|From Flickr, under a creative commons license.|
One important part of live music is how concert-goers show appreciation for the music they’ve just heard. Strangely, this is different for different types of music and concert venues. Most involve some form of clapping (a form of applause). And much of the time, the way clapping is used just doesn’t make sense. Here’s what I mean:
For some reason, in classical music concerts in America, we give a standing ovation at the end of pretty much every concert. This doesn’t make sense. I am of the school that a standing ovation should mean something special, but also that musicians shouldn’t feel bad when they don’t get one. Also, there should be a middle ground between sitting and standing. European audiences have this solved: if they really like the concert, they will start clapping in sync with each other, which has the added effect of being way more interesting for an audience member than just continuing to clap asynchronously.
These Classical concert standing ovations often last for a long time, too, while the conductor or soloists come out and bow 3–4 times. I think hardly anyone (performers or audience) actually likes this. I think that classical music should take a cue from the theater and have one highly-staged bowing event (where the performers take turns bowing, with the soloists bowing last, and then one final group bow or two), and then they are done. If after this bowing event, the audience really doesn’t want to stop clapping after a few minutes, that’s the time to encore.
Also, at classical music concerts, there is the constant fear that someone will clap in between movements. I’m not sure what to do about that, partially because (believe it or not) during the early 1800s, people often clapped after every movement. In fact, sometimes they clapped hard enough to encore a single movement. Part of me thinks this makes more sense than the current system, but on the other hand, a lot of music in the late 19th and 20th centuries were written without the expectation of clapping between movements.
In most larger-venue popular concerts, we’ve gotten to the point that the audience expects the performers to do about three more songs as an encore. This annoying practice is so widespread that a few years ago I heard a performer say: “We’re getting close to that time in the concert where I leave the stage and then come back on and play a few more songs.” Let’s have encores be real encores.
I know you are “supposed” to clap to for individual solos, but often we end up covering over the next’s person’s solo or other music. Couldn’t we just wait until the music stops and then clap? Instead, how about some whoops or hollers that don’t interrupt the music as much, but still give the soloist some energy?
No, I don’t have some unified theory of clapping for music appreciation, though generally I think there should be less of it. In fact, the more I think about the act of clapping (banging hands together to show appreciation for some artistic performance) the weirder it gets.
The highest form of showing appreciation, of course? Paying the musicians. Something that is for the most part happening less.