Thursday, February 17, 2005

Wild Applause!

The ongoing discussion of applause and booing has spread through the bløgösphère like wildfire this past week -

Alex Ross has some more remarks, despite previously swearing off the subject. Marcus Maroney weighed in at Sounds Like New, and A. C. Douglas responded approvingly at sounds and fury. Be sure to read the comments at Sounds Like New also.

Today, there's a new entry at Adaptistration by Drew McManus on clapping or not.

In Sunday's NY Times Arts & Leisure section, Daniel Wakin, author of a number of interesting recent Times articles on musicians and the music business, had a related article on orchestral etiquette and dress. It's not only audiences who are suffering in the concert hall. Any calls for the relaxation of currently-established norms of audience etiquette might also to call for the abandonment of some of the archaic (but sometimes charming!) norms of orchestral dress and demeanor.

I think I ought to state explicitly that I'm very much on the fence about all of this. I'm disinclined to be the first to violate accepted norms; like Marcus, I usually enjoy the silences between movements or at the ends of works. For example, I forgot to mention in the review of the SFS concert that started this all that at the end the Webern, conductor Ingo Metzmacher held his position for maybe 15 seconds before lowering his arms. The audience respected the silence and it was clearly part of the performance. I appreciate that kind of audience sensitivity.

What I'd like to see is a controlled experiment, in the form of an arts organization that's willing to invite the audience to be more demonstrative and less formal. That way, a new or different norm can be established. The musicians and conductor will know it's coming.

Is there an enterprising opera company or orchestra out there that's willing to try this experiment?

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