Clapping Culture

At rock and jazz concerts the audience applauds not only after a song but during one. That boisterous bridge that builds back to the chorus or the sax solo that sizzles with intensity brings out a joy that can’t be contained. It’s a knee jerk reaction to something that resonates within us. All we can do is clap and shout and make funny noises. That’s fine.

But at a classical concert? Any outburst is looked down upon: hold your applause until after all the movements. The audience is not allowed to show any outward enjoyment of a piece. That could be distracting to the performer or other listeners.

That’s not a concert. No, that’s a museum: a museum where we observe things of the past with a reverence and distance. It’s a sterilization of the outward joy that music brings to many. Not only that but the music is desecrated. Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony becomes something dead that we observe in a glass case, not as a living ruckus of a beauty that makes us cheer and weep and lets us know we’re alive.

Music wants to be free of the past and take ahold of the present. Music wants to be loved. When the crowd goes crazy at a punk show it’s in response in the moment to a music that they cherish deeply. Now, I’m not asking for you to encourage mosh pits or screaming uncontrollably at the next piano recital you attend.

I think we should consider not being afraid of outwardly loving music. This (non) clapping culture has been indoctrinated in the classical world. It’s time to question its relevance: why do we have to hold our applause until after all the movements?


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