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Classical Music: To Clap or Not to Clap (CHANGE MY MIND)

06/06/2012 08:04 am ET

Last week, Richard Dare wrote about why he thinks classical music today is falling out of favor. The problem, he says, is that we live in a "musical North Korea," with a stringent set of rules built into the experience that can put off even the most eager newbie. One of the biggest offenders is the unwritten rule that says you clap only when the entire piece is over—not between movements, and certainly not during the music.

Dare says this constrains the musical experience, which is rife with "clap here, not there, cloak-and-dagger protocols." He cites audiences in the 1890s, who were documented as screaming and standing on chairs during concerts, a far cry from what typical classical music concerts look or sound like today.

"I don't think classical music was intended to be listened to in this way. And I don't think it honors the art form for us to maintain such a cadaverous body of rules," Dare writes.

The response to his post was impressive, with classical music neophytes, experts and everyone between turning out to weigh in. Those in Dare's camp agreed that music wasn't meant to be experienced in silence; relaxing the rules on when to react to the music would make newbies feel more comfortable attending and allow everyone to truly interact with the music the way it was intended. In the opposite camp, commenters argued that allowing people to react whenever they wanted would ruin the experience for other attendees who were trying to hear the performance. Classical music is generally not amplified the way it is at rock concerts, camp two said, and silence between movements is just as much a part of the music as the movements themselves.

On Twitter, the Calgary Philharmonic opened up the debate to its followers:

And others from the musical sphere added nuance to the discussion:

Some Huffington Post readers felt the rules came from the fact that people who are already in the classical music world can forget what it's like to be outside of it:

"These comments make me a little sad. They are (almost) all from people who already are a part of the classical music culture and view it as an elite club you should have to work to be good enough for. Classical music is not an elite honors fraternity. It is art, meant to be connected with and enjoyed by the masses on an emotional level. You are not better than other people because you can sit in silence for a few hours only moving on cue. The american public does that for hours in front of their TV sets every night. What the author is calling for is a relaxation of standards not so that people will be talking and dancing in the aisles. Classical music will never inspire that kind of response. A relaxation of standards might result in casual listeners (like myself) being able to attend a concert and connect with the music instead of being afraid to attend and sit there feeling judged for several hours!" —Alyssa Maxey

So now we turn it back over to you. Would loosening the rules and allowing people to clap or react whenever the music moves them ruin a concert for you? Or is complaining about these kinds of interruptions just begging for the world's smallest violin?

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