Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Come on, put your hands together.

As I'm on the subject of the our hands being tied and not being able to touch things at the Art Gallery ( blog entry for April 12 ) I think it's worth noting that essentially the same problem exists when we go to a concert to hear a performance of classical music. No matter what, you are not supposed to clap until the end of the last movement. This is sometimes a bit difficult (even embarrassing) if you dont have a program and dont know when the last movement is. It is also difficult if you are really enjoying the excitement of say the first movement of Beethoven's "Emperor" which almost demands that you jump off your seat clapping and shouting.

Yesterday I read something by Alex Ross in the Guardian about this whole subject at

It seems the no clapping rule is a relatively new custom started in part by Wagner who asked people to hold off clapping at his premiere performance of 'Parsifal' . The audience was told this so that the 'impression' created in act two would not be spoiled. The audience didn't understand though and never clapped at all, even at the end of the piece. A few snobby 20th century German composers later pushed for silence between symphony movements, and 'voila', the no clapping rule got strangely 'cemented' into the classical music culture and is the rule of thumb even to this day. If you attend the concert scene you basically have to sit on your hands and be careful not to show any emotion.

Jazz performances, on the other hand, allow for clapping as a show of appreciation for each musician after he or she has completed their improvised solo within any jazz performance, and of course people also are allowed to clap at the end of each piece, even if the selections are arranged in movements as in Oscar Peterson's beautiful theme piece entitled "Canadian Suite" which has several movements.

In art and music it's not just the artists hands that need to be involved. The members of the audience have hands too; hands that are more than willing to get involved. Unlike just plain thinking with your mind, to think with one's hands involves action and movement.

At our Canadian walling festival, Rocktoberfest, Rocktoberfest 2010 the reaction of the audience needn't be relegated to a merely mental experience. There will be touching and applauding and all kinds of hands-on involvement. As in past years, our 2010 festival there will be lots of things for hands to do, for children of all ages.

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