Cellphones in the Concert Hall

The classical-music world is buzzing (or slightly post-buzz) about violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter stopping a performance with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra to ask an audience member to stop filming her. It was during the second movement of the Beethoven Violin Concerto—some report that the concertgoer was mortified and apologized immediately, leaving on her own, and others that she answered back and was removed from the concert hall. Either way, it was a rather dramatic scene indeed.

I was wondering how the Strings community feels about the underlying issue (not Mutter’s response to it): Should cellphone recording be allowed in the concert hall?

On one hand, a sea of little lights, and indeed the very nature of recording what is meant to be a live performance, could prove a formidable distraction to a performer (and the rest of the audience). And if one is attending a live performance, is there truly anything to be gained by recording it for later? Do you miss the fundamental essence of an experience—with energy, power, and an atmosphere all its own—while you fuss with your technology rather than letting the performance wash over you, wholly immersed?


On the other hand, people are engaging with technology in ways they never have before—cellphones have become a medium through which users relive their experiences again and again. Is having a profound musical moment to revisit on a cellphone necessarily a bad thing? Many images and videos will end up being shared through social media—could that not perhaps spark interest in audiences that concert halls have trouble attracting? And is it possible that a set of guidelines governing cellphone use in the concert hall—rather than an outright ban—could serve audience, concert hall, and performer alike?

Just curious. Let me know what you think.

—Megan Westberg