Silence is golden?

Conductor Alan Gilbert has caused quite a stir regarding a recent ring tone incident during a performance of Mahler 9 with the NY Philharmonic. A member of the audience had the unlucky thing happen to him that we all dread, he forgot to turn off his cell phone. Well, not only did the cell phone go off, but it erupted during a particularly poignant moment in the middle of a serious, meaty Mahler symphony. Maestro Gilbert’s irritated affront to the ringing perpetrator reflected frustration we all have felt at concerts with lozenge wrapper criminals and other noise makers.

This got me thinking about libraries, as in, the rising volume of conversation and voices in once silent halls. Collaboration is an educational buzzword these days and communication among scholars, both verbal and written, is taking center stage. Students gather in the library not only to study, but to study with friends. The give and take of learning is now audible.

Frankly, this author welcomes the pleasant sound of familiar friendly voices in the Robinson Music Library. It adds to a friendly, welcoming environment where ideas can be born. However, I can’t help but wonder if talking too much in the library a bad thing? Does it disturb serious study like that ill-fated marimba tone disrupted a serious performance? Both the concert hall and the library are public places where passive activities take place, listening and reading. Or are these notions too old century?

Interesting parallels to consider.


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