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Applause During Works Of Religious Significance


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#46 papeetepatrick

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Posted 18 February 2010 - 03:19 PM

In Clement Crisp's review of the Royal Ballet's current triple bill, he writes this, after a mention of MacMillan's "Requiem."

One complaint: the audience must be asked, before curtain-rise, not to applaud during a work of religious significance. On both Saturday and Tuesday, clapping and baying “bravos” ignored a programme note to this effect.


I wondered how American audiences might react to such a program note, and such a custom (and this may well vary by region). This was once common custom, but in our "anything goes" age, I was curious if it were still generally known, or if things have changed.


That's the original post, and the part that I'm responding to primarily is just that Crisp is saying that there needed to be an announcement made, because the clapping and bravos 'ignored a programme note'. They probably just didn't see it. As for 'American audiences reacting do such a programme note' diffently, they clearly do. While not being religious at all, I can't see that there is anything in this except whether the audience knew how they were asked to react or not, and I think Crsip was indicating just that they probably hadn't read the notes.

Patrick, you and I may be interpreting this issue differently. The question by the OP'er was whether an audience ought to observe a note in a program not to clap because the performance had religious significance.

My interpretation of that request is that an audience is presumed to agree and to understand such a request, and to observe such a request, by the presumed inherent virtue of religious subjects. It is that presumption that I am questioning (and why I posted my rhetorical question of: "Should I therefore not clap at the Rite of Spring"). I have no problem if a company, choreographer, or performer requests that no clapping occur, but I do object to the underlying presumption that somehow a religious theme should be given special consideration simply by virtue of the circumstance that the theme is religious in nature.


It doesn't matter if the audience presumes or agrees with such a request, and they are not 'presumed to'. If they are, it doesn't matter. The presenter might wish that there was a presumption of 'inherent virtue of religious subjects', but he knows perfectly well that there is not. He is satisfied that the performance go as he wanted, and he has that right, no more.

You are misunderstanding my position in another way. I am not saying that it is the audience member who is giving 'special deference' (each member can do so, or not, at their whim), but I am saying that when the organizers of the performance ask that you not clap because the theme is religious, it is the organizers who are giving the religious theme 'special deference'. You have put my cart before my horse. :sweatingbullets: Now, if the organizers were to say: "Please don't clap because the choreographer (or the perfomers) has a strong religious commitment which forbides clapping during a ballet with this theme", I would not feel that would be giving 'special deference' to a religious themed ballet (and each audience member could decide whether or not they wished to observe that request). In my world, i9 is all about what is presumed (it is on that presumption that Dawkins has something relevant to say).


No, I am not misunderstanding your position. I completely and fundamentally disagree with it, primarily because if the organizers want to say 'it is of religiious significance', they mean obviously that they think so for themselves, and that comes first. They only ask the audience not to applaud, not to become 'prayerful' or even submit to anything. The performers have the right to present whatever they wish to, and warnings about the DeFrutos piece were sufficient as per Simon's succinct descriptions of the London performances, just as a 'programme note' was indeed NOT sufficient in this case, because the audience didn't observe it. The organizers should not be expected to 'overexplain' their position. If an audience member is sufficiently independent-minded, he can ignore it in all ways except applauding. I don't believe that this Royal Ballet story 'presumes' that anyone must 'give special deference to something because they surely must also feel that this is as important as the organizers do', just that they show the respect that the organizers have the right to demand in not applauding, they are not being told what to think, no matter how the programme is worded.. By the same token, DeFrutos's buggeries, etc., let you know what you're getting beforehand, and they have done that as a courtesy and a safeguard. Either extreme gives you enougyh information for the basic policies that ought to be observed. MacMillan's piece just deserves to be respected as instructed, it cannot be that he nor anyone else, cared that much about what 'special deference' beyond not applauding came into it.

