Human Learning

Education issues, within and outside the education system.

More Subject...

Classical Concert Etiquette

[Jakarta, LttW] Classical music has been around for hundreds of years, and has undergone a series of challenges now and then, whether big or small. In 2011, a BBC Radio 1 DJ Kissy Sell Out argued that classical music is irrelevant to today’s youth; while just recently, the BBC’s Promenade Concerts has made history with the first ever woman conductor, Ms. Marin Alsop, to lead their iconic Proms after 118 years. In China, this once banned music is flourishing in recent years and finds its unlikely future; and at this year’s Edinburgh international festival, the expected silence etiquette among the audiences turns out to be a loud one.

In response to such matter, there are some who tend to worry about what happened centuries ago, and some who want to move on from that. So how should we put this longstanding tradition in the current context? Can it remain relevant to the young generation? Among many aspects of it that need to be addressed to, perhaps we can start with how classical music should be best enjoyed.

A classical music concert does require silence from the audience during compositions, which also involve knowing the right time to clap; and for well over centuries, this has been the classical music concert basic etiquette. For casual concert-goers, these longheld norms are frequently confusing, knowing that throwing ourselves together in vigorous applause is considered as normal, even expected, at the end or during a piece. This know-when-to-clap manner is also believed has contributed to the lack of interest of classical concert among the young. The above mentioned DJ Kissy Sell Out had his own words on this issue, “I love classical music, and it pains me to use words like ‘egotistical’ and ‘snobbiness’, but sadly that is how live classical performances come across to young people.” In an age where everything is moving towards greater interaction, he says, classical music is irrelevant. Obviously, there are those who don’t agree with him.

This concert etiquette is mostly just common sense, as NAXOS has put it: the music needs silence, so the audience contributes silence; both the musicians and the audience want to concentrate on the music, so listeners stay put during a performance. However, one aspect of concert manners can be a bit puzzling: no clap between movements. We wait to clap until the very end of a piece, although musicians hate to tell people not to clap. They love applause. If somebody gets carried away and claps in the “wrong” place, most musicians don’t mind. They’re happy to accept approval in any form, but they also want everyone to hear the complete piece as a total experience, as well as to help each other focus on the music. Remember that at the very core of classical music, where it was and is practiced at the house of God, it doesn’t require clap at all.

We mustn’t forget that the etiquette belongs to the classical music tradition, in which the music was meant to be acoustic and acoustically amplified as well. In fact, this tradition has contributed to the development of acoustic and electric amplification technology that we used today. Happily, this hasn’t changed in most concert halls in the West, but unfortunately, not in other part of the world, such as those exist in Indonesia for instance. Electric amplification has pretty much a scene in many classical music concerts, in order to reduce the fragileness of silence caused by the poor acoustic quality. Obviously, this has affected in how the society think how they should enjoy classical concerts.

There’s another crucial point in how classical music should be enjoyed that is being compared with the way people enjoy pop music. Unlike the outwardly response to pop music through shouting, screaming, crying, and dancing, the response to classical music will be inward. We might experience intense feelings while outwardly sitting quite still. This inwardness is part of the tradition of classical music. At this very point, both pop and classical music concert can be very entertaining, although one might leaned more to the body, and one to the mind.

The many attempts to maintain or changed the way we should enjoyed classical music concert are either good or bad for the development of classical music itself, but one thing is for sure: classical music is being challenged by everyone, probably greater than ever. In times where tunes from any genre or artist are available at the click of a mouse, everyone demands a new period to emerge after almost 100 years since the post-great war it hasn’t.



Web Admin

Author: Web Admin

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments