Season 1 Episode 2 [When to Clap]
Today I want to answer a question that haunts almost everyone in a concert hall in the world: When do you clap?
Welcome to Our Music, A podcast to unlock your imagination to the possibilities of Classical music. I hope you are having an inspiring week.
We have all been part of this scene at one point or another: After the first movement of a beautiful symphony, some members of the audience will burst into applause. Almost immediately intense hissing and heavy looks are cast upon the unsuspecting clappers. From this point on, the performance becomes a stiff but silent debate between seemingly opposing groups, a debate that belongs exclusively in the classical music realm.
On one side, the argument against is that applause disrupts the flow and continuity of the music. At the same time, the act of making music is about communication, which implies continuous dialogue, interaction.
Composers we hold in the highest esteem loved their audiences applause. They acknowledge it would happen and often craved it. If audiences didn’t applaud during the performance, composers would get worried.
In terms of concert etiquette, the whole idea of withholding the applause until the very end of a piece is entirely audience driven. Around the 1900s, a segment of the public started to consider the concert hall as a hallowed space. It needed to be treated with reverence. So, what was born out of respect for the “sanctity” of a work of art, ended up pitching all of us against each other.
This is my take on this challenge: never feel ashamed if music moves you into action. That’s actually proof that you are LISTENING, and that is way more valuable than attempting to uphold what looks more like ashes than the passing of the torch to future audiences. If you feel like waiting until the end of the piece, phenomenal! You came already knowing that there are chapters to every spellbinding novel.
Classical music belongs to all of us
— to you, listeners, not the critics, to you, citizens, not the snobs.
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