“And now, ladies and gentleman, we’re going to perform Brahms’s F minor clarinet sonata, written in 4 movements.”
Elephant in the room!!
Do you feel it?
If you’ve ever been to a performance of classical music that’s written in multiple movements, you know exactly what I’m referring to.
Do you clap between movements?!
I’m going to settle this matter, once and for all. This is what all performers should do:
Ask the audience.
Some listeners like to show their appreciation between movements. That’s fine! Others prefer silence after each movement. That’s also fine! Clearly, diversity exists in how listeners express themselves.
The issue isn’t whether applause is appropriate for the piece, or what the performers prefer, or what the composer wants (or wanted!). The issue is the unwritten expectation during classical performances that the audience should be unified in how they show appreciation, approval and/or disapproval. The audience usually arrives, leaves, claps and behaves as a unified entity. The issue of applause between movements disrupts this unity, causing anxiety, tension, bad feelings, debate, and one big elephant.
The solution then, is easy. Unify the audience. This can be done simply, respectfully and elegantly:
Ask the audience.
Take a vote. Have fun with it! “Clap if you want to clap between movements. Now clap if you DON’T want to clap between movements.”
Performers can vote too! Personally, I’m indifferent. And I’ll make that clear to my audience. No judgement. No stress. Just an easy vote. After the vote, everything is clear.
This accomplishes three things. First, as I mentioned, it unifies the audience. No more anxiety, dirty looks, bad feelings, and no more elephants!
Second, it engages the audience. They’re no longer strict observers. They are participants interacting with the performance and making a contribution to the finished product. That’s important.
Lastly, it gives the performance a hint of spontaneity. That’s magical.
Just ask the audience!