie Hall with Rattle and the Berlin Phil about 3 years ago and after the first movement he addressed the audience asking them to be quiet and behave themselves; as I expected they took little notice.

At the time I said to my wife that Rattle should know that if one visits somewhere where a very large proportion of the audience do not understand the difference between culture and entertainment this is what one must expect.

There is of course the argument that Mahler is little more than entertainment but that must remain a matter for another day.

James Levine once said that people only cough and fidget when they are bored and no doubt many in New York audiences are bored because they are not being entertained but the thought of being bored quietly and without selfish disregard for others does not enter their heads.

A little less selfishness and some self-discipline would make an immeasurable difference for everyone.

Jan. 15 2012 02:10 PM
:Michael Meltzer

It is immaterial whether this Mahler-spoiler was forgivable or not. If this blog were just about him, it would not have attracted so very many, obviously deeply felt comments.
It is about a serious prevailing ubiquity that is poorly addressed by current concert hall managements, who obviously are reluctant “to offend a customer.”
This collection of comments should serve as a petition to put hall managements on notice, that in attempting to offend no one, they are offending almost everyone.
A comprehensive set of rules must be designed and published for each hall, then tactfully but very strictly and promptly enforced.

Jan. 15 2012 01:13 PM

It's easy to condemn this offender, who disturbed to the point that affects the entire performance, but I like to see more classical institutions take this opportunity to let the public know what other behaviour could be disturbing and offensive to the fellow audience and musicians. There are reasons why Muti called the Met audiences "bunch of peasants."
Carnegie Hall provides cough candies in the hall way, grab them for Christ's sake. If you need to clear your throat, do it during tutti fortessimo, not when a soloist plays in pianissimo. If you can't supress your cough, don't be selfish but just stay home!
Sure, for you, taking your girlfriend to an Opera could be romantic, but stop caressing her, that non-stop swishing noises doesn't even match the music and it's louder than you think.
Yes, the music is moving and invigorating but please don't move your body that much - your legs are shaking my seat and I don't really appreciate your tempo!
If you need to shop before the concert, make sure you don't kick your paper bag so often during the performance.
AND please know that silence could be the part of music - appreciate the music and respect the musicians until the very end - I know you are very excited but express your appreciation only after the conductor eases the baton.
Classical concert is too stiff? Not necessarily. If you really respect the years of practice the musicians put into for this fragile musical moments that disappears in the air the next moment, you wouldn't even think of making such disturbances. If you have other priority than appreciation of music, just don't attend the concerts - stay home and watch DVD in your living room doing whatever you need to do on the side!

Jan. 15 2012 01:00 PM
Mark from South Korea

Just an addendum to my previous comment... I was unaware that the patron had received the cell phone as a gift the day before and was under the impression that it was turned off completely.

All the same, it would have been better if he had simply left it at home; especially if he knew he was going to be sitting so close to the stage.

I agree with the suggestion that all cell phones and cameras be checked at the door. The only exception, I think, would be if the patron were an on-call physician.

And to the person who commented that classical musicians are full of themselves... generally-speaking, that is simply not true. Yes, there are and have been some egotistical artists; but that can equally apply to the worlds of jazz and rock music, as well.

Typically, a jazz or rock performance is loud enough to overcome any background noise. A classical music performance, on the other hand, needs to take place in an environment that is as free from distraction as is humanly possible; in order that every nuance can be fully appreciated.

There's a certain thing called "artistic temperament" that kind of goes with the job. A lot of classical musicians, however, are able to keep theirs in check and behave with the utmost diplomacy and tact.

Jan. 15 2012 03:06 AM
Mark from South Korea

You would think people would know enough to make sure that their cell phones are turned off before the start of a performance.

I have been to many classical music performances in my lifetime and I have seen and heard all manner of interruptions: infants crying, people having whispered conversations, and of course, the ubiquitous cell phones that we as a society cannot seem to do without.One time I was at a performance and I saw one women take out her knitting during a performance. It was a small venue with dry acoustics and the light, but audible clicking of her knitting needles was enough to drive anyone mad.

Speaking for myself, when I attend an opera or a symphony concert I want to hear the music that is being performed on the stage... not about someone's recent gall bladder operation or a separate accompaniment of inane ring-tones or rustling of bags.

I was under the impression that cell phones had been completely banned in all public places; in order to prevent incidents like that described here... Then again, it would appear that it is difficult to enforce such a policy; because there will always be some numskull out there who somehow thinks the rules don't apply to him or her.

I heartily agree with Maestro Gilbert's actions. It's unfortunate that he had to resort to such action, but I don't blame him in the least. As for the instigator of the disruption... I'm hoping that he'll never return to another NY Philharmonic concert until he learns how to operate a cell phone properly.

Jan. 15 2012 02:42 AM
Beatrice from Manhattan

I may as well offer my opinion as all the others have done. Every venue that I know of announces at the start of each program-Please turn off all electronic devices!!! Enough saidP.
P.S. Are so many of filled with self-importance that we cannot be without a cell phone, iphone,etc. for a few hours? Shame!!!!

Jan. 14 2012 05:18 PM
Scott from Brookline, MA

While handheld electronics do no favors to modern day concert goers wishing to experience uninterrupted performances, I recall Rostropovich's debut American recital in NYC, which I had the privilege of attending as a young child with my mother and younger sister. As my sister had a hard time sitting still at such events, my well-intended mother supplied her with candies in cellophane wrappers to keep her entertained. Much to the Rostropovich's dismay, my sister, just rows from the stage, unwrapped some of her treats during quieter moments of his program, distracting and noticeably upsetting his concentration. As fortune would have it, the noise did not cause him to falter, and the concert was an enormous success. Needless to say, when I met him years later, I didn't have the never to divulge my secret! All this to say that disruptions in concert halls are not a novelty of the digital age. Noisy food, coughing, talking, snoring, etc. have plagued performances for centuries. However, with the growing American appetite for electronic devices, perhaps now the time is ripe to deal with this issue. We'll never prevent snoring, but hopefully we can reduce the number of unnecessary cell phone disruptions!

Jan. 14 2012 02:39 PM

I don't buy this guy's story for a minute. First of all, whether he set the alarm himself or not, why was it set for some time around 10 p.m.? And even if he had just gotten the phone the day before, wouldn't the alarm have gone off the previous night, prompting him to figure out how to shut it off then? Finally, how do you not know it's your phone? A woman may carry her phone in her purse, away from her person, but a man generally carries his phone in the pocket of his suit coat, no? This sounds like a major case of denial and avoidance. I think he just didn't want to draw attention to himself by reaching for it to turn it off and thought it would just stop if he ignored it long enough.

Jan. 14 2012 02:37 PM
Elise from Middletown

We as a society have become very self centered over the years. As pointed out by several comments, this behavior is also blatant in jazz clubs, opera, etc. Perhaps we needed one poor, misguided individual to throw the proverbial cold water on all our faces. Instead of impaling that man on spikes of personal anger and outrage, why don't we collectively insist that concert houses and jazz clubs or any place that we feel needs to be neutral, have a policy of cell phones being checked at the door. After all, we check our coats and belongings we don't want to carry. It should be strict enough and posted clearly so that people understand if the policy is not followed they will be removed with no refund. I feel that if concert houses have this in place from the moment patrons enter, especially after such an incident, gradually we will return to a more civil and courteous performance atmosphere.

Gone are the days of no cell phones, texting and other devices. While we may never be able to get that type of satisfying silence to return, we absolutely can have policies in place that are 100% enforceable to deal with those people who have trouble with addictions.

Jan. 14 2012 11:01 AM
Christopher Hosford from Bronx

I guess it's superfluous to add anything to all that's been written, but at least this was an accident and the perpetrator was mortified. Worse, in my opinion, are willful perpetrators. Here in NYC, ballet goers are notorious for using flaring minicams and flash cameras to record what's on stage, despite scurrying ushers trying to stop it. Even during the most sublime moments, the flashes go off, and the glaring video displays of cameras in your direct line of sight ahead are impossible to avoid. These really destroy the moment(s). Another egregious fault is candy. I remember distinctly a moment during the Act 1 love duet in "Otello." It was Miami and I think the great Ermanno Mauro was the Otello. As many know, this is quiet, ecstatic, soaring stuff toward the end. The lady behind me continued to open cellophane-wrapped candy during the whole thing --- "wrinkle, wrinkle, wrinkle" -- impossible to bear! Yes, cell phones are the bete noire of current concert goers. But there are plenty of villains, willful or ignorant. The rest of us are victims.

Jan. 14 2012 10:18 AM
Susan from Montauk

If you read the article in the Times, you learn that it was a new iphone given to the audience member (a man in his 60's)by his company the day before. He turned the phone off before the concert, but didn't know the alarm was set. He didn't even know it had an alarm. He didn't realize it was his phone ringing. A long time supporter of the NY Phil, he was much embarrassed. Makes me realize that I need to be a little less judgemental about these kind of things.

I love jazz too, but it is hard for me to understand how anyone who accepts all kinds of extraneous noise with their music cares about it as much as those of us who want to hear the intended tones. John Cage was making a different kind of music with his added sounds. All very interesting, but for most of us, lacking in its ability to move us emotionally.

Jan. 14 2012 10:18 AM
DMiller from NJ

I just read the NY Times article of the confession of the hapless iPhone owner. Could it be that Mr. Jobs was in attendance from the great beyond, perhaps?

Jan. 14 2012 08:57 AM
Greg Henry Waters from New York

I think classical musicians think they are so perfect. Ever play in a jazz club with all the noise or a party. These classical musicians think too highly of themselves. They should get off their high horse.

John Cage would have thought it was part of the composition.


Jan. 14 2012 08:53 AM
Erin from Montclair, NJ

I remember that one cell phone commercial - might have been for a texting feature - from several years ago. It's at an opera, the diva in full Wagner battle gear is in the middle of a soaring aria, and some guy takes a call on his cell phone. And the enraged diva picks up her spear, throws it into the audience and impales the guy's phone - to the delight of the audience.

My family and I went to see the Philharmonic on New Year's Eve, when they did the program of Gershwin and Bernstein with Jean-Yves Thibaudet (awesome show, by the way). And I remember checking three times to make sure my phone was completely turned off before the show started. Sure, the patron must be mortified about everything that happened, but the fact is, people need to show some respect for others around them when it comes to cell phone use in public places.

Jan. 14 2012 08:47 AM
Michael Meltzer

We all go on and on, posing rational arguments as if the perpetrators were deep-down reasonable, resposible adults who if they just stopped to think, would see the error of their ways.
They are not. They are adolescents and children in adult bodies who cannot say "NO" to themselves. They have to be shamed into growing up, and the media have to join in to help. God help these people's own children!

Jan. 14 2012 03:06 AM

Nothing have changed in NYC from I visited as a tourist the city and listening to the NYPO conducted by Kurt Masur in the performance of Le Martyre de Saint Sebastiane many years ago. During all the concert pepople were walking along the corridors, candy wrappers, whispering and coughing loudly and openly. I have never seen that in my other concert experiences in Helsinki, Prague, Amsterdam ...
Today you can add to these irritating noise others that come through electronic devices.
Anyway, do you think that Mr. Gilbert will be more celebrated far in the future for this cell ring or for his performances?
That is an interesting question!

Jan. 13 2012 11:14 PM
Lilli Mueller from NYC

Ridiculous! Something similar happened to me at the third part of the trilogy of Tom Stoppard's "Coast of Utopia" at Lincoln Center. The woman behind me had a ringing cell phone in the final scene of the play, and she tried unsuccessfully three times to silence the phone, and she should have left the theater after her second failed attempt. When the lights came on, she was nowhere to be found. She disruppted the enjoyment of a play at its most crucial point just as this "elegant man" as described by Gilbert, did during Mahler's Ninth. Go back to your philsophy class...I think it goes down under Locke or Kant...shutting down one cell phone is better for the greater good and an audience of hundreds if not at least a thousand or more who have all paid good money earned in hard times. I don't even accept the excuse that he didn't know how to use the cell phone. Would we accept that plea with a car accident? Granted, the downside of a car accident is a little greater than interrupting the pleasure of enjoying the Mahler Ninth, and we can't require licensing for the use of cellphones; however an IQ test, SAT or ACT score should be a bare minimum - saracasm intended. I believe NYC does have a regulation or law of some sort that bans cellphone ringing during Broadway shows, but of course it is not enforced. Therefore, we are left with a rude society and no way to change it and "it takes a village" to change and enforce decency.

Jan. 13 2012 11:07 PM
Paul from Clark, NJ

Generally, I have no patience for this sort of thing because it's so easy to shut off your device beforehand or, at worst, silence it quickly. This story sounds particularly bizarre considering the length of time the ringing or alarm continued. I would almost assume the patron was unable to adjust the phone or didn't know how but none of the witnesses here indicate that to be the case. If he or she deliberately just let it ring out, well, that's just bizarre. I'm glad the conductor did what he did for two reasons at least: It showed respect for the rest of the audience, and, it may have helped prevent this from happening in the future.

Jan. 13 2012 09:25 PM
Neil Myers from Yonkers, NY

I think the solution is very simple: Just assign an area where people can deposit their cell phones, or computers, I-phones etc., just like a coat-room check. The electronic devices could then be collected when the patron leaves.

All electronic devices (apart from hearing aids and life-support machines) should be banned from music halls and theaters. If someone is using one, (yes even sending a text message), then the ushers should be able to confiscate it, give the patron a ticket, and deposit the cell phone at the cell phone check for the patron to collect when they leave, or if the call or text is more important than the performance the patron can discreetly leave the auditorium.

If you believe you may receive an emergency call then perhaps you should not be attending a live performance.

Jan. 13 2012 09:23 PM
David S Bundler

I have heard Glibert and "patron X" have reconciled. Excellent. If "patron X", who seems to be a front row subscription holder, really feels bad, perhaps he can make a donation in recompense. It seems to have been an accident. One note here; how many babies are heard interrupting concerts? Right; no one brings them since they do not know how to stop them from alarming, or knows when they will go off. It's just a hunch, but I think babies are more important to people who have them, and the future of society, than Iphones. I suppose some people enjoy the sense of security of being connected to people and things that can wait until later, but I enjoy the freedom of not being tied to it. Call me a rebel, call me Ishmael, just don't try calling during the concert, I won't have my phone.

Jan. 13 2012 08:52 PM
Neil Dave' from Palo Alto, CA

TSA style electronic scanning and frisking may be needed to prevent a recurrence

Jan. 13 2012 06:35 PM
Maya from Manhattan

@ Charles Hack,
Suppression of phone signals in the music hall is not a solution to this. The alarm on his phone was ringing... not a phone call. It was an alarm... alarm clock, if you will.

Jan. 13 2012 06:30 PM
Charles Hack from New York City

Gilbert was correct. Where was the house staff? Why did they not know to take some sort of action? Hopefully the house manager learned something from this and developes some appropriate protocol for staff to follow when such occurs in the future. Perhaps Lincoln Center (and all performance halls) should obtain the technology that supresses cell phone communications within the performance halls. Until then they should arm the ushers with live ammunition!!

