Monday, March 12, 2007

Applauding Applause

I think this article (thanks to Geoff Edgers for the link) is pretty much right on, at least when it comes to the tendency of the classical music industry to make people feel stupid. It concerns the question of clapping between movements and makes the point that the convention of waiting until the end of a long work is a relatively modern convention.

I don't think it's necessarily a bad convention, but the effect of making people feel stupid is a real problem. I was quite surprised to see the generally audience-friendly Ben Zander put up a "hushing" hand when a few people dared to clap after the first movement of the Beethoven violin concerto a few weeks back. Never mind that the movement is quite long, ends triumphantly, and had just been played miraculously by Stefan Jackiw (about whom I'll say more soon). Also never mind that at the premiere of this concerto, the soloist actually played one of his own compositions for upside-down violin between the 1st and 2nd movements. I'm not arguing for that sort of thing to come back and I do think the Beethoven concerto is so spiritually satisfying that it's nice not to have applause until the end. I wasn't thrilled when someone started applauding, but once it's started it seems best to let it go and appreciate it, especially since the clappers surely mean well.

It's a delicate balance that has to be achieved, but there's little question that many classical afficionados enjoy showing off their knowledge of etiquette just to feel smart. I've been annoyed that my college decided to call its new recital series "Abendmusik" as an homage to the evening concerts Buxtehude once held in his churches. I understand the value of acknowledging the past, but since Buxtehude's 17th century audiences actually spoke German, it wouldn't have seemed like a forbidding name to them. For every person who catches the reference and feels a happy connection with the past, there are sure to be many who figure "Abendmusik" means "not for me." At least they won't show up and clap between movements.

3 comments:

Sarah Marie said...

Haha, great post. As you know, I don't approve of classical music snobbishness, whether in the form of pooh-poohing people who don't love or appreciate a certain work or what you mention - looking down one's nose at clapping between movements. While it is sometimes disruptive and annoying, I envy those types of concert-goers; I think the music still holds a freshness for them. They have enthusiasm!

I agree about Abendmusik. Ridiculous. You didn't mention the rest of the ridiculous title, though.

Michael Monroe said...

Rest of the ridiculous title? Hmm. You must think I'm a different Michael Monroe. I don't know what you could be talking about. You must have guessed wrong about the identity of my mystery college. It happens all the time. Don't be embarrassed.

Sarah Marie said...

whoops. how embarassing.