Now, I do respect your interest in all these philosophical matters, and we probably agree on most of them. I just think either a saint or a pervert who's got the stage, having met all legal obligations, should be the one to call all the shots. If he 'would rather' you 'show deference' to religious subjects, he knows as well as you and I do, that that's his problem, and that's not even on his mind. He just doesn't want the performance interrupted by applause, any more than Suzanne Farrell would have wanted something she did in 'Mozartiana' to be applauded, as the 32 fouettes in 'Swan Lake'. But that kind of tradition was understood to some degree in Balanchine's day, and not everybody will know. The big issues are not what Clement Crisp was talking about, but Alexandra's original query does show we feel differently about these performance practices, whether or not we're religious. I'm not, but I do feel MacMillan is absolutely right to demand silence, and don't disagree with dirac that he should 'try to elicit it' so much as just that that's unrealistic. For religious and artistic reasons of his own, he wants quiet during the piece, and he has the right tio ask if for those reasons. You can disagree with all of if you know he wants this, except for the applause itself. And I'm sure he could not have been less than fully aware of this.l

#47 papeetepatrick

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Posted 18 February 2010 - 03:25 PM

It isn’t quite the same because a temple is an actual place of worship and the “When in Rome....” adage most certainly applies. A theatrical performance is different, although one may decide as a matter of courtesy to do as requested.


It is not a matter of courtesy to do as requested by the artists. It is an insult to go against it. It means that the audience should have power over what is considered quite fundamental by the creators.

'one may decide to do so as a matter of courtesy tto do as requested'.

No. If you do not do as requested by the artists, when it is clear that they have a strong commitment to making the performance go a certain way and need your cooperation, you are being actively discourteous to go against their request. it is not some whim of the audience to decide they can be disrespectiful if the spirit moves them in some other way.

#48 dirac

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Posted 18 February 2010 - 03:37 PM

It isn't quite the same because a temple is an actual place of worship and the "When in Rome...." adage most certainly applies. A theatrical performance is different, although one may decide as a matter of courtesy to do as requested.


It is not a matter of courtesy to do as requested by the artists. It is an insult to go against it. It means that the audience should have power over what is considered quite fundamental by the creators.

'one may decide to do so as a matter of courtesy tto do as requested'.

No. If you do not do as requested by the artists, when it is clear that they have a strong commitment to making the performance go this way, you are being actively discourteous to go against their request. it is not some whim of the audience to decide they can be disrespectiful if the spirit moves them in some other way.


I'm afraid we'll have to agree to disagree, Patrick, not that I think we're actually that far apart. The creators may regard something as fundamental and I may differ with them. I know of very few artists who lack a strong commitment to the performance going in a certain way. I doubt I would ever clap when I've been specifically requested not to do so, but the objection in principle in regard to refrain from doing so on the grounds of religious significance was outlined very well by Sandy.

#49 kfw

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Posted 18 February 2010 - 07:32 PM

And I don't think religious views precede something like philosophical inquiry -- a lot of theology is essentially religiously informed philosophy, after all, and philosophy is serious work. I do think they logically precede political views, because they purport to tell us what sort of universe we live in, which obviously impacts the way we choose to live not just individually but as a polis (if I'm using that correctly, but I'm sure you know what I mean anyhow).


I suppose it depends on what you mean by “precedence.” My original point in raising the matter of political convictions was that they can be held just as fiercely, and be as significant to the identity of an individual, as religious views. (In some cases they can be a substitute.) If you’re saying that religious views are more central and more important to the way we live, that’s defensible, if certainly disputable. We may be wandering too far afield from our topic, however....

We are wandering afield, alright. :sweatingbullets: I believe in showing people respect for their deeply held views. (I won't claim to always live up to my own standard). I am saying, for reasons I've tried to explain earlier, that religious views are behind political orientations, even though many people may have spent more time thinking through, and may feel much more deeply, their political views.

Like Dawkins, I still can't logically (to use your word) understand why society (including ballet audiences) seems to give the realm of religion special consideration. Reading your words above, I see you are comfortable adding "philosophical inquiry" into that "special" category. Frankly, I can't see why once you add philosophical inquiry into the privileged group, you could logically exclude the realm of politics, or almost any other discpline. I see no logical way to draw a line that makes some subjects more worthy of silent respect than others.

