The furore surrounding Krystian Zimerman’s objection to being filmed on a phone by a member of his audience is a classic sign that our times have outworn the old rules.
Most people now have phones in their pockets. Many use them to capture highlights of their daily lives. Some use them in live performance.
In pop concerts, private filming is not just legitimate it is practically obligatory.
In classical music, there is an assumption that phones will be switched off before a concert. Most patrons do so when requested.
Some artists and venues, however, allow audiences to share the experience, pop-style. A few, such as Valentina Lisitsa, actively encourage them to do so, regarding the act of sharing as a democratisation of their art. This tendency is growing more popular and cannot be reversed. We will see more Zimerman-like incidents in the coming months where performer and public do not regard the concert in the same light.
What is needed is a new set of definitions.
Concert hall managers should reread their terms and conditions and decide how they might be relaxed or reformed. Some concerts yes, others not. It may be that zones could be provided in a concert hall for part of the public to film and tweet without disturbing other, more traditional sectors of the audience.
Maintaining a categorical ban serves only to deter a younger audience for whom instant communication is an essential of their social lives.
Artists must have the right to refuse, but some – pehaps many – will welcome the change, especially if it lowers the audience age.
Perhaps the managers of Carnegie Hall, the Barbican, the Salle Pleyel and others could offer us a new set of rules.