In a recent review of an orchestral concert, my colleague Dave Paxton wrote, of a round of applause between movements, “(it’s) something that I greatly approve of incidentally: a warm, spontaneous show of appreciation seems to me far more preferable than the deadly reverential silence called for by some”.
Hmm, it’s an interesting point. If it is a genuinely spontaneous expression of appreciation, then maybe, but more often than not applause seems to be a way of an audience proving that it’s still alive, which doesn’t seem altogether necessary and is seldom welcome to those who have actually listened to the music.
It can be extremely insensitive, as intrusive as the mobile phone ring that ruined the end of this particular concert. I’m not a big fan of applause generally. I quite often leave a performance without having clapped (or very little) and I don’t think that’s disrespectful to the performers. It seems to be something people do just because it’s what you do, because it’s expected.
I tend to think of silence as less of an infliction than noise is (a bit like fresh air; no matter how unpalatable to some tastes it may be, fresh air seems to be less of an imposition on smokers than cigarette smoke is on non-smokers). But I’m aware that imposing things like silence, fresh air, good manners, freedom etc could be deemed as fascistic.
I guess you can’t please everybody – one person’s poison is another’s life blood and we have to tolerate some behaviour that we don’t like. I would like people to think, though, about the act of slapping their wrists together (often resembling a performing seal), rather than just doing it automatically and indiscriminately. If you think about it, it’s a pretty daft thing to do. Like quite a few habitual human activities.

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