Good Manners at Classical Concerts: Joshua Bell Speaks Up

Source: an excerpt from PBS Newshour, December 2

Joshua BellJEFFREY BROWN: Sometimes, there’s a discussion in classical music circles, you know, should we encourage people to clap?

JOSHUA BELL: Oh, yes.

JEFFREY BROWN: Should it be a less formal experience?

JOSHUA BELL: Well, first of all, people, if you go back 100 years or 200 years, when the music of Mendelssohn was being performed, people did clap…

JEFFREY BROWN: Yes.

JOSHUA BELL: …after the first movement. When Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony was premiered, after the second movement, they clapped so much that they had to repeat the second movement and do it again. So, there was a different kind of vibe. And so when people today say, you’re not supposed to clap, I actually say it’s – historically – it’s actually incorrect. And I enjoy – I enjoy it. When I hear people clapping at the wrong times, I think that’s great. We have got a listener that’s not used to going to – we have got a new listener. And that just – that excites me.

JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, but you don’t want to discourage that, right? So, do you…

JOSHUA BELL: So, I don’t. I have had conductors, playing with conductors that turn around to the audience and say, don’t clap. And then I will usually turn to the audience and say, come on, do it, do it.

(LAUGHTER)

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4 responses to “Good Manners at Classical Concerts: Joshua Bell Speaks Up

  1. When people go to a French restaurant, they try to dress appropriately, pronounce the menu words correctly, choose wines known to suit the food, and obey all the rules of mannerly eating. Thus they display their membership in the Experienced Restaurant-Goers’ Club. (They may also enjoy the food.) Attending a concert affords another opportunity for displaying status. When others, through inexperience, express their enthusiasm by clapping after the first movement of a symphony or quartet, we take pleasure in knowing that we, unlike those applauding, are members of another prestigious grouping — the sort of people who’ve mastered the rituals of concert-attendance. (Oh yes, the music is nice, too.)

  2. Manners vs enthusiasm.
    Politeness vs expressiveneness.
    Protocol vs authenticity.
    Passivity vs participation.
    Authoritarianism vs democracy.

  3. When it comes to externalizing one’s embodied vibrations of sensory exposure to the multilayered (in)tonality of classical music, I’d say it may be appropriate to let the personal, inner experience channel the social, outer manifestations of appreciation within the bounds of the assumed, culturally
    delimited forms, including the state of utter silence.

  4. Jan Krouzil, I think Data may understand your post. I think you’re saying it might actually be acceptable to express appreciation – by clapping or by simple rapture or joy (clasping hands in rapturous silence) but why must it be within the bounds of the assumed culturally delimited forms? Maybe one would like to dance outside them? Light a bonfire and invite all one’s friends to dance with purple beanies on their heads?
    Just saying…