Charles Hack

Jan. 13 2012 04:53 PM
Marie from NYC

I was there.

What people don't understand is that the phone kept ringing, and ringing, and ringing. Over and over. Maybe 40 times. It started even earlier than the article indicates, and then went silent for a time. Then it started up again.

We came to a particularly quiet part of the music, and the phone just rang and rang and rang and echoed in the hall. And didn't stop.

Now, normally when this happens in a concert, the owner of the phone is embarrassed and shuts off the phone. The owner of this phone didn't make a move--and hadn't for the last half hour that the phone/alarm had gone off. This is why my initial impression was that the phone didn't actually have an owner--that it was a lost phone under someone's seat. But in fact the phone had an owner. And I can't believe the owner didn't hurriedly turn off his phone.

A woman behind me had a phone which rang. She jumped and turned the phone off. That's the appropriate response. What made this particular incident so egregious is that the phone owner showed absolutely no remorse. He ruined the evening for everyone.

Jan. 13 2012 03:23 PM
Mike from Brooklyn

Whoever the poor fellow is, I hope he has stopped reading these posts, which collectively (and some even more so individually) suggest that he's the greatest threat to classical music since the Nazis banned Mendelssohn! I have heard that he hasn't slept in three nights. Let's give this a rest and give him a break - and forgive him! Maestro Gilbert did just that - from the beginning. (Sure glad for his sake that Masur wasn't conducting!!)

Jan. 13 2012 03:09 PM
Barb from ny

Right on, Mr. Gilbert! I teach in a high school classroom with kids who ignore us and play with electronic devices all day...the lesson needs to be learned.

Jan. 13 2012 03:00 PM
Tim Fisher from Valley Cottage, NY

A friend related the following incident to me when we were discussing this:

I was in Bayreuth, I think in xxxx, when a cellphone went off during the very quiet bass clarinet solo at the beginning of Wotan's monologue. It was inexpressibly shocking. During the intermission, I asked one of the Blauenmädchen (the ushers who so ostentatiously lock the doors at the outset of each act) whether this had ever happened before, and what happened. She said that it had happened once before, the perpetrator was caught leaving the theater, taken into the office, photographed from several angles; the tickets were confiscated, and the guilty party was banned for life from the Festspielhaus! ("Aufs Leben verbannt" were her words).

The solution: NEVER take an electronic device into a concert. Leave it in the coat check room.

Jan. 13 2012 02:35 PM
Victoria from New Jersey

According to the New York Times article, the guilty patron had just received a new iPhone and didn't know the alarm was set to "on." Perhaps Bach's "Wachet auf!" would have been a better music selection.

Jan. 13 2012 02:30 PM

It's getting to where you can't get any peace any more. It used to happen in the bedroom when the dog would bark or the doorbell ring. End of performance. Now the concert hall too? Gilbert should have just ended that performance too, since it is doubtful the orchestra would be in the mood after the "acoustic lacuna".

Jan. 13 2012 02:05 PM

I have been attending live concerts on a regular basis for well over 50 years. Cellphone use did not become ubiquitous until the early '90s, and with its popularity came the abuses of which the recent example in Avery Fisher Hall is but one of all too many such occurrences. For three and a half decades of my live-listening life, we did just fine, thank you very much, without them. And while I have no technical statistics to back it up, experience suggests that few, if any, lives have been saved owing to the presence of an activated cell phone in a concert hall during a performance. Indeed, the advent of the cellphone serves little positive purpose altogether, except where life-or-death, or at best, true emergency situations obtain. Nonetheless, I have observed their use to consist principally in avoiding the deferment of gratification of ordinary chit-chat that the vast majority of cellphone users apparently desire, no matter what "forced listener" it may offend.

My view is that they should be banned from the public portions of concert halls, theaters and restaurants altogether (notwithstanding the practical lack of enforceability), and certainly should not be allowed to be actively used in any of those places, as well as in seating areas on public transportation, with the annoying, seemingly endless raised voices of the user assaulting the senses and peace of his/her fellow passengers.

I applaud Maestro Gilbert's actions in dealing with the irresponsible cellphone owner. Any cellphone user should either leave his/her cellphone in the car or at home, or at the very least disable the cellphone (including removal of the battery, if necessary, and any other workable method)in any densely-populated public place, and certainly in any performance space where an attendee expects to see and hear a programmed event without the distraction and annoyance of cellphone noise of any kind -- and to have that expectation honored by those sharing the same space.

Jan. 13 2012 01:45 PM
Maya from Manhattan

The man should have turned off his phone in Avery Fisher Hall, and if he had a new phone, he should have learned how to use it beforehand.

Most of us also agree that Alan Gilbert handled it appropriately and beautifully.

and to revisit what some people in the blog were not so clear about:

@Sneakeater Yes, your term "powered down" is correct for "turned off" as Joseph and others mentioned yesterday in their previous comments. (however you want to express it, powered down, turned off, no electricity flowing = no alarm, no ring, no vibration, no sound)

Jan. 13 2012 01:07 PM
cbcolquitt from UWS

I was at that performance. I was seated in the rear quarter of the orchestra, and did not hear the ringing signal. I saw Maestro stop the performance, in a manner that was very composed and serene. He then turned to look directly at the person with the ringing phone. He must have been astonished when that person did not stop the ringing. Of course, the person whose phone was making that noise had violated a first rule of bringing electronic devices into the hall where a live performance is being presented. Maestro was right to call attention to this offense, by stopping the performance. I feel badly for the owner of the phone, but that person was responsible for the problem. In a performance, the conductor is like the captain of a ship. What he says is law.

Jan. 13 2012 12:22 PM
Chris from Waukeegan

I am a sound designer. Once, my pager went off during a performance. I was mortified. I immediately turned it off. Accidents do happen, but mine lasted all of two seconds.

And I waited 'til after the performance, and apologized to every performer and every technician and anyone on the creative team that was in the building.
As I said, 'pager'. That experience has kept my electronics silent in performances since pagers were a new thing.

Jan. 13 2012 12:19 PM
Frank De Canio from Union City, NJ

Any exercise that engages a rapt listener is undercut by extraneous sound and is painfully annoying. There are few experiences as intimate as patron with performances of any kind. That a symphony of religious intensity like Mahler's ninth symphony would be interrupted in this manner - in its finale!! - would constitute a rupture of its unfolding rapture. Maestro Gilbert did the right thing. To do otherwise would have been an affront to the music. But what he should have done was to repeat the final movement from the beginning.

Jan. 13 2012 12:15 PM
psyd from Tucson Az

Maestro has the job of controlling what you hear, and presenting what you hear as an artistic expression. Having a cell phone go off in the middle of a symphonic performance is the equivalent of having someone streak into a ballet, spray paint a tag on a painting, or place a Fast food advert subtly (not) in the background of a period set movie.
Maestro was perfectly correct to wait.
And to the apologists for this ignorant idiot, if the technology defeats you, it is time for you to keep it in the car. If you have no idea how to turn your phone off and on, you have no business carrying said phone.

Jan. 13 2012 12:15 PM
margaret pisani

It's about time! Thank you Alan Gilbert. Could you also tell people not to talk during the performance?

Jan. 13 2012 12:10 PM
Diane from nj

A little too much drama. This is not the worst thing in the world right now in our lives. Maybe this person had a new phone and still did not know how to use correctly? What he should have done to avoid all this drama is to stuff phone in pocket, arm pit, whatever..and exit the hall. Everyone should relax and enjoy their day, including maestro. :)

Jan. 13 2012 12:02 PM
sharon from harlem

had Gilbert NOT stopped, the alarm of the iPhone (it was not a call!) would have continued to go off as the Mahler ended. it gets quieter and quieter to the very end of the symphony, and the phone was already drowning out the violins when Gilbert stopped. i can't imagine it becoming any worse than it was when he stopped. kudos to him and his incredible poise.

Jan. 13 2012 12:01 PM

Everyone knows by now that their cell phones should be off. The offender knows he made a mistake, (and under the circumstances as we know it now) it could have happened to "anyone". Although many unforeseen things happen in performance, with the "ears" of Mr. Gilbert he could have gestured in the direction of the sound and continued the performance with no statement needed. The real question becomes would Mr. Gilbert have stopped the performance if it was, lets say, Steve Reich's music for 18 musicians or anything else for that matter. This incident has garnered way too much ink.
But then again, Mr. Gilbert "is" the Conductor.

Jan. 13 2012 11:13 AM

Just to note that, contrary to what Norman Lebrecht wrote and several Young People (who must never turn off their iPhones) confirmed to me, the alarm apparently CAN'T go off if the phone is powered down:


Jan. 13 2012 11:07 AM
Judy Holzer from Montebello, New York

After reading today's Times, I believe some sympathy belongs not only to the audience and orchestra, but also to the "offender." It's difficult to keep up with technology. Most of us have been more fortunate in our moments of ignorance.
This incident reminds me of a similar one from my childhood. During a concert at Robin Hood Dell, then a lovely outdoor summer theater in Philadelphia's Fairmont Park, Leopold Stokowski halted a Philadelphia Orchestra concert for a similar reason. Although there were often occasional intrusions by overhead airplanes and whistles from the Reading Railroad, Stokowski had had enough. I don't recall the music, nor the offender-of-the-moment, but he halted the orchestra, put down his baton, and turned politely to the audience (I seem to remember a courteous bow), and said the concert would proceed at the pleasure of ....(he Reading Railroad?).

Jan. 13 2012 10:27 AM
Mike in DC from Washington DC

The cellular industry does many positive things for US society and the US economy, but it is "tone deaf" to some of the unintended consequences of its technology. Comment #322191 states " I'm surprised no one has invented a way to check for all cellphones turned on."

The Japanese cell phone industry has "Manners Mode" that makes it easy to disable the audible signals from all cell phones, See http://www.marcus-spectrum.com/Blog/files/8c103ba4697222ca2d1e6205e4c5c980-42.html)

The US cell phone industry, to date, has shown little interest in this area other than being firmly against jamming - which is explicitly authorized in French law for concert halls. While jamming in concert halls is really a bad approach for several reasons, hopefully the viral reaction on the Internet to this incident will spur the cellular industry to action to stop such antisocial use of their technology.

See also http://www.marcus-spectrum.com/Blog/files/MahlerMarimba.html

Jan. 13 2012 10:06 AM
George from Long Island

As a advocational musician(approx. 15-20 concerts /year) I am highly displeased that this could have occured. Much time and effort goes into any concert. The lack of action on the offenders part is unforgiveable as it shows no respect for the performers or the audiance. There was a day when people lived their lives knowing that their actions affected others and cared about that affect. We also knew how to shut out the world and enjoy life. A concert is one such short moment in time as to be enjoyed without the everyday interupting. The offender should have just stopped the ring and shut it off. Everyone would understand that even though you had been reminded to shut it off one could still forget. Embarrassing yes, and rightfully so. Most times the things that happen in our lives are our own doing. Being escourted out would have been even better.

Jan. 13 2012 09:32 AM
Eileen from Upstate, NY

Wuld someone please inform me as to what would be that "important" that one would leave their cell phone on during a concert or any other event where thousands of people are involved. If this person were a doctor (which I highl;y doubt) the Met and doctors know what the procedure is if there is an emergency.

This is just plain not giving a darn about your fellow human being which, is seen more and more everyday in this country, and that is very SAD indeed!

Jan. 13 2012 09:12 AM
Marcel from 10601

Bernstein would have thrown this person out. Toscanini would have cursed him out and sopped the performance altogether. and I would have strangled the person.

Jan. 13 2012 08:54 AM
Christopher from UES

@Jeffrey - David Baker actually wrote a "Concertino for Cellular Phones and Orchestra" a few years ago for the Chicago Sinfonietta:

If the Philharmonic had a sense of humor (doubtful) they'd put that on their next subscription concert.

On a separate note: I really feel sorry for this guy. He clearly didn't deserve the overreaction this whole episode has provoked from a lot of self-righteous concert patrons.

Jan. 13 2012 08:29 AM
Bruce from NJ

Since just about every aspect of cell phone use/abuse in and out of theaters and elsewhere has been mentioned already, let me simply say that when the WQXR host (Naomi Lewin? I forgot) mentioned that she had been interviewed about the story for the WPIX Channel 11 NYC news, I mistakenly interpreted that as an invitation to watch the coverage -- a program I never watch.

While it's a positive that a WQXR host was interviewed for a mainstream "news" broadcast, to call that WPIX broadcast "news" is an insult to any TV viewer. I figured most of the audience would think "who's Mahler?", but I never saw the story because I simply could not endure watching such drivel for more than 30 seconds at a time, and eventually gave up, in favor of the OFF button.

But as I figured, if WPIX had the story, one of the real networks would pick up the story... as was the case on the 11PM "news" I watched for a while (they're mostly drivel too, IMHO). And according to them, the cell phone offender was a regular concert attendee and (not interviewed) and was extremely embarassed.

Gee, this has just made my day!

Jan. 13 2012 08:28 AM
Jeffrey Biegel from New York

Doesn’t anyone see the marketing possibilities here for symphonic music? We need to commission a composer to write a concerto for piano, cell phones and orchestra, perhaps a suite of pieces–each movement using different cell phones, and secure financial underwriting from the cell carrier for the commission. The concerto can feature several short movements of contrasting emotions, and have this now-famous man from the NY Phil performance as the soloist with different cell phones as his instruments. He would sit on front stage juxtaposing the pianist. The concerto would begin traditionally, for pianist and orchestra, and then the ring tone would go on precisely as indicated in the music–interrupting the flow of the music–interrupting the pianist’s right hand (having to answer the phone, of course, during the concerto), but continuing with the left hand, as the two have a mimed conversation in silence as the music proceeds, develops, increasing intensity according to the conversation (which we cannot hear) and follow this for each movement. The concerto must end triumphantly as the soloists stand up and clicksoff their phones. Think of audience building, using technology as it is today–something like ‘musique concrete’ perhaps??

Jan. 13 2012 08:01 AM
Madeline from New York City

Bravo Mr. Gilbert..Quite a few years ago (before cell phones, etc) I attended a matinee of Dracula with Frank Langella. in the middle of the performance, there could be heard loud twittering from the orchestra audience.Mr. Langella stopped the performance, and turned to US, the audience, and said calmly but loudly,"Those in the light will speak; Those in the dark will be silent"!! Everyone clapped, I wanted to die from shame of being there. But he told the "maid" to start again, and then proceeded with the act. I'm glad I was not at the hall to experience another scene like that. Thank you Mr. Gilbert and the orchestra!

Jan. 13 2012 07:39 AM
Michael Meltzer

To paraphrase Mort Sahl, Republicans do so get involved, just not right now.

Jan. 13 2012 07:05 AM

Obviously, the person with the ringing cellphone, who wouldn't turn it off, was a Republican. They never get involved.

