iPhone ringtone brings New York Philharmonic to a stop

The New York Philharmonic came to a dramatic--but decidedly unscheduled--stop on Tuesday night when a spectator's cell phone started ringing and wouldn't stop.

Conductor Alan Gilbert was nearing the end of Mahler's Ninth Symphony when the interruption began. As the New York Times writes, the symphony, "contains some of the most spiritual and peaceful music ever written."

As the cell phone continued to ring, the iPhone's signature marimba ringtone, Gilbert stopped the entire performance. And yet shockingly the phone continued to ring. "Nothing happened," Gilbert told the Times. "Nobody was owning up to it. It was surreal."

Gilbert said minor cell phone interruptions have become common and rarely interfere with a live performance. The Philharmonic does what it can to avoid cell-related disruptions, including a recorded message from actor Alec Baldwin reminding audience members to turn off their cell phones before the performance begins. But the audience and performers stood by in stunned silence as Gilbert asked the offender to silence the phone, only to hear it continue. More from the Times:

Mr. Gilbert said audience members pointed out two people sitting where the sound was coming from. "They were staring at me resolutely," he said of the couple. Eventually, the man put his hand in his pocket and the ringing stopped. "It was so weird," Mr. Gilbert said. "Did he think he could just bite his lip and soldier through?"

The conductor said he asked the man if he was sure the device was quieted. "Then he nodded his head," Mr. Gilbert said. Guilty!

People in the hall had been shouting for the sound to stop. Mr. Pelkonen reported that they yelled: "Thousand-dollar fine!" "Kick him out!" "Get out!" Another blogger, who was present, Max Kinchen, wrote, "They wanted blood!"

"It was so shocking what happened," Gilbert said. "You're in this very far away spiritual place in the piece. It's like being rudely awakened. All of us were stunned on the stage."

Once the phone was finally silenced, Gilbert apologized to the audience. They responded with cheers and applause. Gilbert segued back into the final passages and the performance continued.

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