Friday, 13 August 2010

Clapping for all occasions

Are we becoming more limited in our repertoire of emotional responses? I have sat in audiences where the desire to express appreciation through clapping has revealed an insensitivity towards the performance. The mood or thread of a drama is broken. At orchestral concerts, even when the conductor has suggested that immediate clapping is not appropriate at the end of an emotive piece of music, the last note is not even allowed to die away before the applause kicks in. Of course, we should show appreciation for what we have experienced. Clapping and cheering is absolutely right in context. But where, in other contexts, has the profound silence gone - not the silence of apathy but the silence that is so thick that you could cut it with a knife? Performers are rewarded by the audience recognising and responding to the emotional atmosphere that they have created.

The two minute silence to mark death on occasions like football matches has been replaced by two minutes applause. Public funeral processions, like those for troops killed in Afghanistan, are marked by applause. If we want to be seen as doing something to show sympathy and respect, how is applause an appropriate action? Standing in silence is doing something and, for my money, has infinitely more emotional power.

Are we becoming so hyperactive and so much in need of being surrounded with noise that we no longer know how to do silence?

1 comment:

  1. I may be completely wrong, but my feeling is that this "love for applause" comes from the US. Have you watched the State of the Union speech? Or one of Obama's speeches during the campaign? I find it really annoying how much the speaker is interrupted by clapping people! I think its cultural. Here in Brazil there isn't (yet) so much clapping. Except for the national anthem. People LOVE to clap at the end of it (even if etiquette says its not recommended). Maybe nowadays the silence at the end of any kind of performance has become unbearable and people just clap to fill it in.