Where Ringtones Dare Not Tread

| News

Mobile phones have made a recent negative reemergence in the world of public performances, with literally show-stopping results. 

As reported by The New York Times on January 12, an iPhone’s “marimba” ringtone in the pocket of one of the audience members at the Avery Fisher Hall in New York was so loud and rang for so long that New York Philharmonic conductor Alan Gilbert stopped the group’s performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 9, chastised the transgressor, and received cheerful applause from the audience.

Philharmonic Performance

Image of philharmonic via Igor Bulgarin / Shutterstock.com

“Patron X,” as the offender was referred to by the Philharmonic, described himself as a business executive between 60 and 70 and expressed great regret for his inability to correctly operate his iPhone.

“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,” Patron X told the Times

It was later determined that, while Patron X did think to silence his iPhone using the “silent” switch on the handset, the event that caused the ringtone to play was not a phone call but a pre-set alarm, which are not guarded by the phone’s “silent” status and will play audibly regardless. 

While most reactions to inadvertent ringtones during performances are negative, Chris Matyszczyk over at CNET found a different type of reaction from Slovakian violinist Lukáš Kmit.

Mr. Kmit was performing his recital last summer in Presov, Slovakia when one audience member’s Nokia phone rang. After a brief awkward pause, the gifted musician performed his own rendition of the familiar tune.

In the end, most cases of interruptive ringtones are simply a case of carelessness; a busy patron who forgets to silence their phone and alarms or a new phone user who simply doesn’t know how. Perhaps the solution is to change your ringtone to match the music of the performance you’re about to attend, as composer Daniel Dorff suggested in jest.

Or, you know, you could just turn the phone off.

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Comments

Lee Dronick

I made a silent ringtone. Recorded 15 seconds of quiet and then flattened the line in GarageBand. However, in the Philharmonic case I understand that the person had only had the iPhone for a few days and did not know the ins and outs.

1stplacemacuser

I had posted a suggestion on facebook that someone should create an app (maybe Apple?) that, when turned on at a concert, and a call (or any other input/signal requiring its announcement via a sound-based signal) is received, it will use various sources to identify the music that is being played.  Then it will estimate where in the musical score the music is, based on the time.  Then it will catch snippets of the music to determine the actual, current measure that’s being played, and then it will play that music as the ringtone, to mesh with the ongoing music.  grin

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

That old guy got Samsunged.

Lee Dronick

I had posted a suggestion on facebook that someone should create an app (maybe Apple?) that, when turned on at a concert, and a call (or any other input/signal requiring its announcement via a sound-based signal) is received, it will use various sources to identify the music that is being played.? Then it will estimate where in the musical score the music is, based on the time.? Then it will catch snippets of the music to determine the actual, current measure that?s being played, and then it will play that music as the ringtone, to mesh with the ongoing music.?

SoundHound could probably be enhanced to do that.

geoduck

Then it will catch snippets of the music to determine the actual, current measure that?s being played, and then it will play that music as the ringtone, to mesh with the ongoing music.

How about an App called “Concert” that, when switched on, would mute all audible alarms, rings, game noises, everything. Or maybe it should be called “Shut Up!”

I heard about this on the BBC a few days back. Apparently the patron went so far as to contact the conductor personally to apologize. That shows a good deal of class.

One question: If I turn the volume all the way down would that block everything or will some things like alarms still sound?

Lee Dronick

One question: If I turn the volume all the way down would that block everything or will some things like alarms still sound?

The alarm still sounds, but not at full volume. In a concert hall it probably wouldn’t be audible beyond the people sitting next you.

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