Commentary abounds! The NY Times has interviewed him, it was on CBS Nightly News, YouTube videos have been made to recreate the experience of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony overrun by the all-too-commercialed Marimba ringtone; it all seems to be a nose-snubbing witch hunt. Who hasn’t been here in some way, shape, form? The nameless “Patron X”–the infamous front-row iPhone bandit–came to hear the New York Philharmonic last Tuesday, as he had done numerous times before, as he had enjoyed numerous time before. A guy with a taste for classical music, he had numerous connections in the Philharmonic, had a subscription for the Philharmonic for 20 years, had front row seats, intended to come to enjoy that experience once more. Never would he have thought that what was about to happen was possible; never would he have known that something that he had come to imbibe would imbibe him; never would he have guessed that by night’s end, all eyes would be on him, on his chest pocket, including the conductor and his orchestra.
A cell phone goes off, and the entire orchestra halts. The “Ringing Finally Ended, but There’s No Button to Stop Shame.” If you haven’t read it yet, get the story from the NY Times, a great picture of great expectations gone awry, of mark-missing seeming to have nothing to do with your aptitude, your experience, your devotion. And the refined, god-like quickness with which everyone else responds in condemnation. Regardless of how many times you say to yourself, “Mistakes Happen,” that this could have happened to anyone, it doesn’t matter. Despite the gratuitous forgiveness of the conductor, this poor man probably still hasn’t had a full night’s sleep.
I’m not quite sure they got it right, though. How much does this really show “how important people still feel live performance is”? How much, instead, does this show how quickly we play the judge, how eerily comfortable we are with the posturings of judgment? And how much it stings to be the recipient? You be the judge (ht SPB, AJ).
The unmistakably jarring sound of an iPhone marimba ring interrupted the soft and spiritual final measures of Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 at the New York Philharmonic on Tuesday night. The conductor, Alan Gilbert, did something almost unheard-of in a concert hall: He stopped the performance. But the ringing kept on going, prompting increasingly angry shouts in the audience directed at the malefactor.
After words from Mr. Gilbert, and what seemed like weeks, the cellphone owner finally silenced his device. After the audience cheered, the concert resumed. Internet vitriol ensued. But no one, it seems, felt worse than the culprit, who agreed to an interview on Thursday on condition that he not be identified — for obvious reasons.
“You can imagine how devastating it is to know you had a hand in that,” said the man, who described himself as a business executive between 60 and 70 who runs two companies. “It’s horrible, horrible.” The man said he had not slept in two days.
The man, called Patron X by the Philharmonic, said he was a lifelong classical music lover and 20-year subscriber to the orchestra who was friendly with several of its members. He said he himself was often irked by coughs, badly timed applause — and cellphone rings. “Then God, there was I. Holy smokes,” he said.
“It was just awful to have any role in something like that, that is so disturbing and disrespectful not only to the conductor but to all the musicians and not least to the audience, which was so into this concert,” he said by telephone.
“I hope the people at that performance and members of the orchestra can certainly forgive me for this whole event. I apologize to the whole audience.”
Patron X said he received a call from an orchestra official the day after the concert. He had been identified by his front-row seat. The official politely asked him not to do it again, he said, and the man took the opportunity to ask to speak to Mr. Gilbert, to apologize in person.
The men talked by telephone (it was a land line) on Thursday afternoon. Mr. Gilbert said he told Patron X, “I’m really sorry you had to go through this,” and accepted his apology. Before that, the disruption became the marimba ring tone heard round the world, prompting feverish commentary on blogs and comment forums about performance interruptions.