Jan. 13 2012 05:32 AM
Joseph from New York City

The New York Times has an updated article on the subject, including more information about the culprit.

With all of the excuses where some people want to bolster the man, I am still not sympathetic with him or his inept syndrome.

One must always turn off electronic devices in a concert hall, PERIOD.

see article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/13/nyregion/ringing-finally-stopped-but-concertgoers-alarm-persists.html?_r=1&ref=music

Jan. 13 2012 12:31 AM
James Klosty from Millbrook, NY

I wasn't there and am very glad I was not. It's all very well to make excuses for the offender and to offer technological or societal explanations for cell phone misbehavior but what few in this discussion consider is that not all offenses of this type are equal because not all music is equal. On a scale of criminality from one to ten this rates an eleven. The final movement of Mahler's ninth is not just any music and to have it destroyed it in this way is almost too painful to contemplate. And too easy to believe. I am amazed at Maestro Gilbert's described equanimity.

Jan. 13 2012 12:06 AM

@Snakeeater: turning off an iPhone will indeed prevent any alarms from sounding, just like with pretty much every other phone on the market. You are either confused as to what "turning it off" means or you are seriously misinformed.

Jan. 12 2012 10:47 PM
Peg from Brooklyn

ok - turning off a cell phone does not ensure silence - who knew? Thank you to the non-journalists who provided that info. WQXR and (the otherwise wonderful) Naomi Lewin should have been more professional by doing a little investigation before throwing that audience member like red meat to the understandably annoyed masses.

Jan. 12 2012 10:07 PM

I've come to realize that there are many people who go to the great cultural institutions in the city who have absolutely no interest in what's actually going on in them. They're probably going there just to tell their friends that they've been there. They should also throw out the people who take photos of each other standing next to great works of art like it's Niagara Falls or something. It's very distracting and they take up space around the art while they're doing it.

Jan. 12 2012 09:53 PM
Ilenesq from NYC

Okay, so we have learned that i-phones have alarms that don't turn off with the phone. Why didn't the miscreant just leave?! Avery Fisher Hall has exits all along with sides of the orchestra. Years ago when I had an uncontrollable coughing fit, that's what I did. People had no problem getting out of my way. They understood what was happening. I left by a side door so I wouldn't continue to disturb people.

Jan. 12 2012 09:09 PM
Eric Jacobson from Little Neck

Of course Alan Gilbert did the right thing, and in great style.

Jan. 12 2012 08:33 PM
Mike from Brooklyn

Oh, that default ringtone for the iPhone, the "marimba", is about the most annoying of the nearly 30 choices!! The "harp" would be so much more compatible with the performance piece! Probably no one would have even noticed. But as things stand, this is one guy you just "can't take anywhere"!

Now seriously, I may not be much younger myself, or any less technically challenged, than the gentleman allegedly responsible for this disturbance. But the first thing (and maybe the only thing!) any techno-idiot better learn about a cell phone is how to turn the thing off. Come to think of it, those 30 ringtones could inspire an interesting concerto idea for one of our modern composers. (Could even make into next New Year's countdown!)

Jan. 12 2012 08:31 PM
Yvette from Westchester

I was at a NY Phil Young People's Concert recently and a couple of dads with their children were seated in front of us. During the concert one of the gents was texting furiously - I reckon faster than the music - and for quite an extended time. It was annoying and distracting, at least for me - also a paying member of the public. (Alas I didn't pay to enjoy his prodigious texting skills.) How ironic when he paused to shush his young children for horsing around and not paying attention. And then promptlly returned to texting! Just because it's not ringing doesn't mean that it does not disturb other people around you.

As for this person, yes, the alarm still goes off in silent mode, but you can turn the alarm from "on" to "off". If you knew how to set the alarm then you should know how to do that too? He eventually did turn it off, right? So how did he do that? And more importantly, why not sooner? It may have started as an accident, but it seems that he made no attempt to correct it until he was censured. Therefore it is no longer an accident and he brought all that unwanted attention on himself. Mr. Gilbert did not stop immediately upon the alarm going off, so where is the high horse? Should he have just continued and allowed the alarm to accompany the rest of the performance? Yes, he may be a paying customer, but so are all the other people going there. (Amen Mr. Schnall.) Just like all things, a few spoil it for the many. So when they start confiscating phones altogether we will have him to thank!

Jan. 12 2012 08:30 PM
Mary de Stefano from Warren, NJ

Mr. Gilbert was a gentleman and totally appropriate. The ushers should be instructed to escort those who disrupt concert halls in such an egregious fashion from their seats as quickly as possible...and maybe from philharmonic hall entirely. I really do not understand how those who were sitting next to the person with the cell phone did not immediately tell that person to turn the phone off.

Jan. 12 2012 08:14 PM
Hattie from Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan

I believe that his response was dignified and elegant as to be expected from a man of culture. However I think the person in question should have been made to leave the concert. An accident can happen when we forget to silence our phones, but if a person doesn't immediately take action to correct the situation, he should be taken to task. Why was he allowed to remain in the hall? It isn't the domain of the conductor to have to handle the situation... the staff should have taken prompt, puposefull action. In fact, perhaps even banning him from future concerts this season. Not harsh... appropriate.

Jan. 12 2012 08:01 PM

I was at the concert and thought that the way Mr. Gilbert handled the problem was wonderful. He didn't make it worse. He was strong and civil and very calm which kept the audience calm too. He explained to the audience why he did what he did and then said with a smile "Let's try again." And yes, at the very end he held his arm up for many extra seconds of delicious silence, total silence in that big hall. Wonderful.

Jan. 12 2012 08:01 PM
Janice from NY

It's about time someone took a stand on cellphone protocol. What is so hard about turning it off when requested at a concert. I'm surprised no one has invented a way to check for all cellphones turned on. BRAVO Mr. Gilbert!!!!! I applaud your actions!

Jan. 12 2012 07:54 PM
caesar j. warrick from milford ct

I get the impression that this person was not really interested in the concert nor were they particularly engrossed in the music.Like many things in our present society cellphones have become an addiction.Many years ago in the infancy of cell phones I witnessed someone interupting an entire sunday mass. I knew right then and there that we were headed for some bad times with these devices. Neither do I own one of these unpleasant detractors nor will I ever use one.A phone belongs in your house not at a concert.So I say to all those attention cravers who abuse cell phones;Leave it home if you can't handle it properly.C.J.W

Jan. 12 2012 07:44 PM

Yes, Mr. Gilbert was right. The owner of the cell phone should have been escorted from the auditorium IMMEDIATELY. Where were the ushers?

Jan. 12 2012 07:37 PM
Joseph from NY laughing

But you should disable the alarm. i.e. don't have it set.

Learn about your device when you buy it... or don't bring it to the concert hall not knowing how to operate it. ;-)


Jan. 12 2012 07:36 PM

Once more (sorry to shout):


How many people know that? I didn't until yesterday.

Jan. 12 2012 07:31 PM

To Derek from New York:
Turn the things off!!! What is so difficult about that? You don't need a "mode". TURN IT OFF>

Jan. 12 2012 07:20 PM
Derek from New York

With many recent phones, tablet computers and media players (to list a few of the devices concert-goers might bring into the auditorium), you cannot physically remove the battery. You are, therefore, limited to whatever "modes" the manufacturer has chosen to offer. Perhaps the concert-going public should petition Apple and others to add a "concert mode" which guarantees total and reverential silence no matter who calls or what alarms are set. If we want to engage broader support, then maybe calling it a "covert mode" would have more appeal.

Jan. 12 2012 07:09 PM
Dottie Gutenkauf from Plai

Of course Alan Gilbert was right! Something like this happened at Lewisohn Stadium many years ago--the Stadium was an outdoor venue for summer Philharmonic concerts, but it was right under the flyway from Chicago to LaGuardia Airport. Yehudi Menuhin was playing the Mendelson Violin Concerto and right in the middle of the last movement a plane flew, very low, overhead--completely drowning out the music. Menuhim stopped...the conductor stopped..the orchestra stopped...and when the plane had gone away, Menuhim picked up his bow, signalled, and they resumed right where they had left off. All got a standing ovation when the piece was done--and deserved it, too.

The Stadium concerts were wonderful--this native New Yorker went to them all summer for years.

Jan. 12 2012 07:05 PM
Joseph from NY laughing

OK.. I submit to you and understand that people don't know about this.

To not only turn off their phones, but to turn off any alarm which might be running in the background.
They may not know about this on their phones, but I think if you buy and operate such a device you should know about the phone. You need to learn what you have, just like you should learn how to drive a car after you buy it.

...now for some humor: I would suggest the following simple technology: application of a hammer (percussion) to the cellphone after confiscation... and escorting the owner out of Avery Fisher; then fining him heavily. LOL

Jan. 12 2012 07:01 PM
Joan Ostroff

Absolutely right. A similar instance happened -- though it wasn't a phone, but two people down front talking -- in a performance of "Ceath of a Salesman" a few years ago. Brian Dennehy stopped the performance in mid-scene, saying it would resume when quiet was reestablished (or words to that effect). The audience's response was just as positive for that as it was for Alan Gilbert. Congratulations on behalf of your audience, Maestro!

Jan. 12 2012 06:42 PM

Joseph, it was an ALARM, not an incoming phone call. Even if you turn an iPhone off -- take all its power away -- a preset alarm will still ring.

You apparently don't know this. I didn't know this before yesterday, either. And neither did the owner of the iPhone whose alarm went off at the concert. So what happened to him could have happened to ANY of us -- you and me as well as him. We ALL didn't know that turning off the phone wasn't enough.

Jan. 12 2012 06:38 PM
Joseph from New York City

But Sneakeater,
I have no sympathy, because the NY Philharmonic always issues a request to "turn off" all devices before a concert. This does not mean to reduce the ring to a vibrate, or to keep the phone on "airplane mode", but to turn off the juice to the battery... so there is no signal from the cell tower, no alarm to go off, no notification of any sort from the device and no juice flowing from the battery.
Why is their announcement at the beginning of a performance so hard to follow? If there are any questions about a new phone, take the battery out, or don't bring it to the concert hall.
I tell you... no sympathy.

Jan. 12 2012 06:28 PM

It HAS been discovered what happened:


Jan. 12 2012 06:11 PM
Sky Song from New York

This is kind of an incredible story, not because the conductor stopped the performance, which seems within his discretion as conductor, but because the audience member did not turn the phone off. I suspect it will be discovered, after some investigation, that this audience member was suffering from some kind of mental health or hearing issue that would prevent him or her from functioning normally.

I do understand stopping the symphony, though, as these symphony halls have very precise acoustics and people go there to hear live music because they have sensitive ears that make them able to distinguish the quality of recorded music from the quality of live music.

Jan. 12 2012 06:06 PM
lisa from NJ

Almost everyone seems to assume the perpetrator simply neglected to turn off his cell phone, end of story. But the events are way too weird for that explanation. Why didn't the guy jump to turn the phone off immediately when it started ringing? Why did it ring for MINUTES, even after the concert had been stopped and the conductor was telling the guy to turn it off?

I agree with the commenter above who thinks the ringing was an alarm (phones don't ring that long without going to message, and the alarm on an iphone does ring even when the phone is set to "silent") and that the perpetrator might have been an older guy unfamiliar with the technology. The only other explanation I can think of is that the guy was out to get the Philharmonic, which seems unlikely.

Jan. 12 2012 06:06 PM
Constance Ellis from New York, NY

Maestro Gilbert's handling of the incident (I was in the audience) was extraordinary in its restraint and in its elegance. Having already conducted about 75 minutes of the Mahler 9th with passion, sweep and exquisite feeling,
he responded to this egregious (yes!) interruption in a remarkably reasoned way. He stopped. He identified the location of the culprit. He showed no anger or hysteria (as many conductors might have done), but spoke firmly
but in a normal speaking voice in dealing with the situation. Some members of the audience showed no such restraint. Once the phone was shut off, Maestro Gilbert backed up and delivered as passionate a performance as had preceded the incident. The audience was with him 100% of the way and gave the ovation he and the orchestra deserved.
Bravo, to you, Alan Gilbert, and to the wonderful Philharmonic players! I am ever more your great fan.

Constance Ellis

Jan. 12 2012 05:58 PM
John from Mahwah

The offending cell phone owner should have been escorted to the the exit, beaten up, dumped in the plaza fountain, and banned from future NYP concerts.

Jan. 12 2012 05:57 PM
RP from NYC

I don't have a cell phone. Wouldn't have one if you gave it to me. Whatever did people do in the millions of years before that rubbish was invented? It unnecessary, a damn nuisance and has only taught people how to misbehave.
There is NO excuse for bad behavior.

Jan. 12 2012 05:51 PM

Sorry to keep harping on this, but the following statement is wrong:

"If he powered down his phone before the performance, the phone will not do anything, it is shut off, like a toaster unplugged won't make toast....the reason they tell you to turn the phone off is it is possible the ringer might be down but not other things and there are signs to the effect. If he had done what he was supposed to, it wouldn't have happened."

Alarms on iPhones will ring EVEN IF THE PHONE IS TURNED OFF. I didn't know this before Tuesday. Neither, apparently, did the owner of the iPhone in question here. Apparently, he DID turn it off -- not knowing that the alarm could ring anyway.

Come to think of it, the person who posted the above quote doesn't know this, either. So the same thing could have happened to him.

(This does NOT mean that Maestro Gilbert handled the situation improperly. Only that we shouldn't be out for the cell phone owner's blood.)

Jan. 12 2012 05:50 PM
Frank from Houston, Tx

I cannot believe that anyone would say Maestro Gilbert should not have stopped the Orchestra considering the person with the ringing phone made NO
attempt to turn it off. Yes, accidents happen, but to not try immediately to correct the problem is egregious. BRAVO MAESTRO GILBERT. I sent an e-mail to the nyphil saying I hope this resonates with all concert goers across this wonderful nation to double check their phones when entering the concert hall.

Jan. 12 2012 05:31 PM
BC music-lover

I wonder if such an embarrassing, frustrating occurrence means shared communal events, meaningful to many, are in danger of becoming impossible to enjoy, as so many people seem distracted thinking about who or what lies at the other end of a cell-phone. Perhaps such public interferences may, alas, tempt people to stay home and enjoy music in privacy, via recordings, youtube, if what is "shared" in public is also what takes place in private: what distinguishes public yakking on phones, from people yakking on phones in privacy? Why must people make their private concerns so public when such a public event as a concert is meant to be shared by those listening/watching?

Jan. 12 2012 05:31 PM
Jeffrey from UES

I'm sorry, but I just can't understand why if people can't just turn their phone on vibrate if it has to remain on for what ever reason. Maybe manufacturers need to advertise that basic feature more often.

Jan. 12 2012 05:30 PM
bill from nj

"Oh come on, all you snobs.
In rock and metal concerts this happens all the time. So why not at classical gigs too??"

