The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: The New York Times prints the full story of The Music Lover and The Ringing Cellphone that halted Alan Gilbert’s performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 with the New York Philharmonic.

January 15, 2012

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:

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