I hope what I wrote to dirac above will clarify my position. I guess it's true that for some people, political activism stands in the same place that practice does for religious believers, as a way to express deepest convictions, as the most responsible and charitable way to live. I guess it's because, as I wrote above, I think religious views in practice precede political ones, that I privilege them.

#50 papeetepatrick

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Posted 19 February 2010 - 01:52 AM

I'm afraid we'll have to agree to disagree, Patrick, not that I think we're actually that far apart. The creators may regard something as fundamental and I may differ with them. I know of very few artists who lack a strong commitment to the performance going in a certain way. I doubt I would ever clap when I've been specifically requested not to do so, but the objection in principle in regard to refrain from doing so on the grounds of religious significance was outlined very well by Sandy.

Ok

Okay, but the final point about that part is that, if you do clap when you're asked not to, it could neve make any sense. Because applause is always supposed to mean appreciation, but if you do it against the Artist's will (whether or not he's religious or anything else), the clapping is tantamount to booing. I am sure you personally would not do it, but that is the fact of what iw would mean. If your appreciation is sincere, then clapping when it is not asked for is no different from booing: And that is okay in my book, I do NOT have anything against booing, and think plenty of performers deserve it.

The whole point of not clapping for MacMillan's Requiem is to respect him as an Artist, if he is also religious, then that is a part of his Artist Persona, and should be respected like the rest of it. You could not applaud 'in protest to his absurd religiosity', but you could applaud against what he asked as an important Artist. And that would be a form of booing,. So one can do this. I thought Susan Sontag deserved MUCh MORE when she was boasting after her infamous 9/11 essay in the New Yorker, which made everybody furious here in its supercilious tone.

Please don't take offense at this, i don't mean any, and am not trying to 'get the last word' (if you have one, go ahead and say one.), nor am I trying to make you agree with me (you can't make people do that anyway) I just wanted this last time to point out the strange oddity of hoow clapping, which is always meant to show apprecaition (unlike booing, which never is), could be seen to become the reverse of its own function. But no big deal. I think Sandy and kfw and you all made good points, and kfw explained how he feels religion precedes, I guess I am this 'the Artist precedes' of sometning, and so that, if one doesn't abide by there requests, then one ought to just go ahead and be uncivil, There's a contradiction in terms of using a form of appreciation that is also unasked for, as if one knew better than the Artist how you could show the appreciation. It's like sometimes hugging and kissing and beyond may seem like affection from the one 'giving it', but the receiver may want none of it.

#51 sandik

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Posted 22 February 2010 - 12:52 PM

(dipping a toe in a very lively discussion)

Early on, someone brought up the old real estate adage ("location, location, location") in trying to sort out when applause is inappropriate -- the implication being that inside a church, applause is questionable while outside a church it is not. Of course what they were actually getting on to was intention rather than location (since church buildings are often used for non-religious music concerts and public arenas are often used for religious services), which slides right into the discussion about requests to refrain from applause.

If someone asks me to do or not do something, as an audience member I’m likely to try and comply, whether it’s turning off my cell phone, wearing the big headphones, or keeping my hands in my lap. I’m really more interested in how the audience wants to respond -- do they seem to want to applaud (or make some other kind of audible ‘comment’ on the performance) whether they’ve been told to or not. I saw a reduction of Sleeping Beauty a couple weeks ago, performed for an audience of 5th graders, most of whom had never been to the theater before, much less ballet specifically. At the end of one of Aurora’s variations, before the audience started to clap, the young man next to me asked if it was ok to applaud. Petipa’s choreography is designed so that applause is the logical response to the dancing -- the ballet is built like a tank. It was pure pleasure to tell this kid "yes."