You are as much of a snob, you make assumptions. As someone who *gasp* goes to rock concerts as well as classical, at a rock concert or a heavy metal concert they are playing amplified music at levels well above 80 db, and you won't hear a cell phone at those levels, people don't talk at rock concerts because they won't hear each other.......concert music is not that loud, it is acoustic and in quiet moments it is quite soft, and you can hear a ringtone like the person was shouting.

For Bernie: Texting and tweeting and such aren't about 'modern technology', they represent rudeness, what you fail to recognize is that in doing so you are distracting other people, it is not a 'victimless' crime so to speak, it is rudeness to those around you. You may not mind someone doing that, but others do, and the lighted screen and such is also distracting. likewise, taking a picture or video requires you to interrupt the view of those behind you (also being against house rules.....)
We also have to be careful about deliberate vs accidental rudness. Yes, there are silly rules, the rules against taking pictures even before a performance is ludicrous (no terrorist is going to do that, they can get plans for a hall for 100 bucks) and so forth, but yours is not an example of it.

In terms of the offender, he shouldn't be banned, but on the other hand he has no excuse. If he had powered down his phone before the performance, the phone will not do anything, it is shut off, like a toaster unplugged won't make toast....the reason they tell you to turn the phone off is it is possible the ringer might be down but not other things and there are signs to the effect. If he had done what he was supposed to, it wouldn't have happened.

We also need to separate boorishness from ignorance. With a cell phone, there can be no such claim, they tell you repeatedly to turn it off. When people clap between movements, it is often because they don't know, they are new to concerts or think the concert is over when it isn't; likewise, if they clap before the baton is down, it is likely they simply don't know that, they are used to when music stops, you clap, a symphony concert is different and they may be newbies, and with them we should have some tolerance (not to mention that the no clapping between movements isn't a long held tradition, came about with Furtwangler in the 30's...)

Jan. 12 2012 05:29 PM
Tom from Montclair

I add my "Bravo!" to others who are applauding Alan Gilbert. The fellow who let his cellphone ring and ring should have been escorted out of Avery Fisher Hall (AFH) by ushers. There's no excuse for having a cell phone ring. If he doesn't know how to turn it off, then he should not bring it. He should have been sent away, certainly, after the cell phone continued to ring. AFH administration, are you paying attention? Please train your ushers to escort patrons out of the hall if their phones continue to ring. Maestro Gilbert should never have been placed in that position. The ushers should have taken care of it.

Jan. 12 2012 05:23 PM

Here's what happened:


You guys still want to call for blood?

Jan. 12 2012 05:19 PM
Susan from Woodlawn Cemetery

I attended an earlier performance....and enjoyed the beauty of the end without interruption. Feel sorry for those who had the experience interrupted.

Jan. 12 2012 05:08 PM

Cells phones have unfortunately become a catalyst for the onset of a new manifestation of sociopathic behavior - the Negative Attention Whore. This blatant eliciting of public scrutiny is baffling, but yet a clear indication of someone with a problem - mind you, I'm in NO WAY indicating that NAWs deserve ANY empathy!

Aside from this evidence of "devolution", I have to say that Mr. Gilbert was MUCH more patient and well-tempered than I would have been able to manage if I were in his shoes. I would have insisted that the disruptive audience member be removed entirely before continuing, as some of the audience members and people on this thread have also suggested. After such an incident, having the offender remain present can still generate a well-felt presence of animosity among those exposed to the incident. Plus, I'm sure the offender was just BATHING in the loathe for the remainder of the performance.

Jan. 12 2012 05:07 PM
Michael Meltzer

Mr. Printz:
Your cell phone going off during the John Tavener was an improvement. Some comic relief was absolutely in order. Thank you.

Jan. 12 2012 05:07 PM
Lee Gelber from Astoria, NY

I was there last night and the ringing cellphone was disruptive. Maestro Gilbert handled the situation as well as can be expected. The boor who ignored the graphic and aural requests to turn off his or her cellphone should have been ejected from the hall.

Jan. 12 2012 05:05 PM
rss from NYC

There must indeed be more to this story. I was there Tues. night, and the duration of the ringtone -- before, during, and after the stopping of the symphony -- and the obduracy of the "culprit" make me extremely skeptical of the view that this could have been any kind of accident. Some sick form of performance art, maybe? Or "Occupy the Philharmonic?"?

Jan. 12 2012 05:03 PM

How dare anyone take a "loaded" phone into the Hall.

Jan. 12 2012 04:59 PM

I agree that Maestro Gilbert took the correct action. No other option. I also agree that unless or until all the facts are in, we should have a care about assuming that the perpetrator was arrogant, rude, self-centered, etc. Although it is possible that he deserves to be tortured and shot, I can buy into the possibility that this was an unfortunate occurance that caused him to paralyze with fear/embarrasement as a reaction to a problem he couldn't solve. Perhaps someone should have offered to help him silence the device. That could have solved the problem no matter what the cause, even by serving as a hint. Finally, we want to be careful about jamming and signal blocking, etc., as this type of technology can also affect the ability of emergency personnel to operate; even if failsafes are in place. Mr. Murphy loves that kind of technology,

Jan. 12 2012 04:57 PM
Michael Printz from Nrew York City

Alan was absolutely correct. I feel for the owner and can guess what happened. It happened to me a couple of years ago. There was program that started at ten in the evening and was to end at about 5:00AM. My friend,a Soprano, who was singing with the Dessoff Choir told me that key part would happen at about 4:00 AM. I set me new cell phone to vibrate at 4:00 AM. just in case I fell asleep during the performance. (How often do you go from 10PM to 5:00AM) At 4:00 AM it went of .. but not vibrating.
My ringtone was the Triumphal March from Aida. I couldn't get the thing to turn off. I got up, ran down the aisle passing two marching
choruses. I finally figured if I turned the phone it would stop. It did.
It made for an extremely memorable evening.

Jan. 12 2012 04:57 PM
Joan Singer from Westport, CT

Of course Alan Gilbert should have done what he did! No question. The fact that the phone kept ringing makes me wonder if something was wrong with the owner. I once sat next to a hard-of-hearning man who didn't hear his phone's beep. I poked him. Or someone could really have been ill. What I don't understand is why people around this person did not take action. There must be more to this story.

Jan. 12 2012 04:33 PM
Schaefer from Pleasantville, NY

I particularly applaud Maestro Gilbert’s gesture requesting the audience to remain silent for a moment at the conclusion of the symphony. All too often the audience erupts into enthusiastic screams and applause while the last note is still echoing in the hall. The music needs a moment to settle and the audience should respect this with a moment of silence. Thank you Mr. Gilbert for your gesture to request this silence.

Jan. 12 2012 04:26 PM
Michael Meltzer

Without playing “Psychoanalyst,” we have to recognize that so many of the arguments defending rudeness and bad manners, no matter how “technologically future-oriented,” philosophical or “realistic” they are meant to sound, however replete with four-syllable vocabulary, are nothing more than educated subterfuge for the five-year-old’s cry from the sandbox, “I WANNU,” or at best, a rationalization of adolescent rebellion trying to sound “grown-up.”
After a while you just get tired of listening to all the self-serving versions of the same crap, over and over. An educated presentation does not hide the odor of the substance.
And about 16 messages back, Bravo Walter!

Jan. 12 2012 04:25 PM
Warner W Johnston from NYC area

The percentage who think this was rude 97+ is the same as the number of weather scientists (scientists not people with opinions) who think global warming is man made.

Obviously a conspiracy.

Jan. 12 2012 04:23 PM
bruce glaser from Fairfield, CT

Short of having the perpetrator put before a firing squad, he should be subjected to a mug shot which would then be attached to a NOT WANTED poster that would be circulated to all performance venues, with an indication that said person is not to be admitted for a period of at least one year. Additionally, there should be a warning on the poster that alerts audiences to a similar fate if they incur a similar violation. Repeated violations should result in lifetime banishment, and if possible, in deportation to outer Siberia. I think you will gather from this prescription that I am one of many who has no tolerance for such behavior.

Jan. 12 2012 04:21 PM
Luciana from Tudor City

Maestro Gilbert had no choice but interrupt the performance: concentration of listeners and, I imagine, players was disrupted again and again, over what might have been 5 to 10 minutes: it was impossible to assume that the ringing would stop before the symphony did (I was there). Gilbert was calm if aggrieved, firm, courteous, communicative to the audience, but the event took a toll on him: despite the ovation at the end, he could not smile, his head somewhat low.
After the playing resumed, I felt we were all highly focused, I for one admiring how a great orchestra could resume playing, I would say creating, such work of art.
In response to some of the comments: the phone owner was an elderly man in the front row on the aisle, the concert was longer than anticipated: I wonder if the caller was someone who was to pick him up.

Jan. 12 2012 04:14 PM
RLS from Alaska

The most miserable concert experience I've ever had was at Carnegie Hall (a Met Opera Orchestra/Levine performance where I had been given premium, center front balcony, tickets) and halfway in I had the sudden sickening realization that I had forgotten to turn off the temporary cell phone in my pocket and that I didn't know how to -- and that I daren't try for fear of setting the stupid thing off hysterically playing "Little Brown Jug" or something full blast.

I suffered through a sublime performance of Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony - not hearing a note of it - just waiting for the applause so I could quick grab it out of my pocket and turn every single button I could see it had off!

Jan. 12 2012 04:07 PM
Bruce T. Chodosh,MD from Woodbridgeb, New Jerseby

This occurrence is not just about a discourteous act in a venue such as a music recital, rather it is a demonstration of the progressive lack of civility in society. The cellular phone and the total disregard for the sensitivity of others represents a disturbing intrusion into privacy, a flaunting of egoism and disrespect for artists and audience alike. I own a cell phone, but in respect to others and for my own privacy I turn the damned thing off whenever it would be intrusive or just plain impolite. We may be able to use them, but don't know when not to do so! Maestro Gilbrt is to be praised for his action. Perhaps management in general can adopt more stringent measures to prent this rude, uncivil behavior.

Jan. 12 2012 03:44 PM
John H Szalkay from Forest Hills NY

A few observations:
1. It is a self-centered lazy bum who does not turn off his cell phone before a concert starts.
2. My response to the comment from South Dakota, that cell phones ring during rock concerts and "who cares": Sir (or Madam, as the case may be): you are an uneducated boor. If your job/interests/tasks are so important that your cell phone must be on during any kind of concert, you should stay at home and listen on the radio/iPod/iPad/whatever and wait for the all-important news that your friend is turning from 6th Avenue to 37th Street. Whew, you ALMOST MISSED THAT EARTH SHAKING NEWS!
3. And finally: where were the ushers of the Philharmonic - who should hav escorted the offender out of the hall IMMEDIATELY?

Jan. 12 2012 03:39 PM
Wally from Manhattan

People making excuses for the cell phone offender are making lame excuses (like the person
saying it wasn't a cellphone ring but an alarm clock ring - I have an iPhone & hear that same
Marimba ring when I get a call). Not turning off a cellphone in a concert hall is a bad habit,
like overeating & smoking - possibly especially manifest in stressed out New Yorkers, but it affects others. In this case lots of others. I'm grateful most bloggers here agree. And
thank you, Alan Gilbert.

Jan. 12 2012 03:38 PM
John Morris from Little Falls, NJ

I agree that the right action was taken, except I believe that someone that was so out of line should have been identified by usher staff and advise not to return in the future.

We stopped our subscription and attendance at the NJPAC for the NJ Symphony after years due to their failure to enforce proper decorum, cell phones ringing, bright screens from smart phones, more and more talking during performances, etc. It is unfortunate that some of the current members of audiences, especially classical performances, seem to have no common courtesy or decorum.

The problems will only cease when active response such as this event occur and the word gets out.

Jan. 12 2012 03:38 PM
Ken Laufer from UWS

The conductor really had no choice. But the most obnoxious audience behavior comes when it is too late to stop it: At the end of opera arias, right after the singer has hit a high note, the audience often claps even though the music still goes on! I'd like to see announcements made about this before the performances.

Jan. 12 2012 03:37 PM
ES from Morris Twp., NJ

Im an avid classical music fan and WQXR listener and a Catholic priest. Where teh composer leaes notes out (silence) is as important for the overall aesthetic as the sound is! Music is sound AND silence that ought not (must not) be added to! The same happens to me often whiel saying Mass! Someone doesnt listen to the request at the bginning of Mass to silence phones. So either during my homily or prayer, someone's phone rings! !st of all, who calls a friend when they're in church??? Surely they know their friend's worshipping habits! It IS Sunday morning, for heaven's sake (literally)! What's even more annoying--and it happened during the Mahler--the phone keeps ringing! I don;t understand why they don't stop it! I've even made ajoke about it in hopes to embarrass the person. I once called a friend DURING church who had a habit of leaving her phone on. She got the messsage and we're still friends. People pay gobs of money to enjoy world-class music at the cultural epicenter of the world. And I LOVE to listen to the last note permerate the room and dissipate into the silence! A profound moment indeed...like the silence in church. Both are sacred moments that trump any phone call!

Jan. 12 2012 03:33 PM
Nana from Alpharetta, GA

I am not a regular classical music listener. However, I feel that the Maestro did the right thing by stopping the concert until the disruption has been stopped. It does not matter what type of music it is, hard rock, hip-hop...etc. These performances that seems to be easy are not as easy as people would think. It takes many hours of practice. It is a disrespect to the performers and the audience in general. It is like talking in the movie, movie-goers did not go there to hear someone talk while they are trying to enjoy their paid movie experience.

Jan. 12 2012 03:29 PM
SY from NYC from Lincoln Center Area

I agree the concert should have been stopped and also that people sitting near the offending phone should have helped the owner to disable it if he couldn't do it himself. And may I add, the same goes for snoring. We all have an obligation to those around us, including ascertaining what a problem is and fixing it if possible.

And Bernie--Be Here Now Dude!

Jan. 12 2012 03:27 PM
Seb from New York

I have the feeling that this is a publicity stunt. Gilbert needs it to boost his numbers cause billing him as the first native New Yorker at the head of the NYPhil hasn't attracted too much attention at least from the serious listener. One instance: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/the-classical-beat/2009/09/gilberts_new_tenure.html

Jan. 12 2012 03:27 PM
Gloria Sawyer from Cambria Heights, Queens

Hooray for Alan Gilbert! Cell phones have their place, I guess, but not at a concert. If you're expecting an important call, stay home.

Jan. 12 2012 03:27 PM
Kevin Brofsky from New York

I think the cell phone user should be fined the price for at least 8 tickets (for each seats on either side, the seats front and back plus the 4 seats next to next to those front and back seats.)

There is no excuse not to remember to turn off a cellphone at a concert, but to let it keep ringing is inexcusable.

Better to stay home and listen to WQXR.

Jan. 12 2012 03:26 PM
Margaret Shantz

In March 1983 I had pleasure of hearing Andres Segovia's last concert at Lincoln Center. During his playing of a Bach fugue, someone in the audience had a number of coughing episodes. The person did not try to muffle the cough. Segovia stopped playing, slowly took out his folded white handkerchief, put it over his mouth and gently coughed into it.

