“SOMETHING historic happened at the New York Philharmonic on the evening of Jan. 10, about an hour into Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. During the introspective, achingly beautiful fourth movement, an audience member’s cellphone loudly rang. And rang. And rang again. It was the kind of marimba riff we’ve all heard at some point on the street from a stranger’s phone.

“From my seat in Row L of the orchestra section, I could see from their body language the horrified discomfort of my fellow audience members. We all wondered whether and how the maestro Alan Gilbert would react. I noticed that some of the violinists were looking down to the seats in the front rows, trying to find the source of the noise and, by their glares, silence it.

“I closed my eyes, hoping the sounds of the orchestra would prevail over the obnoxious ringing. Suddenly, in my reverie, there was silence. The orchestra had stopped playing; Mr. Gilbert had halted the performance. He turned from his podium to the offender, who was seated in the front row, and said something to this effect:

“‘Are you going to turn it off? Will you do that?’

“There was some ‘discussion’ between the conductor and the cellphone owner — was the offender pleading his case? — but the dialogue went unheard.

“From the rear orchestra-level and the upper-tier seats of Avery Fisher Hall, shouts of outrage rained down on the hapless cellphone owner like discordant notes. Some people stood and demanded that he leave the hall. The audience was so enraged that I could have pictured them hauling him from his seat on to the stage, tying him to a stake, setting him alight and stoking the fires with the busted-up wood of cellos and violas — maybe even wheeling in one of the orchestra’s shiny Steinways for added pyrotechnics.”
Ringing Finally Ended, but There’s No Button to Stop Shame, NY Times, January 13, 2012

I would have died of shame if that had been my cell phone.

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