Rifftides reader Janet Shapiro, a veteran of the classical recording industry who produces television broadcasts of classcial music, saw our most recent installment of the applause debate. It concerned Bill Kirchner’s hold-your-applause experiment the other night. She wrote:
Classical music is struggling to move in the opposite direction – the aficionados still shush the newbies at concerts when they make the “mistake” of applauding between movements, making the same argument that Bill Kirchner did. This has become a hot topic in classical music circles, but I must admit, as a knee-jerk applauder of jazz solos myself, I never thought of it as an issue in the jazz world.
Janet suggested that it would be a good idea to draw my artsjournal.com colleagues Drew McManus and Greg Sandow into this diablog.
In an e-mail message, Greg, the proprietor of Sandow, responded with these comments:
First, different strokes. It’s good for everyone to try something different, and shake the dust off. Jazz maybe benefits from stopping the ritual applause; classical music could gain by canning the ritual silence.
Second, a little more dubiously, this sounds like a step in the classicization of jazz, which isn’t always a good thing.
Third, if the audience applauds, jazz musicians have a resource classical musicians don’t. They can vamp till the applause dies down, or at least play music that’s not going to lose anything if it’s partly covered by applause. Last night, prowling around Amazon’s new free downloads, I came across an Italian opera performance in which the audience started cheering in the middle of an aria. But they picked the right place to do it. The music they covered didn’t lose a thing. (This was Carlo Bergonzi, singing “Di quella pira” from Trovatore sometime in the ’60s. The audience cheered and clapped at the end of the aria proper, as the coda was beginning. The music worked fine with that, just a lot of noisy riffs from the orchestra.)
Finally, is there a danger in getting what you wish for? Or file this under the department of unforseen consequences. I know classical musciians, including many of my Juilliard students, who’d love some reaction from the audience. “Are they out there? Do they care? What are they thinking?” Of course, it’s different in a club, when you can see the whites of your audience’s eyes. A concert hall is more anonymous. So, as a counterpart to what you’re saying, Doug, I had a student a few years ago who passed out a flyer at her graduate recital. “Please make noise. Interrupt the music any time you want. Cheer, shout, boo, yell, laugh, anything!” Or words to that effect. Comes back to different strokes…..
Drew McManus is a specialist in orchestra management. His thoughts came in a posting on his blog, Adaptistration.
It’s all quite fascinating when you compare it to orchestra concerts; consequently, the topic would have made good fodder for an episode of “The Twilight Zone”…
Nevertheless, some of the discussion will ultimately come down to how artists relate with their audience. It’s akin to having a new dance partner but not being able to figure out who gets to lead. Should the audience behave how they wish or should the artists create an environment, complete with rules and regulations, which instructs patrons on how to experience the event?
For orchestra managers, the latter is a web which becomes tangled all too often, with results leading to an antiseptic, artificial concert environment. Just visit the website for your local orchestra and see if they have a first-timers guide, “how to prepare” or a FAQ section which “suggests” how you should experience the concert.
There’s much more on this from Drew. His conclusion is hilarious. To read the whole thing, click here.
Now, how about a big hand for Bill, Janet, Greg and Drew.
And you? If you’re not too busy applauding, let us know your position on this matter, which is not crucial, merely fascinating.