It was the most civilized correction of poor behavior I have every seen.

Jan. 12 2012 03:23 PM
Bonnie from Bloomfield, NJ

While I recognize that anyone can make a mistake (cell phones have rung during church, and one time it was the priest's), to have it keep ringing is just unconscionable. The owner should have turned it off immediately, after realizing that noise was coming from their purse/pocket/briefcase/whatever.

People pay good money to hear good music. They can hear cell phones for free. If I paid the price of a ticket to hear the Philharmonic, I would be outraged that I had to be subjected to an episode of "The Telltale Phone."

What has happened to common courtesy?

Alan Gilbert was absolutely right to stop. He made a statement that, I hope, can make a -- well -- resounding impact on concertogers.

Jan. 12 2012 03:23 PM
Peter from New York

Oh wow, the comment way above about the phone possibly having been left by someone else, reminds me of the day when I left the Met after 2 acts of an opera, rushing somewhere, then discovering during shopping that I had left it in the opera house, under my seat. Thank **** I nearly always have its sound switched off - though it could have rattled on the floor...

Jan. 12 2012 03:23 PM
Walter from Parsippany,N.J.

One day last spring a car cut me off it was so close that when I slamed on my brakes the car skidded,I noticed he was on the cell phone, then as we came up to the light he cut me off again both times he did not use his directionals,so I got out of my car and walked up to him and said your signal lights are not working,It was then that I noticed he was still on the cell phone,I grabbed the phone and threw it across the street into the park, I know that was not right but it felt GREAT,I am 83 years old but this guy sat frozen in his seat, I said have a nice day and walked back to my car.

Jan. 12 2012 03:21 PM
Louise Weiss from New York

A modest proposal: Lincoln Center, as well as all other public establishments, should should close "rest rooms" --known in the rest of the world as toilets--so that people can do their thing when and where they want. Why impose arbitrary restrictions? You're the best, you're the thing, you're THE ONE! Other people? Other what?

Jan. 12 2012 03:21 PM

Was there no one there who could have simply grabbed the boor by the collar and thrown him out the door into the street?

Jan. 12 2012 03:21 PM

The phone did not turn itself on.
No one paid to listen to the phone.

Jan. 12 2012 03:18 PM
diy_in_ny from South Dakota

Oh come on, all you snobs.
In rock and metal concerts this happens all the time. So why not at classical gigs too??
I couldn't care less

Jan. 12 2012 03:16 PM
Carl Stronzo from Brooklyn

I'd like to know more about why this happened. A lot of people seem to be assuming that the culprit was some sort of arrogant cell-phone loving, social media addict with no regard for others... but I'm willing to bet that's not the case here. It sounds like there is a more innocent explanation.

Consider the psychological phenomenon of "Attribution Error," which can be summed up as follows: When we witness another person making a mistake, we attribute the mistake to a personality flaw in that person, but when we make that same mistake, we attribute the mistake to circumstances beyond our control. So if you see someone slip and fall, they are clumsy, but if you yourself slip and fall, it is because the floor was slippery.

Jan. 12 2012 03:11 PM
Joseph from New York City

This intrusion of cell phones and self centered people will not be going away anytime soon.

The yelling of bravo (or in London it was bravi - plural) along with cell phones going off are reported in this article:

So again I applaud the comment from Karmaya.

Jan. 12 2012 03:10 PM
Listener from manhattan

I was there and the phone was so loud, that Maestro Gilbert really had no choice but to do what he did. The movement would have been ruined otherwise. But what was interesting was after the incident the amount of coughing in the hall was greatly reduced. It was as if everyone was now alert to the music and the need for silence. That fourth movement, I think, inspires nervous coughing.

Jan. 12 2012 03:04 PM
Joseph from New York City

I applaud Karmaya's comment. In fact I quoted that comment in another blog: http://thousandfoldecho.com/2012/01/10/concertus-interruptus/#comment-370

And it is worth my saying here too - while we are discussing the blatant disregard for others and the selfish attitudes of some concert goers about phones, coughing, texting and other distractions, I have something to say about those people who insist on clapping before the music is over or before the conductor’s baton is down.

Here is what a blogger on WQXR.org, “karmaya” said about the final seconds of the Saturday night concert when Maestro Gilbert started the piece again from #118:

I quote Karmaya, “At Saturday night’s Mahler 9th concert, some self centered man broke the spell of the very last lingering note of the symphony by yelling “bravo” even while Alan Gilbert’s arms were still raised in their conducting pose. well, BOO and HISS to that man – I mean, what a boor! And BTW, I hear cell phones – if nearby – even when they’re on vibrate mode.”

Does anyone want to comment on this kind of rude behavior as well?

Jan. 12 2012 03:01 PM
Not Clear

I don't understand why the phone could not be put on vibrate, or was the owner of the phone present at the time. Phone could have been left there by someoneelse?

Jan. 12 2012 02:57 PM

I believe there is a time and place for everything. When people take time out of this hectic world to gather together to enjoy a fine piece of music that transports them to another place, they are abruptly and rudely bought right back outside the concert hall if someone's cell phone goes off. Just put it on vibrate if it's that important. No one else wants to know you are getting a phone call. I understand that maybe in the rush of things, maybe they forgot. But, isn't there a silent feature on that phone? Couldn't they silent the call and then silent it all together?! Why let it keep going? I don't believe the Maestro was wrong in his actions because it kept going and going. It shows a lack of respect for the time involved in studying, training and performing the piece on the part of all involved and for the listening pleasure of everyone else! Cell phones are going to be the death of us yet! With driving while texting and talking on the cell, people being rude holding up lines while talking on the phones in Starbucks, the bank, etc...Put the phone down!!! Be where you are!!!

Jan. 12 2012 02:48 PM
Deborah from New York City

I am amazed at the arrogance and selfishness of the cell phone owner. He or she must live in complete denial to think this would be overlooked.
What a shame to interrupt the performance. Right on Mr. Gilbert!!!

Jan. 12 2012 02:39 PM

Alan Gilbert was absolutely right. He handled the situation perfectly -- I was there -- and, as measured by the applause for his comments, he had the support of 99.9% of the audience. When he and the orchestra resumed the performance, they went back a ways in the last movement to re-establish the feeling and impact of the incredible conclusion of an incredible symphony.

Jan. 12 2012 02:38 PM

OF COURSE Maestro Gilbert was right. I was at the concert and I couldn't believe what was happening.

But why do people insist on vilifying the cell phone owner when they don't have any idea what happened? Why assume he left the phone on purposely? Why assume it wasn't merely a case of his not knowing how to disable an alarm?

I'm not justifying what happened, but why the need to pile onto the guy? I thought what was so great about Maestro Gilbert's response was that it was so temperate (while at the same time being effective).

PS to Bernie -- You represent the end of Western Civilization.

Jan. 12 2012 02:23 PM
francis booth from nyc

of course he was right. hell, i ask yakkers in elevators or busses to
("please" of course) get off their phones,for it is intrusion into of my boundaries.

all the more reason for mr. gilbert to protect the boundaries of his audience, his players and himself.

in any case i cannot understand why one has to keep the mobile device on all the time..99% of the time the call can wait..

how sadly lonely that person must be to need the possibility of instant communication constantly alive....i mean, for 10,000 years we managed to keep in touch without the damned machines, did we not?

Jan. 12 2012 02:10 PM
julian from astoria

If you cannot stay quiet, or have a terrible cough or you are sick, you should stay home.
If you need to be tweeting,texting or on the phone all the time, you should stay home or away from theaters or concert places. Art and art experience requires silence as fundamental part of the music and the experience.
The same way that it is rude to insult someone it is rude to interrupt the music with your own, and keep your selfish needs to be popular or "connected" all the time to your own space.

Jan. 12 2012 02:09 PM

Sad to say, but rudeness and discourtesy are held and celebrated by too many folks these days. I was in the audience when Kurt Masur stopped a concert during a Shostakovitch symphony due to deliberately loud coughing. There was some jerk who (I believe) only came to concerts in order to cough, or so it seemed because the same cougher with that signature cough always seemed to show up at Masur's concerts-and only at Masur's concerts.

As for cell phone use and Alan Gilbert's stopping the concert. I agree with what Mr. Gilbert did. When will it finally get through to some folks that they are dirsupting the concert and interfering with the enjoyment of other folks when they use a cell phone during a concert or don't silence one when they have the chance to do so before the concert begins?

Maybe Avery Fisher Hall's staff should begin immediately escorting cell phone miscreants off the premises?

Jan. 12 2012 02:05 PM
Beppe from Long Island City

My not so humble opinion is that cell phone use should be verboten totally in concert halls, restaurants etc by law.

Jan. 12 2012 01:56 PM
Ben Robinson from New York City

The person whose phone it was should have silenced it before the performance. The fact they did not and let it ring just shows arrogance and it is NOT to be tolerated. I have made my living as a performer in all parts of this world for over 35 years and recently at the Museum of the mOving Image a baby cried out during a lecture I was giving. The child should not have been there and I simply "starred down" the mother. She left. Later, at a luncheon of confreres who saw my act, they applauded what I did, gutsy though it was.

People...learn what live performance is. Turn off your phones. It makes for a better world. If you have to be on call such as a doctor, then have it vibrate and excuse yourself. Is this so hard?

Jan. 12 2012 01:54 PM
Rowland C. Rodgers from Center Valley, PA

Gilbert was correct in his actions. There is a time and place for everything. People need to realize that it isn't about them all the time when they're in a public venue.

Jan. 12 2012 01:53 PM
Susanna from UWS

for Bernie on the Upper West Side, where I also live: Please leave your phone at home when you go to a concert. It has nothing whatever to do with listening to music. If you want photos of the performers, buy a magazine. Thank you.

Jan. 12 2012 01:53 PM
Mark Zeisler

People disturbing orchestras and other people in the audience is not the thing of the future. Any future. Period.

Jan. 12 2012 01:51 PM
Bernie from UWS

I'm sorry but whatever you think of the historical argument (that concerts were once more freewheeling, less stuffy affairs) you can't disagree that concert halls need to embrace technology if they want to reach younger audiences. I like to occasionally tweet during a concert. Sometimes like I like to take photos or video of the performers. If a few bleeps slip out in the process, so be it. People better get used to this as it's the future.

Jan. 12 2012 01:46 PM

Gilbert was right. The person with the phone should have been ejected.
I find it annoying at the Opera or concerts even when people cough. I't seems that when one person coughs, everyone that was holding in their cough now let's go.

Jan. 12 2012 01:17 PM

Terrible juxtaposition of the ridiculous and the sublime. How DARE the orchestra interfere with the cell phone ringing!!! Someone should have told the orchestra to put itself on vibrate prior to the concert!

Jan. 12 2012 01:16 PM

I'm posting this only because people keep talking about cell-phone jammers/signal blockers:

1. They're illegal in the U.S.

2. This was pretty clearly an alarm, not an incoming phone call. An incoming phone call would have gone to voice mail; this kept ringing for minutes on end. Cell-phone jammers/signal blockers don't stop alarms, and so wouldn't have prevented this.

3. I'm not sure, but it may be that even turning the phone off doesn't stop an alarm from ringing at the due time. You have to know how to disable the alarm, once set.

Jan. 12 2012 12:47 PM
Judith Dent from NYC

Anything which draws attention to selfish people thoughtlessly using cell (etc.) phones at their own convenience can be nothing if not helpful.

Jan. 12 2012 12:00 PM
Mark Zeisler from New York

Just one more reason for the institution of signal blockers at concert halls so that cell phones are rendered useless. What kind of an idiot can't remember to turn off their cell phone after being reminded not once, but two or three times ? It's just laziness, and classic 2012 self-absorption.

Jan. 12 2012 11:59 AM
Victoria from New York

I'm surprised someone sitting near the person didn't say something. If I'm at a performance and someone sitting near me is being disruptive, I usually let them know. My biggest pet peeve is people who talk through the overture at operas. Don't they realize the performance has started?

Jan. 12 2012 11:52 AM
Lin from NYC

Hopefully, this incident will lead to new rules. I think Maestro Gilbert was right to stop the performance, etc; however, ushers and/or security personal should be trained to be "first responders". I mention security personal because one never knows who is in the audience these days. In this case, from what I now understand, it was an elderly person and believe he was probably frozen into inaction. Perhaps instead of just announcing at the beginning of a concert that cell phones be turned off, there should be a warning that "offenders" will be removed from the auditorium should they not comply. Ditto for texters. I was at The MET Opera last week and a woman in front of me kept turning on text mode. Had I leaned over to ask her to stop it would have caused even more of a distraction. The same problem occurred at the movies but this was easier to address. Most attendees these days enjoy/need cell phones. When I think of it, the percentage per performance of people who are "offenders", is very tiny. There must be an expedient way to way to address this.

Jan. 12 2012 11:52 AM
erick from Catskills

Yes, "accidents happen", but it seems that today many people are oblivious to the fact that they share space with others. This "me" generation mentality is especially annoying when you pay money to enjoy any theatre performance and then have it disturbed by a ringing phone, crying child, loud talking etc. I bet if more people were publicly humiliated the "accidents" would be reduced. Bravo maestro!

Jan. 12 2012 11:25 AM
Larry Geary from NJ

It used to be those stupid watches that would beep at the top of every hour. At one performance of Wagner's "Ring" years ago the beeping began about ten minutes before the hour and lasted until ten minutes after. In addition, I was seated next to an older man who promptly fell asleep during the overtures and whistled through his nose during three of the four operas.

Everyone is told to turn off or silence their phones before the performance. It isn't hard to do. People who aren't sufficiently self-aware to follow common courtesies shouldn't be at these events.

Jan. 12 2012 11:23 AM
Zulema from Bronx, NY

Gilbert was absolutely right, especially during the final movement of the Mahler Ninth. But there can be explanations for the continuing ringing. I was once at BAM at a dance performance, and the person's phone who sat next to me rang. He had just bought the phone, was a foreigner, tried every which way to silence it, but nothing worked. He hadn't known it was on. Not an excuse, but an explanation.

Kurt Masur stopped playing once because he found the excessive coughing overwhelming.

Jan. 12 2012 11:21 AM
Laurel from New York City

I do not know what the cost would entail, but I believe the best solution for this problem, which is not going to go away,is to modify all theatres and performance halls so cell phone signals are jammed. Simple. Talk all you want in the lobby at intermission or before and after the perfomance.

Jan. 12 2012 11:14 AM
Judith from Boston, MA

To Eduard Hanslick - Thank you for injecting a touch of humour into this conversation.
To Bernie - I suppose that you would also see nothing wrong with a cell phone ringing during a funeral?
P.S. There are at least 2 reasons that taking photos/videos during a performance are forbidden. First, though by now, perhaps outdated, is that the accompanying flash disturbs both the performers and the audience. Second, the performance may be being recorded as a live performance for commercial release. In that case, a privately made video could be considered a pirated copy, and be subject to the penalties for infringement of copyright laws.

