The two sides of the argument go like this: side one insists that clapping during a pieces or between movements of a piece distracts from the music and should therefore be withheld until the piece is completely over; side two believes you should be allowed to clap whenever the spirit moves you and not be forced to suppress your elation. To clap or not to clap....that is the question.
Up until the turn of the twentieth century, applauding between movements was very commonplace. In fact, composers worried when audiences didn't applaud during the performance. Then, in the late 1800's, Richard Wagner insisted on a "reverent silence" during the opening performance of his opera Parsifal. If you ask me, Wagner took himself a little too seriously. Anyhow, churches soon started to disallow applause during services, and the idea spread from the nave to the concert hall. And now, over a hundred years later, audiences are still compelled to sit on their hands and zip their lips until the musicians are finished doing their thing.
I am in the "let them applaud when the spirit moves them" camp--as long as some measure of discretion is used for particularly quiet moments. But when unexpected sounds reach the stage it can throw my focus off the music I'm playing, so I can still understand the counterargument.
So how can we find a compromise between these two camps? Perhaps history can offer some other forms of approbation that require less noise-making. Perhaps The Florida Orchestra should start some new audience trends....
- Finger snapping: popular with the ancient Romans and Beat poets
- Toga waving: also popular with the Romans, but probably less fitting for today's haute couture
- Spider clapping: that's where you tap your fingertips together--very popular with the toddler demographic
- Fan-waving: ladies only, please
- Handkerchief waving: grew out of the toga waving. This is my personal favorite. I'd love to see 2000 crisp white hankies fluttering over the heads of audience members during the first movement of Brahms 4. Not distracting at all....
- Golf clapping: kind of like the spider clap, except you tap the fingertips of one hand against the palm of the other hand. Funny-looking, but effective.