Revisiting the ongoing question: why don’t audiences applaud between movements?

Posted on: May 31, 2017

“The concert hall, like a visit to your in-laws or your Facebook profile, is a performative space,” writes James Bennett, II on Thursday (5/25) at New York classical station WQXR.org. “Not just for the musicians, but the audience, too. There are commandments that govern listener conduct. And the greatest of these? You. Do. Not. Clap. Between. Movements. But why? … For a good chunk of music history, bursts of applause during a piece were expected. Bach literally played coffee house concerts. Mozart was so excited by the audience applause during his Paris Symphony that he went out for some celebratory ice cream. Basically, applause during a piece meant the audience was really feeling the music. And if they weren’t clapping, the composer might have freaked out. … Selective applause in the concert hall is a fairly recent development. And while some composers may have been in favor of it, it seems to be born of the demands of some critics and privileged patrons, with the rest of us following suit. It’s how any other social norm works. But like other social norms, it is subject to change. Who knows whether or not we’ll be holding applause until the end of a work in 40 years?”

Posted May 31, 2017