Jan. 12 2012 11:03 AM
Lori Battista from NY

This happened when my sister and I had gone to see Moon for the Misbegotten. A cell phone had gone off twice, the second time the stage manager tapped the offender and escorted him out of the theatre. People can be so inconsiderate. Are you that important that you require your phone to be on 24/7????
Keep it on vibrate.

Jan. 12 2012 10:58 AM
Karen Garthe

Now,tragic that some of us are so accustomed to the intrusive blips, bleeps, squeals of ubiquitous electonics that the concept of "ignoring" them during a muscial performance (or a some struggling silence) would be broached. How awful for Gilbert and the musicians. How awful for the audience. What oblivion attaches these things...in many ways more than sound.

Jan. 12 2012 10:45 AM

I don't understand the wording of the poll:

"Should Gilbert have stopped the performance - yes or no"

But then, to vote yes one must subscribe to:

"Yes, the interruption was rude and deserved public censure" That's a different matter, is it not? Should have been a simple yes or no vote.

Judging crime and punishment should be a separate poll, don't you think?

Jan. 12 2012 10:44 AM
RP from New York City

I agree with the first comment by Walter Palmer. People have no manners, no sensitivity and are completely unaware that anyone else but they themselves exist. Frankly, I think they are not even consciously aware of their own existence. That the conductor has to make members of the audience behave is a disgrace. I have seen this before during a performance with the NY Philharmonic.

Jan. 12 2012 10:30 AM
Opera Goer NYC from New York City

Last year we were sitting in the back of the orchestra section of seats at the Metropolitan Opera next to two people, who as soon as the lights were lowered, moved to seats further forward, leaving their coats on their assigned seats. In the middle of the the next act, a cell phone left in the pocket of one of their coats went off and continued to ring. The owner was nowhere near enough to turn it off if he or she heard it. There was nothing we could do but continue to listen to the sound of the ring compete with the beautiful singing. I don't know how many people were disturbed, but we certainly were.

Jan. 12 2012 10:23 AM
Sandra from new york city

I was astounded that the person wasn't ushered out of the auditorium. Whatever his excuse, he should not have been allowed the privilege of hearing the end of the symphgony which he almost ruined for the entire house if not for the wisdom and masterful ability of Alan Gilbert to start anew and recreate the magic of the fourth movement of Mahler's 9th.

Jan. 12 2012 10:23 AM
Melissa from UES

We have tickets tonight and hope this doesn't happen. By the way, there is diagnostic code for medical billing, "E960.0 - Injured by Audience for Failing to Silence or Using a Cell Phone During an Event."

Jan. 12 2012 10:23 AM
Greg from Kensington, Brooklyn

Bravo maestro! I'm glad this has finally happened. I hope the person w/ the phone was shamed into not carrying it again, though I wouldn't hold my breath on that. Looking forward to Brucker 8th at the Philharmonic, hopefully w/o cellphones. I was at BAM last night for second preview of Richard III, and before the performance, it was announced that the performance would be stopped if a cell phone went off. None went off, and we enjoyed a marvelous performance. I hope this policy spreads to other houses as well.

Jan. 12 2012 10:22 AM
barry milliken from nyc

The man should be banned from the Philharmonic for a year and condemned to go to every rock concert in Madison Square Garden for the same period. His ring tone won't be a problem there.

Jan. 12 2012 10:17 AM
joe from whitney point, ny

Isn't it the job of the ushers, particularly the head usher, to take care of situations like this, and NOT the conductor?

Jan. 12 2012 10:17 AM

A few months ago I was at a play at Second Stage in Manhattan. Someone's cell phone kept going and going and going. Finally one of the ushers had to escort the elderly man out. It seems he didn't know how to turn his phone off. Sometimes children and grandchildren buy phones for their parents/grandparents that are too complicated to use. My mom has a cell phone, but it's simple and she knows just how to turn it on and off.

It's a shame that so many people are self absorbed that they feel the need to broadcast their conversations to the world.

To Bernie: In the days where people used to talk during operas, that was centuries ago, before telephones and computers and when everybody worked six days a week, twelve hours a day. Today if people want to chat, they can do so easily, they don't need to go to a theater to do that.

Jan. 12 2012 09:58 AM
walter palmer from nyc

People generally using cellphones in public are about as rude as it gets. They are totally insensitive to others. Guy at Philharmonic should be barred for life. How could anyone argue he had excuse for what he did. Just another insensitive person who should have learned to use the phone properly. But they don't care. Why should they. Everyone tolerates rude people in the NYC.

Jan. 12 2012 09:56 AM

It was an alarm apparently. The phone was turned off, but the alarm went off. The person was a bit on the older side, and he didn't know the alarm would go off even if the phone was off.

Wrong person to attack in this case.

Jan. 12 2012 09:03 AM
Eduard Hanslick from Austria

The music was Mahler, right? The phone guy was probably a Brucknerite.

Jan. 12 2012 06:09 AM
natalie levine from jerusalem

Slipping on a banana peal, a thing happening once . . . that's an accident. But a pattern of behavior - like musical repetition - sends a clear signal. The Front Row Ringer's message - deafness? hostility? just plain nuts? - was broadcast before a full house and orchestra. In the front row, no less: waaay off the bell curve. IMHO, defending any random craziness as one's "right" is, unfortunately, a destructive a pattern of our time . . .

Jan. 12 2012 05:06 AM
jimbojamesiv from NYC

Granted, the phone ringing during the Philharmonic is a ghastly error in social graces, but if you read the story, it's actually quite funny, especially the marimba ringtone, and while clearly the owner of the phone should have thought to turned off the phone after the first time it happened, the conductor's response was very human, and so I applaud him, but the crowd, not to undo expectations, is typical of any mob.

In the end, what people should learn is that it's no big deal, and they should be able to laugh about it in hindsight, but most probably can't because it's so serious that the crowd, like vigilantes, pointed out the offender and wanted him/her (I'm betting male) "thrown out," as if he were a torturer, a wealthy fat-cat, or your typical depraved attendee at the Philharmonic.

Jan. 12 2012 04:50 AM
Stephen from Port Washington, NY

Maestro Gilbert was correct. But the incident should never have gotten to a point where he needed to take action. I’ve been a Philharmonic subscriber for most of my 67 years. I don’t hesitant to confront people sitting near me when their behavior interferes with my ability to listen to a concert. If I had been sitting near that ringing phone, I doubt there would have been more than three rings. Had Mahler himself had been the conductor, I suspect he would have been more aggressive than Gilbert.

Jan. 12 2012 03:17 AM
Michael Meltzer

By contrast, it would be interesting to speculate as to what would happen to a gallery member with an deliberately unattended cell phone while Tiger Woods was making a putt.
This moron was very lucky indeed.

Jan. 12 2012 02:54 AM

Bernie: "No wonder classical music is accused of being out of touch!"

I've never accused it as such. But, if you think it is out of touch, then you're obviously not "touched" by it and are disqualified from judging the opinions of this incident by others who are so "touched".

Jan. 12 2012 02:48 AM
Michael Meltzer

"Democratization" is as stupid a concept here as imaginable. There are those who are profoundly moved by a musical performance. There are those who ae not. The ones who are are the audience for whom the composers wrote, and for whom the performers extend their best efforts. The parameters and guidelines must be for those so motivated ONLY. If the others don't understand that, too bad. Everyone has a right to be stupid, but not in Avery Fisher Hall.

Jan. 12 2012 02:40 AM

What Bernie doesn't understand is there is Classical Music and then there's Classical Music. Yes, throughout Western music history, music has been written to entertain party goers. Guaranteed, composers who knocked off works for this purpose didn't put much heart, or time for that matter, in those works (although they may have made more money doing it).

But let's look at the music of J. S. Bach for a moment. Classical? Of course. Venue? Lutheran church service. People laughing and having conversations during the performance? Not too likely. The music was written with the distinct purpose of lifting congregants' spirits during worship. Later "classical" composers, including Mahler, understood this principle of music's power to speak to the edification of the human spirit (without the religious dogma attached to it). But, to appreciate that experience, audiences would need to have some education in that particular use of the language, and the performance would need a dedicated quiet space for the presentation, with rules not unlike those of comportment in a library.

Bernie's comments show a complete lack of understanding of this principle. He seems to have a superficial grasp of the classical music genre(s) and would be happier, it seems, frequenting night clubs and bars rather than concert halls.

Jan. 12 2012 02:28 AM

This is just a thought about the technology involved in the incident. Some have written here about concert halls installing mobile phone "shielding" in concert halls (which apparently may be illegal, according to others).

I think in this case, it was not an incoming call that set of the marimba ringtone. I know that sound and it is one of the few choices on the phone for use with the phone's alarm clock feature. If you ask me, the perp's alarm was set to go off at around 10:15 PM (that should be about the right time for that point in the concert). There is no way 'shielding' could have prevented that.

Jan. 12 2012 01:29 AM
Michael Sirotta from Staten Island

The Ninth is one of my all time favorites, but gremlins seem to abound with this particular run of the symphony. The account of the interruption Tuesday gives me goose bumps when I try to imagine it, but I'm afraid I have a sadder tale to relate. My wife and I attended the opening concert last Thursday. It was marvelous and thankfully, uninterrupted. My phone was quieted and stayed out of sight and sound until I reached a stop light while driving home, where I glanced briefly at it to find a multitude of text messages (normally, I don't get many). I had no time to see what they were, but upon arrival home on Staten Island, we found that a junkyard that has been developing (by a hoarder) in a lot across the narrow street from where we reside had had a major conflagration. Our second vehicle which was parked adjacent to it was severely burned by it and it left the vinyl siding on our home in a surrealistic Dalyesque melt-down condition. If I'm not mistaken, the height of the raging fire must have coincided with Mahler's rantings of Movt. 3 (Burlesque), a movement that expresses (if you ask me) the rage of one in denial of one's fate.

It was a costly night out - had I been home I could have saved the vehicle (replacing siding with insurance is no big deal). But you know, I'm glad I was not home to have experienced the fire crisis (fire was out when we got home), but was instead tucked in the bosom of that performance of the Ninth.

I'm not particularly superstitious, but, with our troubles and the iPhone incident, one does wonder if some spirt has been disturbed by the program. Full Moon (1/9)? Some historical event in Mahler's life occurring around this time (bring on the 'ondes martenots' and 'theremins' - Wooooooooo)?

Jan. 12 2012 01:10 AM

I don't have a cell phone. Problem solved (for me). Really, anyone in this day and age who doesn't turn off their electronic device beforehand (or turn it off at the very first peep) is rude, crude and socially unacceptable. Ditto for texting in the middle of a performance.

Jan. 12 2012 01:08 AM
Marie from Wanamassa, NJ

And he just let it keep ringing? How incredibly bizarre. Who, if the same thing happened with their phone, would not be mortified, turn it off immediately and slink off in humiliated silence while wishing themselves invisible?!?

On the first day of one of my classes in graduate school, the professor was outlining her course rules and emphasized absolutely no cell phones. As if on cue, mine started ringing. Even though it was funny and everyone laughed, including the professor, I still remember how embarrassed I was. But if the NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC had to be stopped because of my mobile phone? Just shoot me.

It seems to me the guy got off easy.

Jan. 12 2012 12:58 AM
dsimon from Manhattan

I was there, and I think Gilbert did the right thing. I don't think he was trying to embarrass the phone's owner; he was trying to get the phone silenced so that it wouldn't ruin the rest of the piece. It seemed that the phone was not going to stop ringing on its own, so the lesser of the two evils was to stop and deal with the problem rather than try to play through it with a completely devastating distraction.

Jan. 12 2012 12:53 AM
Karen D from Flushing, NY

OOOOH! This incident gets me so mad & quite furious. It reminds me of the incident we had on Yom Kippur morning at synagogue when some idiot, the village idiot, left his cell phone on during the highpoint of the solemn service. The ring was so obnoxious & disturbing that the cantor stopped singing & everyone glared at the bozo who was stupid enough to leave the cell phone on. I had wished one of the ushers would have escorted this obnoxious jerkoff out of the sanctuary. I'm sure his New Year didn't start off so perfectly. If you can't follow the "rules" of the concert hall, then you shouldn't bother coming in & leave the pleasure of listening to a undisturbed performance to the rest of us "rule" abiding concertgoers!

Jan. 12 2012 12:27 AM
judy from NYC

There was no way to tune out the cell phone ringing during that particular part of the piece. I am grateful that they stopped. Maestro Gilbert handled the whole incident beautifully. And when the orchestra resumed, the performance was even more beautiful and heartfelt.

Jan. 12 2012 12:11 AM
Arden Anderson-Broecking from Darien, Connecticut

Maestro Gilbert was absolutely right. He acted with remarkable restaint. Many is the time I've been at performances where phones rang and rang, and occasionally, the "callee" actually answered it and talked! This behavior show incrediblely bad manners and disrespect for the music, Gilbert and the orchestra and above all, the others members of the audience.

Jan. 11 2012 11:14 PM
bill from nj

Though they exist, in the US and Britain electronic cell phone jammers are illegal. In the US it is covered under the Federal Communications act of 1934 (which obviously couldn't think of cell phones), where it is illegal to interfere willingly with broadcast signals.

However, in concert halls and such it is perfectly legal to blank cell phone reception passively. One of the reasons electronic jammers are illegal is because they have the potential to bleed into other frequencies and cause problems and can otherwise be ill behaved, but a concert hall, theater, etc, can be effectively shielded using metal mesh and the like to in effect not allow the signal to enter the building. There are corporate retreat houses and the like that are designed to stop cell phones from working, for example, and it is quite legal. The problem is it isn't that simple to retrofit, though if the Phil if the decided to finally take the sledgehammer to Avery Fisher and make it into a real concert hall, they could prob retrofit it then, would make sense. If people have an absolute need to be contacted, they can leave word with the staff in house and that can be left for whoever might call.

Jan. 11 2012 10:19 PM
bill from nj

Gilbert was right, having a ringtone or any noise like that during especially a quiet moment ruins the mood, and he was right to stop. A cell going off at a rock or pop concert with the amps at 100db wouldn't be heard, but in a concert hall? And if the guy was that deaf that he couldn't tell his cell phone was ringing, what was he doing there, how could he not hear it if he could hear the music? As far as those complaining the announcements are garbled, they have a big sign projected saying turn off devices, the playbill says that, they have other signs, and not to mention that, but the person is going into a concert hall, why do they need a reminder? Sorry, but I suspect the patron in question was just a rude jerk and frankly should have been thrown out. I remember reading an account several years ago where Liam Neeson was doing a one man play about Michael Collins, and when he was doing one of his speeches in the play, some idiot in the first row's cell phone goes off, and not only that, he answered it (the description in the paper described him as a lawyer type) and started talking! Liam Neeson stopped his speech, folder his arms and stared down at the offender, who was so engrossed in his idiocy he didn't even realize the play had stopped (and Liam Neeson staring is pretty fierce, guy is 6' something, big bloke). Neeson pointed at the offending guy, pointed to an usher and pointed to the door, and they escorted the man out......

