Monday, February 14, 2011

On Applause and Stuffy Farts

A friend (Joe E.) wrote a Facebook note about the do's and don'ts of concert-going.  One of the topics that were brought up in the comments section was applause.

Here were my thoughts on applauding between movements:

Clapping between movements was acceptable at one point. The faux elitism of classical music has made it almost a crime to do so. This is not conducive to reaching a wider audience...

Understandably, some composers do not want breaks between movements to be spoiled by applause (Mendelssohn circumvented this by providing no breaks between movements). This concern is legitimate, as ofttimes, the feel or magic of a piece can be shattered by applause.

Other times, such as in the case of Dvorak and Mahler, sometimes applause is called for and appreciated between movements. It really depends, so as a rule of thumb, don't clap between movements, but certainly don't suppress it to the point of illegitimacy.
What do you think?

The topic of expanding classical music to a wider audience has been of much concern to classical music critics and aficionados around the world.


When popular music continues to excite and move audiences around the world, why must we continue beating the same crap that people think "classical music" is into the heads of a youth that is looking for more?  The world is different. Things change. How does anything survive in a world of constant change? Adaptation. I'm not asking for a bastardization of Lady Gaga with Mozart; I'm simply asking for a new perspective and presentation of classical music.

The stereotypical current perceptions of classical music may include descriptors as stuffy, boring, old, plain, soporific, etc.

Pop music does so well because it is so easy to relate to, because it goes straight for our emotions, thoughts, feelings, etc. Intellectualism is a secondary pursuit. In a world of increasingly quicker results and communication, instant gratification, attention, distraction, etc. are the norm. Thus, fulfilling emotional needs comes first. This is completely understandable in a world where we have no time or place to have a good bawl in front of everyone. Music provides one of many avenues for venting.

If classical music is stuffy, boring, too-intellectual, etc., then classical music cannot survive.

What is the problem? What can we do to change this?


I had been a vocal proponent of change in my personal senior recital (which you can view on YouTube, lectures and all; [yes this is a shameless plug]).  We must get rid of this uptight traditionalism.

There is so much more to music than just the notes.  There are entire back-stories, explanations, interpretations, emotions, etc. that people might not grasp at first.  Sure you can provide them in the program notes, but what percentage of the audience is going to actually take interest in the program notes? Explanations must be made clear.  The concert hall should become increasingly a less stuffy atmosphere. Stuffiness is not conducive to enjoying music freely.

After my recital, many people had told me that the lectures were extremely helpful. My brother, who doesn't enjoy classical music, said he actually could understand and enjoy the music better. Have I proven my point?

Anecdotal evidence! you might shout at me. Well, there is certainly logic to this, don't you think?

Stifling and repressing anything is not conducive to doing anything freely, for that matter.

It is understandable that talking, coughing, sneezing, noise-making, whispering, etc. are frowned upon in concerts.  But, we can't stifle everything, like applauding between movements. That's just verging on draconic.

If we are to expand the horizons and ensure the continued survival of serious music, we cannot present it as an elite "I'm-better-than-you-so-nut-up-or-shut-up" holier-than-thou form of entertainment.

Classical music is truly awesome. It can be totally headbang worthy (see the second movement in Prokofiev's Scythian Suite or the last movement of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony). It can be heart-wrenchingly beautiful (Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis).  It can be so EMO (Mahler's and Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphonies).

We're just not presenting the right things. In a world where emotions are so ready to explode, we need explosive music.  There's a reason why romanticism and modernism sprung up. We need to embrace them and show how they relate.

Mozart, Beethoven, Bach were certainly masters; they were extremely influential in the whole realm of music, but their music really is old and, unfortunately, boring, compared to newer music.

We can't keep pushing old and boring music and pass it off as representatives of classical music. No one will take it seriously.