14 September 2012

Some thoughts on etiquette

The only classical music etiquette I like is that people don't talk during the music. But there are so many rules that seem to come with going to a concert that really only confirm people's idea that the classical music world is uptight. I am anxiously awaiting the moment when I see an orchestra member with colourful socks or dyed hair or a piercing or tattoos or a t-shirt instead of a suit or anything else that shows us they're individuals. I don't understand why people want everyone in an orchestra to look and dress alike, surely it is those individuals that make the music so good? And when people think it's distracting for orchestra members to wear different clothes they really should just get over themselves.

I love going to concerts but I hate that there are set times when you're allowed to clap, and when someone does clap in between movements the amount of sighs and dissaproving looks is absolutely bizarre. Why try to turn both the orchestra and audience into robots? We should embrace our own emotional reactions to music and our humanity, and if that means clapping after a movement then all the better! There's no way that this would actually distract the musicians up to the point where it would hamper their performance - non-classical music musicians deal with clapping/talking/other disturbances all the freakin' time and don't complain about it.

Of course someone's cell phone is gonna ring during a concert, but this isn't the end of the world. Of course people are gonna cough, especially if you mainly cater to the elderly. But does this ruin a concert? Not unless you let it. Sometimes I wish going to classical concerts was more like going to regular gigs, where you're allowed to have fun, dance a bit and relax. I understand that in classical music there are a lot of people very attached to tradition and rules but is it really necessary for the enjoyment of music? I highly doubt it.


  1. Actually not clapping between movements is an "invention" of the 20th century. Before that it was costumary to clap between movements and even sometimes movements were repeated if there was enough public demand. Moreover in Opera you ara "allowed" to clap after the soloist arias for instance. This just to say that it is really a convention. Sometimes it is said that this too preserve the integrity of the flow of the work but we have to realize that in many cases at least up until the middle of the romantic times there was no such thing has the integrity of the work. So although I do not fully agree with you (I think there is a good reason not to clap during the music in the case of classical music) I do feel that you are right about the liberty of expressing more feeling and emotion and if you do it without really disturbing I do not see why not.

  2. It's strange that you seem to have quite a deep appreciation of orchestras and concerts, yet miss some essential points. Nobody questions uniform dress in team sports; there may be strong individuals, but finally, each must be part of a greater cause, no harm or shame there! I certainly think that orchestras deserve to dress more comfortably; 'twould be nice if they had a rolling sequence of several chic styles, but still uniform with each other. Personally, i loathe suits and ties, there are always better possibilities. Visual distraction is annoying when the music should be paramount, except for rare cases; Skriabin "Prometheus" for example.

    Clapping between movements is almost always HORRIBLE! i fully understand the sighs and stares, and have deluver some myself fairly often. It destroys atmosfere, continuity and implies a circus-act perception of performance. We have evolved this far to really appreciate great works for their true value but are now regressing: everything is permitted, all is good, let it all hang out...(etc). No! One place i can really be concentrated and committed is in a performance of a whole work; let me signal my appreciation/admiration/joy... when it's finished. Same for the wretched intrusion of the fobile moan: leave the worries and cares of the world at the entrance. I find it difficult to believe that you'd be happy with people clapping at the end of any of your intense Shosty slow movements, or with fobile moans ringing in hushed passages. Incidentally, i went to a couple of concerts in the Wigbore Hall recently with a predominently aged audience; the artist demanded all fones swutch OFF and NO coughing! That's what we got: pin-drop silence thruout. You see it can be done, it's not at all painful!

    Rant over! Otherwise i've enjoyed much of your writing so far, even when disagreeing, you have a modern version of Bernard Shaw's musical "criticism," that is: you share the atmosphere and emotional experience rather than simply the technical aspects. Your Shost-a-go-with is infectious, personally, i'm a Martinu maniac!