Sorry, Bernie, while I agree entirely that some elements of performance is hackneyed and too much like going to the least favorite grandmas house on Sunday, to argue that this is the same as it was 200 years ago is ridiculous. First of all, what you are describing was common in opera or chamber music, but I would bet you all the tea in Sri Lanka that that wasn't so when Handel's messiah played. Sorry, but having cell phones ringing, people talking loudly, shuffling candy wrappers (the last two generally by people who are the loudest complainers about audience members not dressing up, etc), texting, etc is not democritization, it is plain rude. I could argue about things like clapping between movements or people yelling bravo enthusiastically, or that conductors and orchestras maintaining their 'wall' with the audience isn't a good thing, but this is just stupid, rude people ruining the experience for others. Put it this way, there are very few people sitting in that audience that are on life or death call, where they need to be reached, most people whose cel phone rings is because Aunt Ida wants to gossip or the best friend wants to vent on some restaurant they didn't like; for those of you who absolutely need to be on call, make sure to get seats on an aisle and have your phone on vibrate deep in a pocket to muffle the sound but so you can feel it. For everyone else, it doesn't take much brain cells to remember to turn the phone off or on silent mode.

Jan. 11 2012 10:08 PM
Carol Luparella from Elmwood Park, NJ

I think Alan Gilbert was absolutely correct in his response to the inconsiderate person with the ringing cell phone. To not turn off a cell phone at a concert is extremely disrespectful to fellow audience members, the orchestra, the conductor, and the composer. If Mahler himself had been conducting, he probably would have turned around and glared at the offender until he slunk out of the concert hall!

Jan. 11 2012 09:20 PM
David S Bundler

Bravo that most everyone gets it. The excuse that it was accidental would not work if someone spilled food on a Monet. Mahler, and other composers, took more time producing each work than Monet, and no painting requires 60 to over 100 people to display it, or hours to prepare for display. Anyone who defaced a Monet would be arrested and committed. The statement that music was used as background to conversation, in the pre-Romantic era, is true. It was also performed on cat-gut. It is hoped we still may be evolving into something more advanced, at least more respectful of the rights of paying ticket holders, (and cats). Cell or I-phone noise defaces music (except 4:33), vandals should be treated as vandals. There should be monetary penalties for disturbing the enjoyment of others who have purchased an experience, musical or otherwise.

Jan. 11 2012 08:58 PM
Paul Maxwell from East Haddam CT

I guess a lot of people have an opinion about this. I imagine that the person in question was rather thoughtless but its not making a mistake that marks you, its how you deal with it. A classy guy could have removed it from his pocket and stomped on it. A round of applause would have been his reward. And he could have talked about it at cocktail parties for the rest of his life. Instead, he's just an insensitive fool. Too bad.

Jan. 11 2012 08:48 PM
Ronnie Lee Ellis

Bernie must be the guy who had the cell phone.

Jan. 11 2012 08:47 PM

Alec Baldwin's voice on the announcement to turn off electronic devices just does not work in this hall; it's hard to understand what he is saying. it should be redone by a woman; the higher register will be more audible. At Saturday night's Mahler 9th concert, some self centered man broke the spell of the very last lingering note of the sumphony by yelling "bravo" even while alan gilbert's arms were still raised in their conducting pose. well, BOO and HISS to that man - i mean, what a boor! And BTW, I hear cel phones - if nearby - even when they're on vibrate mode.

Jan. 11 2012 07:28 PM
Janet from Brooklyn

I have to think that for some reason the person with the cell phone was attempting to sabotage the performance. A disgruntled auditioner perhaps? I don't know. Whatever the reason, it is indeed a pity that the audience had to have the performance spoiled, and the orchestra had to play twice, with a spoiled mood.

Jan. 11 2012 07:26 PM
jeanne spira from Yonkers, NY

I was in the hall last night when this happened. Yes, there really was no other option than, sadly, to stop the music which was in competition with marimba ringtones. This surreal moment became even more so as the dignified Mr. Gilbert- THE CONDUCTOR- was left in the positioned of speaking to this individual. How demeaning and frustrating for him. And so I ask- where were the people whose job it is to police the hall? Where were administration? security?
Shame on the obstenate offender; double shame on the hall staff for leaving our conductor in such a position

Jan. 11 2012 07:14 PM
Ralph from Manhattan

I suspect many bloggers who were not at the concert do not realize what occurred here. In the latter part of the 4th movement of the Mahler 9, a bombastic sounds emanates from the orchestra and is followed by a pause (i.e. silence), and then a very quiet series of solos from a number of different instruments. The contrast and transition is intended to create an emotional reaction. Obviously, the Conductor - and Musicians - were working hard to create this. The cell phone was ringing as that pause occurred and just as the solos were to start(who knows - it may have been ringing throughout the loud chords preceding). And it rang and rang. Gilbert had no choice but to stop the concert because of what was about to follow in the score. Continued cell phone ringing would have totally disrupted this quiet interlude -- and disrupted the concentration of Musicians. Remember, these unscripted sounds not only destroy the emotional effect intended by the composer for audience and performer alike - but these sounds also destroy the concentration by the Musicians as well (these WERE solos). I feel sorry for the flute player who had to execute a very difficult long-held series of notes TWICE as Gilbert sought to find a place in the score that would have allowed all of us to experience this transition as the professionals intended -- and as we were all anticipating. My question: where was the Philharmonic management: once the concert stopped and the dispute became protracted, this shouldn't have been left to the Music Director to handle. But Bravos to Maestro Gilbert.

Jan. 11 2012 06:58 PM
maddy from new york city

Everywhere, wherever entertainment is provided, audiences are asked to turn off cell phones. Maybe this selfish person was on the phone and didn't hear the announcement. Whatever the reason, there's no excuse for not turning it off. The person was shamed in public and deserved it.

Jan. 11 2012 06:51 PM
GP49 from Rohnert Park, CA

Whatever Maestro GIlbert did to embarrass the cellphone-toting idiot was totally justified.

If he had done even more to make the cellphone-toting idiot feel like the very small man he is, that would have been totally justified.

If an audience member, or for that matter, GIlbert, had stomped that cellphone into oblivion on the floor, it would have been too lenient a punishment.

Too bad it is illegal for the hall to install a cellphone jammer. The cellphone lobby will pay off enough Congresscritters to prevent that from ever happening, even if the idea is introduced.

Jan. 11 2012 06:28 PM

I think he did the right thing as well.... The signs to turn off all cell phones is clearly posted on the wall at the back of the stage before the concert and during intermission. There is no excuse.

Ps...NYMike from Manhattan.... That premature BRAVO came from the man sitting right next to me Sat night... very upsetting because I, as I am sure everyone else in the hall, was anticipating a longer reflective silence after that amazing performance.

Jan. 11 2012 06:24 PM

Bernie from UWS doesn't get the point. This is a matter of common courtesy, not whether a few hundred years ago audiences were rude, also. I am amazed that even one blog suggests that Alan Gilbert should have just plaid through this disturbance. If you don't want to respect the artists, how about respecting your fellow man?

George from USR

Jan. 11 2012 06:11 PM
Kelly Jo from New York

Times have changed from when you could attend an opera or a concert and chat your way through it until intermission. As a musician, to perform a piece and to put on a concert is a way of saying to your audience that you have perfected every nuance of this piece to the best of your abilities. And in the case of the NY Phil, this is a very formidable statement. Musicians work hard to ensure to the audience that they are hearing the music as best as we can perform it. Many teachers have described it as ma contract with the audience members. When we mess up or do not play as well as we can, it is letting down the people who in most cases have paid money to see us.

That being said, when you are paying money to hear something as spectacular as say, Mahler 9, wouldn't you want to hear it without interruption? Many people attend classical music concerts or any kind of concert for different reasons. Some are for academic purposes, some because they like the piece or the particular performer. In the end it all comes down to the fact that you and all the other people in those seats are there to listen. If you want a concert where it is OK to talk and laugh and dance, then find something in the correct genre. If you need to be reached in an emergency, put your phone on vibrate and pay attention. Do not interrupt every other person's experience because you think your phone call is more important than what is happening around you. The feeling in that hall must have been palpably tense and even angry. This makes every single person who could hear it (which must have been every single person in the hall) uncomfortable. Mistakes will undoubtedly happen, but we must guard against them. I believe Mr. Gilbert acted exactly as he should have.

Jan. 11 2012 05:45 PM
Carolyn from Brooklyn, NY

I was there. Gilbert had no choice but to stop and chastise this person. I couldn't believe how long we had to sit and listen to this "cell phone solo" before the perpetrator finally got around to shutting it off ...... unbelievable! Kudos to Gilbert and the orchestra for getting back into the mood and finishing an exquisite performance.

Jan. 11 2012 05:17 PM
Tina from Brewster NY


Jan. 11 2012 05:15 PM
LB from Manhattan

Maestro Gilbert in no way impugned the phone's owner--he handled an impossible situation with great grace. His much more impressive achievement, with the Philharmonic, was to achieve a rendition of the symphony's end that truly transcended the indignities of just a few minutes before. Thanks to the performers, the music did win out.

One can only imagine what Gilbert's predecessor, the symphony's composer, might have thought. He was, after all, the opera conductor who took on all those audience distractions referred to in an earlier comment. Rodin's bust of him that stands a few yards from where the phone went off remained above the fray at the concert's end. The performance as a whole is what will stay with me, not the interruption.

Jan. 11 2012 05:11 PM
Shirley Kirsten from Fresno, CA

Sounds like Gilbert was inhumanely diplomatic. I would have blown a gasket.

Jan. 11 2012 05:08 PM
Bernie from UWS

I'm sorry but I don't see what the fuss is about. Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, people used to go to the opera and talk, socialize, play cards and carry on throughout the performance. Only during the 20th century did it become such a solemn occasion where you can't make a peep. Classical music shouldn't be so sacred.

Concert halls should be more accepting with phones and allow people to take photos or movies during the performance, for instance. It would help democratize the art form as a whole!

Jan. 11 2012 04:56 PM
Sneakeater from Brooklyn

To Daniel Goldhagen --

It's my understanding that cell phone blockers are illegal in the United States.

Jan. 11 2012 04:47 PM
Daniel Goldhagen from New York City

I think that given the sensitivity of the music that Alan Gilbert's reaction was appropriate. Funny enough, last season Alan Gilbert conducted Mahler's 9th symphony with the Juilliard Orchestra and a cellphone went off as well during the 4th movement.

A simple solution I would think is that concert halls, theatres, and movie theatres should install cell phone blockers (or cell jammers) which would not allow reception in the hall. Does anyone know why this can not be done ? I understand that this is used in many theatres in London.

Jan. 11 2012 04:45 PM
Sneakeater from Brooklyn

I was there, too.

Alan Gilbert really had no choice but to stop the music. The ringing went on and on and on and on. (It must have been an alarm.) I have a feeling the cell phone owner was an elderly person who couldn't hear that the phone was ringing; otherwise I can't understand how he could have let it go on like that. So I'm not for vilifying the cell phone owner -- only congratulating Maestro Gilbert on handling the situation with so much evident grace. (If the NY Phil Board doesn't extend his contract, I'm going to be calling for THEIR heads.)

Upside: This was the first live Mahler 9 I've seen where the audience left a sufficient lag time before it started applauding.

Jan. 11 2012 04:43 PM
Barry O'Neal from UWS

I was at an NYP concert several years ago with a dear friend, when a cell phone went off across the aisle from us during the final moments of Mahler's 6th Symphony. Loren Maazel was conducting and the trombone dirge that proceeds the final clap of thunder was already in progress. The ringing lasted about 30 seconds, before the young women whose phone it was, silenced the offending implement. There was really nothing Maazel could do but finish the piece. It was dreadful. I applaud Gilbert approach. If it was up to me (a non-cell phone owner), the guilty party would be identified and banned from future concerts. They inspect bags before the concerts, maybe a stop and frisk policy should also be added.

Jan. 11 2012 04:32 PM
peggy from nyc

I was at a choral concert - Oratorio Society - Dec 19th and was privileged to sit in a first tier box. But the privilege came with a price. My eye was pulled to the several phones in the orchestra whose screens were on so people could text or view their messages. I am surprised that the people sitting next to them didn't ask the people to turn them off. Very distracting and, for the people near them, not silent either.

Jan. 11 2012 04:31 PM

While I agree that Mr. Gilbert needed to stop the concert, I also have some compassion for the phone owner. Since most people would have been mortified to hear their phone ring in a concert, and would have dealt with it immediately, I can only assume that the owner couldn't hear the phone, (or possibly assumed it was someone else's.) I know someone who might find himself in this situation, though he is good at turning off his phone before concerts. So, giving this patron the benefit of the doubt, and assuming he was not being purposefully rude, what I don't understand is why no one around him managed to get him to deal with the phone. I hope that if I, or especially any of my elderly friends or relatives are ever in this situation, someone will help them.

Jan. 11 2012 04:28 PM

In spite of the fact that a wide majority of audience members (including the incomparable Naomi Lewin) have all spoken against the offender and in favor of the conductor, I am appalled that some apologists for "cell-phone freedom" have chimed in on this subject. For crying out loud, people! There is NO excuse for this nonsense- I have been forced to accept that I can no longer enjoy the public sphere (malls,zoos, parks, groceries,cinemas, and even the beach) without the constant intrusion of the ever-growing self-centrist mentality of the modern hoard, but can't the higher arts be at least a little bit immune to this evolutionary regression?
BRAVO- not only to the Maestro, but to Naomi Lewin for reporting this incident.
(After all, how many lesser commentators have ignored this type of thing? Naomi is a blessing to this station, New York, and modern classical music in general.)

Jan. 11 2012 04:27 PM
NYMike from Manhattan

Last Saturday evening's performance of Mahler's 9th was punctuated by a pre-mature BRAVO while the sound of its exquisitely poignant last movement was still dying away with Gilbert's hand still up in the air. Evidently, Tuesday evening's performance disruption was even more egregious. I can't count the times when a quiet place in the music in NY concert venues is disrupted by loud coughs, sneezes or cellphones. Some of today's society seems to have little or no respect for the concert environment or for fellow audience members.

Jan. 11 2012 04:20 PM
Michael Gordon from Manhattan

Seems to me that for somebody to leave a phone go on and on like that was an act of hostilility meant to interrupt and disturb the orchestra, the conductor, and the audience. The person should have been escorted out of the theater, and their identity registered with the police.

Jan. 11 2012 04:17 PM
Jim Rubins from Manhattan

One of the movie chains had a wonderfully apt trailer for a while that made the "turn off your phone" point most emphatically. The video showed the interior of a theater, then an audio of a cell phone ringing, and immediately the offending patron was hurled from his seat up against the screen, then fell to the floor. The voice-over explained that the theater is equipped with "cellphone ejector seats." This, too, was met with enthusiastic applause.

