By Jacob Stockinger
It seems that these days just about everybody has an iPhone or some other small, convenient and easily concealed smart phone that can take and email photos and videos.
And those photos and videos can change the world. They certainly fostered the Arab Spring (below) and other populist uprisings and protests, including those that led to the democratization of Burma/Myanmar and to the current civil war in Syria.
But it can also have downside, especially where the performing arts are involved and where questions of intellectual property are centrally involved.
Witness the recent episode in which the acclaimed and award-winning Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman (below), known for his playing of Chopin and his championing of Polish music, who was angry and annoyed when he stormed off the stage at a festival in Germany after someone in the audience refused to stop filming the recital on his iPhone.
It is food for thought, and it raises a lot of issues, including intellectual copyright as well as mass media and citizen reporting and blogging, to say nothing of private use.
It seems to The Ear that all of this is the logical outcome, change or consequence of the rise of social media like Facebook and Twitter and our changing notions of privacy. And it seems hard to allow it and praise it in one sphere of life yet try to contain its influence in another.
And of course it goes way beyond the rudeness of people who don’t turn off their cell phone that then ring during a performance. (The New York PHilhatmonic’s music director and conductor Alan Gilbert had to stop a performance of a slow movement of a Mahler symphony –- No. 9, I think it was — because of that kind of interruption.)
Now I myself don’t take unauthorized photos for this blog or authorized videos that I then put on YouTube.
But the issue is certainly close to me and relevant to the current performing arts scene.
But what do you think? The Ear wants to hear.
Did Krystian Zimerman do the right thing and sound an appropriate warning?
Or did he overreact as someone who is used to performing before thousands of audience members and even cameras and microphones? Is he trying to resist an inevitable social and technological change?
Read about it and leave your take in the COMMENT section.
Here are some links to stories about the incident:
Krystian Zimerman is not alone in his point of view. Here is a link to a BBC story about musical artists in all genres protesting YouTube:
If I recall correctly, it was the 19th-century French novelist Stendhal who remarked that mixing politics in literature is like firing a pistol during a concert — rude but something one ignores at one’s own peril.
Pianist Zimerman has a history of being outspoken about various political and social issues — including the presence of American missiles in his native country — during his performances.
Here is a good background piece from the British newspaper The Guardian:
And here is a video of a YouTube recording of the piece by 20th century composer Karol Szymanowski – appropriately his Variations of a Polish Folk Theme, Op. 10 — that has sparked some of Zimerman’s outbursts or comments, or at least provided a context for them.
By Jacob Stockinger
Thanks to the Juilliard School of Music, where Gilbert heads up the conducting program, and to New York University’s Movement Lab and its motion-capture computerized graphics, Gilbert was recorded conducting and then explaining what the movements mean.
It is like taking a mini-seminar is an art that takes many years to master, and even then some conductrors obviously do it much better than others. Some conductors — like Leonard Bernstein — flamboyantly sand dangerously danced around a lot on the podium while other conductor — like Fritz Reiner and Herbert van Karajan — were known for an almost total economy of movement.
Here is a link to the terrifically inventive, well researched and well written story by Daniel J. Wakin of The New York Times:
It is fun to take in because it is printed and also an interactive video with highlighted comments by conductor Gilbert (below). Take a look:
And here is a link to a background story and video about how it was made in the lab. It is a fascinating and illuminating explanation that suggests we can expect a lot more in the future of seeing technology illuminate art:
By Jacob Stockinger
If you want to know why so many people respect The New York Times – despite the all the pietistic carping on the right about how liberal and biased it is – just check out the fairness, accuracy and thoroughness the newspaper brought to one small story.
This past Tuesday night, conductor Alan Gilbert (below) halted a performance of Mahler’s moving Symphony No. 9, Mahler’s last completed symphony, with the New York Philharmonic in Avery Fisher Hall, because a loud cellphone went off during a particularly quiet and moving section of the music. He put down his baton and announced he would wait to resume until the phone was turned off.
Many news outlets, including NBC TV’s nightly newscast, reported on the incident, which had the other audience members cheering Gilbert and his admonishment to turn off the annoying and persistent marimba ring-tone of the phone before continuing .
But the Times went a step further.
It found out who was the person with the ringing cellphone, how the whole incident happened, and then reported on the reaction of the user of the offending iPhone (below) to the incident and what the follow-up story was. Knowing all the facts actually makes you at least somewhat sympathetic to the offender.
And then it published the story in the news section, rather than the arts section.
The coverage makes you respect both Gilbert and the offending cellphone owner, as well as the editors and reporters at the Times. It should also make you wary of alarms and other pre-set features of sophisticated smart phones.
Here is a link to the story:
Here is the clever video that mixes Mahler’s Ninth (under Leonard Bernstein) and the marimba ring-tone: