|[a] Symphonic RF|
Well, the other night in New York's Avery Fisher Hall, a cellphone rang (and rang and rang) during the last movement of the Ninth. A distinctive marimba tone cascaded from the front of the audience. If you know "the Ninth," you might ask yourself what was the big deal—other than acute rudeness that is beyond the pale and irritates everyone? Who could have heard it over all of those choral excitations?
|[b] The Ninth RF|
No, the New York Philharmonic was playing one of the most exquisite final movements in all of symphonic music—the end of Gustav Mahler's Ninth Symphony. Mahler's Ninth is held together by brilliant threads of harmony, diaphony, polyphony, and even the most exquisite of delicate mini-soliloquies (yes, this is personal, musical emotional-talk—I am not "speaking symphony" here). Audiences hush when they listen, leaning forward, luxuriating in the very subtlety of it all. I hold my breath even when I am home listening to the CD on the couch with the cats. This Ninth Symphony is not your grand-Beethoven's Ninth. Just listen to a bit of the final movement.
Now that's adagio. Imagine, if you will, the incessant chirping of the following tone as you try to listen. Check it out at about 4:00, if you can, and then contrast the chime below.
|[c] Rodin's Mahler RF|
And this is where it gets really interesting. The conductor stopped the symphony in mid-movement. He stopped. He put down his baton and stopped. Chopin, Mozart, Rimsky-Korsakov...that's audacious. The culprit finally recognized his role in the cacophony (another story for the end of this post), and turned off the phone, soaking in the jeers (shouted and glared) of audience, players, and conductor.
And then they did it over.
Yup, they started the fourth movement again, and plied its delicate threads for the better part of a half-hour. All was (eventually) right with the world. Rather than pound through the distraction—as conductor Alan Gilbert noted, this would be preposterous with Mahler's delicate Ninth—he stopped (almost unheard of), corrected the "error," and just did it over.
|[d] Conduct RF|
History is fun; culture is even funner.
For me, the contingent merging of social and individual reactions is the most interesting part of the story. There is also an historiographical and political lesson packed into this story. Vilification is (almost) never as simple as it sounds. Take a read of the follow-up article in the New York Times. I almost (...almost) started to feel sorry for the guy.