Jan. 11 2012 04:12 PM
Scott Spiegler from Brookline, MA

In today's world populated by so many self-absorbed people, I think the maestro absolutely made the right call. Perhaps, next to the coat check room there should be a cell phone check room to prevent future disturbances like this from occurring. Hopefully, the owner of that phone is physically ok, and his/her lack of responsiveness was not a result of a health issue on their part. But, were that not the case, I think these performances are too precious and the ticket prices too costly that considering such a policy might behoove orchestras around the world or any place where live art is being performed. When I think about this case, I am shocked that this doesn't happen more often than it does with the ubiquity of portable electronic devices these days. It speaks well of the general thoughtfulness of concert goers, but obviously one bad apple can spoil an evening for paying patrons.

Jan. 11 2012 04:00 PM
Paul McGlothin from N.Y.

As a performer of classical music, I think that Gilbert made the right decision and handled the matter in the best way possible. Performers concentrate very hard, much the same way as a chess master or trapeze artist. A sudden noise can destroy their focus, turning a great performance into a mockery of what everyone is there to experience.Just because someone paid money for a ticket , they did not gain the right to disrupt the beautiful experience that every audience member and performer has an in- alienable right to enjoy.

Jan. 11 2012 03:40 PM
Bendix Anderson

I have sympathy for the cell phone owner -- whoever it is must be a little crazy. A merely selfish person could let the phone ring once and then, after it stops and no one is looking, sneak into their bag and turn it off.

But to leave the cell phone on, somehow believing it won't ring again, that is crazy. There's an inability to act worthy of Hamlet. Maybe some kind of psychotic break with reality.

Jan. 11 2012 03:39 PM
Cindy from Union Square, NYC

I am not a Doctor or nurse, nor do I earn my livelihood in law enforcement. However, I do have an aging parent who is now a source of real concern; thus I like to keep in contact with family members. But I never, ever use anything save, 'vibrate' mode on my phone. And letting that baby go off at the Met, Avery, or Carnegie? No way. If I am packing the phone on my hip and it starts to purr, I may discreetly check. And if the world ain't ending...man I get back to the show. A friend of ours used to work at the Met Scenic Art shop years ago. Imagine pulling a stunt like last night's in front of Rudolf Bing!! Alan Gilbert's a class act, no question - and I know of other artists who have dealt with what is becoming epidemic high tech audience rudeness. There needs to be, as one commenter mentioned - zero tolerance for such boorishness. Since when do people come to a concert hall/film/Broadway theatre to talk on the phone? Should I care about their dinner plans? Fagettabowdit!

Jan. 11 2012 03:36 PM

So you think all the musicians were playing at full volume throughout? Do you know how sensitive is the ear to extraneous sounds? I also would suggest (respectfully, no insult intended) that you do not understand the emotional appeal of music and why being pulled out of the "zone" by an unexpected noise is extremely disruptive.

I don't think a single phone could overpower a 100-member orchestra either

Jan. 11 2012 03:35 PM
sally Dorst from New York, N.Y.

Of course Gilbert was correct. The thread of the performance was broken--just in an instance. No way could he have let such a beautiful rendition of Mahler end the way it was heading once the ring tone began. I, too, was there and am so glad he stopped and then re-did the ending. The silence at the end of the work was an exquisite way to make a point. I've started leaving my cell behind whenever I'm heading to a performance from home. Before I walk into any venue I make sure my phone is off. I typically check it again when I hear the recorded announcement.

Jan. 11 2012 03:30 PM
Bill from Hell's Kitchen

At the beginning of each PDQ Bach concert... even some in Avery Fisher with the NY Phils, we used to make a joke about smoking, picture taking, coming in late, and of course, cell phones on vibrate. The audience always, and it seemed they did it as a group, checked their phones and laughed. Avery Fisher used to project an image onto the back wall of the stage: an announcement urging all phones to be turned off. For us, it seemed a perfect compliment to our initial "joke" announcement. I never thought anyone would violate the tradition... especially in the front row, and especially on and on for many minutes. Toscanini will make it a point to meet this guy in the afterlife, and say "TURN IT OFF!"

Jan. 11 2012 03:21 PM
martin silver from LONG BEACH, NY 11561


Jan. 11 2012 03:20 PM

I was there last night. Bravo to both Alan Gilbert and the Philharmonic.
I am surprised that the cell phone offender was not thrown out of the concert hall.

Jan. 11 2012 03:19 PM

I have made the mistake (fortunately not at the opera or symphony, just at a movie) of not shutting the phone off or at least setting to vibrate only. If on vibrate I can always resist the temptation to look immediately. To stop the concert was unfortunate, however necessary for the patrons to enjoy the rest of it.

People should turn of their phones or at least operate them in silent mode. Blocking cell access these days could be dangerous from a safety perspective, and I have no problem with emergency and medical workers that want to be "on-call"; but even those folks should at least work in silent mode.

As to the "tedious" nature of Mahler, preferring accessing the truly mundane and tedious facebook, thank you for your contribution but surf in silence.

Jan. 11 2012 03:11 PM
Tom Gillett from Wilton, CT

Something similar happened during a Carnegie performance by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra last season. This season, I cancelled all subscriptions. My wife and I no longer attend concerts. That's the only defense. If you don't want to hear a cell phone go off (and I don't), then stay home.

Jan. 11 2012 03:08 PM
Manny from Teaneck, NJ

Bernie needs to stay away from concerts, since he doesn't understand the conditions needed for enjoying the music. It's not that a phone overpowered an orchestra, rather that the sound of the phone, just by being audible, interfered with the music. And if the owner was a paying member of the public, so were the rest of the audience whose enjoyment was spoiled.

Jan. 11 2012 03:08 PM
JanetG from Brooklyn

It wouldn't have been appropriate to stop the performance when the phone first rang, and Gilbert didn't. This was going on for several minutes without the owner taking any action to respect the performers and piece and silence the phone.

Jan. 11 2012 03:06 PM

People who cause such a distraction, interruption or nuisance should be thrown out by the ushers and security, and maybe we need a blacklist so they can't get tickets again very easily. Learn and behave, respect the performers and your neighbors or stay out! Simply paying does not enable one to interrupt the performance or to put on your own.

Jan. 11 2012 03:05 PM
Barbara from Manhattan

Zero tolerance for this cell phone madness!

Jan. 11 2012 03:05 PM

This reminds me of the story told about Sir Thomas Beecham. When a particularly cough-ridden audience interfered with the performance, he turned to it, pulled a fish out of his pocket and threw it to them, saying--"This should quiet you barking seals!"

Jan. 11 2012 03:04 PM
NBrandt from California

The interruption ruined the majesty of the mood created by the musicians and was an insult to them and the audience. To believe or act otherwise reflects a lack of manners and civility. Anyone addicted to connectivity is capable of silencing a call by touch if he or she has forgotten to turn it off. Anyone incapable of silencing it should either learn how to use the equipment or leave it at home. Anyone who thinks the interruption was not rude should take some etiquette lessons and learn that the world does not revolve around them. Would those people find it acceptable if everyone's phone rang throughout the concert? If so, why even attend? If not, are they so entitled that they think their convenience trumps others enjoyment?

Jan. 11 2012 02:49 PM
Edward Maloney from Manhattan

First of all, I believe there is a law passed by the NY city council banning such electronic usage from arts environments such as theaters, music halls, museums and the like. It is time to enforce this with hefty fines and expulsion of the offenders. Ideally, the venue could activate a device which would deactivate all cell reception and usage, but the cell phone companies have so much clout that they have made any such attempt at stopping their incursions illegal! At the Metropolitan Opera, Mr. Gelb is too shy (?) or embarrassed (?) to simply have an audio announcement made prior to each performance act, consequently one frequently hears an errant phone interrupting the opera. Ushers there DO NOT uphold-no-usage-in-the-hall rules. At the Paris Opera, surely no lesser an establishment by any means, the announcement is made FIVE times: in French, then English, then German, then Japanese, then Chinese. Everyone giggles to hear such word play and I have never heard a cell phone ring there. Carnegie Hall has its own successful trick of a loud phone ring before acts to remind people which is almost 100% effective. BAM makes the announcement. Sadly, people NEED reminding, and carelessness and abuse of the performers and fellow tickets holders NEEDS to be punished. I lived in Washington for many years where Senators, self-important lobbyists and tourist hicks thought they could arrive late and had the right to walk in on performances. A wonderful head usher at the Kennedy Center said "not on her watch" and with the help of their security put a stop to such arrogant behavior and abuse of fellow patrons. If the House does not set the rules and tone, we have people who are ignorant or have a subway mentality and no respect for others.

Jan. 11 2012 02:48 PM
Dirk from UES

Sometimes a concert is just BORING and you want to look at your e-mail or Facebook during a performance. Maybe this litener wanted to send a message about the tedious nature of Gilbert's Mahler?

Jan. 11 2012 02:48 PM

In my opinion, Maestro Gilbert and the NY Phil were right to stop. Nothing to do with being on a high horse. Of course, mistakes are made and it can happen in the best of circumstances (I concede that point reluctantly), but for the person to NOT turn it off immediately, out of respect for everyone -- the audience and the musicians -- seems a blatant *&*$ you to everyone. Beyond rude, just so disrespectful......I attended a wonderful concert last year of M. Gilbert conducting Juilliard orch of Mahler 9, my first live experience with the symphony (full disclosure: I'm a Mahler-ite disciple) and heard, saw and felt the passion of the music and of M.Gilbert's leading of the orchestra. It was exquisite. For that type of moment to be interrupted in such a loud, disruptive and ultimately rude way is just plain sad. I'm proud of the Phil and M. Gilbert for taking a stand. Perhaps it will be a lesson for all. That person should have turned off the phone immediately -- that is what gets me the most. Not that it happened, because it does happen, but to not alleviate the problem.......crazy.
P.S. Drives me crazy when cell phones start ringing in church, in business meetings too. Can't anybody use the 'silent' or 'vibrate' mode if they really, really, really NEED to have their phone on ALL the time?

Jan. 11 2012 02:36 PM
Neil Schnall

Leopold Stokowski, addressing an audience at Carnegie Hall, as quoted in The New York Times (11 May 1967): "A painter paints his pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence. We provide the music, and you provide the silence."

If the world of classical music is out of touch with a society in which there is no expectation of courtesy and respect, it is to be valued all the more. If you're in a concert hall or opera house, the still commonly-agreed-upon expectation is that you will keep silent during the performance. If you cannot live without your connectivity for an hour or two, even at a public event, there are always rock concerts and sporting events one can attend.

Jan. 11 2012 02:31 PM
Bernie from UWS

Again, there's no need to bring out the pitchforks just because a phone goes off. We live in a connected world people! Phones are part of our lives and we need to just get used to it. No wonder classical music is accused of being out of touch!

Jan. 11 2012 02:09 PM
YBlum from NYC

I was a this concert and absolutely agree with and applaud Maestro Gilbert for making a stand againts rudeness...despite several reminders to turn off electronic devises, there are just too many self-indulgent audience members who think the rules do not apply to them. We all attend concerts and other performances with great enthusiasm for the works and the performers and to be disturbed by electronic devises is so uncouth.

Jan. 11 2012 02:09 PM

It's amazing they got service in the front of Alice Tully

Jan. 11 2012 02:09 PM

Bravo! Maestro Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic

Jan. 11 2012 02:05 PM
Richard L Dunklee from Laurel Springs, NJ

BRAVO Maestro Gilbert! BRAVO. The owner of the cell phone is just plain ignorant. People pay good money to attend these concerts WITHOUT INTERUPTION! The conductor and the musicians work hard to bring the best music to the people attending for their enjoyment. But there are some people who just don’t care and are just plain ignorant.

Jan. 11 2012 02:05 PM
luz stella rodas from Jackson Heights

I totally agree with Mr. Gilbert attitude. If somebody in the audience cannot turn the cellphone out before the starting of any classical Concert, it is a clear break of the rules, a disrespectful behavior regarding the musicians, the music itself, and the people that is attending the Concert. Mr. Gilbert gave a brave lesson to such disrespectful people, who I think is not worth to be in a serious performance.

Jan. 11 2012 02:04 PM
frances from New MExico

The person who refused to turn off their phone (why didn't it go to voicemail, by the way?) is a jackass, and I think must have enjoyed causing the disruption. I'm surprised no one could figure out who it was, and he/she wasn't made to feel embarrassed.

Jan. 11 2012 02:02 PM
Tom Grimshaw

Leave your Seat number and the Box office number with whoever needs to reach you if in case of an emergency. Prior to cell phones how was it done.

Jan. 11 2012 01:58 PM

The mistake was in not shutting it off. After that, it was rude not only to Gilbert and the orchestra, but to everyone in the hall to let it ring. My wife is a middle school principal. She would have confiscated the phone and MAYBE the offender would get it back when his parent or guardian came in to discuss the matter. Perhaps there should be a time-out room at the Philharmonic.

Jan. 11 2012 01:56 PM
Anita from Queens from NYC

Ringing phones are intrusive and don't belong in the concert hall. It prevents enjoyment of the music. Gilbert was right in stopping to allow the ill-mannered gentleman to turn off his phone.

Jan. 11 2012 01:53 PM
Mary Ellen from Connecticut

There are no "accidents" , particularly when the perpetrator refused to shut the thing off immediately.

It is possible to block cell phones within an auditorium. Why don't the major halls do this?

Jan. 11 2012 01:52 PM

It's very simple. SHUT OFF YOUR PHONE. If you don't know how to shut it off, then you shouldn't have it in the first place. I mean, how did people survive without cell phones (sarcasm). I once went to a movie premiere when people had to surrender their cell phones.

Jan. 11 2012 01:51 PM
Neil Schnall

Sorry, Bernie, but the price of admission entitles the ticket bearer to be present in the hall and to "provide silence". That is the right of all 2800 OTHER members of the audience who have also paid for their tickets. By the way, music consists of silence as well as sound. An orchestra is not obliged to have to drown out the noise created by ill-mannered audience members.

Jan. 11 2012 01:48 PM
Neil Schnall

Aside from simple polite manners or even common sense, neither of which it is safe to assume these days, even of Philharmonic audience members, there is a projection on stage at the beginning and intermission of Philharmonic concerts reminding patrons to silence their electronic devices. Additionally, a recorded announcement in the voice of Alec Baldwin reiterates the enjoinder. There can be no excuse.

There's a story I'd heard long ago regarding Victor Borge from the days before cell phones. He was performing a concert somewhere when suddenly a phone could be heard ringing from offstage. "If it's for me, tell them I'm busy!"

Jan. 11 2012 01:39 PM
Bernie from UWS

Gilbert needs to get off his high horse. This man made a mistake but in the end he was a paying member of the public (who helps pay Gilbert's salary). I don't think a single phone could overpower a 100-member orchestra either.

Jan. 11 2012 01:32 PM

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