A Lecture about Applause

Alex Ross, author of “The Rest is Noise,” gave the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Annual Lecture last night. He talked about the hang-ups of the classical music commumity about when and how to applaud. The whole idea is making me chuckle. Here are three interesting quotes:

1) (About Mozart’s Paris Symphony): “It’s a little difficult to reconstruct exactly where the applause should go, but it seems in line with what you find today in jazz clubs, where people applaud after each solo as well as at the end of each number. It is an interruption, to be sure, but it also is a signal of attentiveness and a demarcation of structure.”

2) “Music is an art both of the mind and the body; dance rhythms course through most of the classics of the repertory. But in modern classical music the body seems repressed.”

3) “I feel that the prevailing atmosphere [in classical concerts] is too humdrum, too
perfunctory. We fail to do justice to the music’s uncanny presence. There are too many opportunities for distraction. I’m always disheartened when I see people around me burying their heads in program booklets.”

It will be interesting to see where such dangerous invitations us Brits to:

-applaud when we feel like it
-come back to life from the neck down when listening to music
-get our noses out of the programme
-(=to behave more like an audience listening to jazz!)

might lead.

The full text of the lecture is HERE.

Categories: miscellaneous

2 replies »

  1. I seem to recall reading an article by Artie Shaw saying he stopped his Gramercy Five mid performance after a club audience applauded a solo. He told them to restrain from applauding until the piece was finished.
    His argument was that the applause drowned out the beginning of the next player's solo thus making for an incomplete work.
    I don't mind clapping after solos when the solo merits it. However, I do not see why the leader should point to the soloist and exhort us to clap. If the solo's good enough we will and don't need being told to do so.

  2. I agree with Lance that we don't need to be told when to applaud. Equally, we don't need to be told when NOT to applaud. Applause and the withholding of applause demonstrate our reaction to what we are hearing and the exercising of that reaction is part of what we pay for when we buy our tickets. A true performer should expect no more.

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