#52 dirac

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Posted 22 February 2010 - 03:41 PM

Hi, sandik, that was me. I think I was responding to a post that brought up behavior in church. The point that arenas are used for religious services is a good one and I hadn’t thought of it. The Pope held a mass in Yankee Stadium not long ago and obviously the whoops of enthusiasm or hostile shouts of “Who’s your daddy?” frequently heard in that venue would not have been appropriate, although Benedict seems like the kind of guy who could take them in stride. I think we’re all agreed that if we’re asked not to applaud it’s good manners not to do so. The question is whether performers are entitled to ask for this because they’re performing a work of ostensibly religious significance, and depending on the circumstances I think the request is a tad presumptuous. From what I’ve seen of MacMillan’s Requiem there’s nothing in it that would make it somehow beyond the realm of applause, but if they ask you, they ask you....

#53 carbro

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Posted 22 February 2010 - 04:49 PM

Having very recently seen two performances of Liebeslieder Walzer (a work with no religious allusions) at City Ballet, I welcomed the silence following most of the waltzes. After one of the later waltzes in Part I, there was a smattering of applause (both nights) which was enough to break the spell.

Taking this back to the original topic of the thread, it is easy to see how someone who takes a sacred performance as prayer would feel his/her slightly altered state broken by applause.

On the other hand, and this may contradict an earlier post of mine, there are many moments in worship that are lively and celebratory, and I don't see why, in those circumstances, applause would be inappropriate.

#54 kfw

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Posted 22 February 2010 - 05:25 PM

The Pope held a mass in Yankee Stadium not long ago and obviously the whoops of enthusiasm or hostile shouts of “Who’s your daddy?” frequently heard in that venue would not have been appropriate, although Benedict seems like the kind of guy who could take them in stride.

:devil: I'm sure he'd have a ready answer for that!

#55 papeetepatrick

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Posted 22 February 2010 - 07:43 PM

Having very recently seen two performances of Liebeslieder Walzer (a work with no religious allusions) at City Ballet, I welcomed the silence following most of the waltzes. After one of the later waltzes in Part I, there was a smattering of applause (both nights) which was enough to break the spell.


Yes.

Taking this back to the original topic of the thread, it is easy to see how someone who takes a sacred performance as prayer would feel his/her slightly altered state broken by applause.


That's why in certain cases, in which it is really considered to interrupt, directives have to be made--especially, as has been pointed out, in cases where it might not always seem obvious, as with the MacMillan.

On the other hand, and this may contradict an earlier post of mine, there are many moments in worship that are lively and celebratory, and I don't see why, in those circumstances, applause would be inappropriate.


And they are allowed in those circumstances, aren't they? That's something you can find in many literally religious performances, or ritualistic performances as well--much Eastern dance and music has moments of a kind of cadence, in which there is much expression of celebration, expressed vocally as well as with the hands--even with religious themes. In ballet, I don't think you ever find it, in that sense, because it's more separated, not so interactive, so applause at big virtuosic performance-moments occurs. These are both forms of release, and probably the release that applause gives is probably helpful in most cases. It's never inappropriate except the special circumstances when someone really doesn't want it. For example, I woukln't find it objectionable to ask the audience not to clap in your example of 'Liebeslieder Walzer'--and NYCB goers, though not all at equal levels of sophistication, are at least sophisticated enough to be able to concentrate throughout the piece without applauding. Sometimes it is good to work toward a concentrated and sustained experience of a performance without the easy gratification of clapping's release: After all, the dancers are definitely doing it themselves, and the audience is being asked to do much less. I'm not advocating such announcments for performances of 'Liebeslieder', but I wouldn't mind either.

#56 sandik

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Posted 22 February 2010 - 11:40 PM

Here's another thought -- so far we seem to be discussing events where the "audience" is in agreement about the response, but what about individual experiences? I know that I can be having an epiphanal moment in the middle of a grocery store, if the right things come together. I can't and don't expect the rest of the world to come to a halt to honor the moment, but it's still significant to me.

The Olympics are playing in the background, and one of the color commentators just said, about an ice dancing couple, that they "made a moment for themselves" during their performance. Sometimes, it is just about one or two people. Indeed, I've always felt that was a cheerful thing -- that somewhere, something important was happening for someone, even though I was having the most mundane day.

#57 dirac

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Posted 23 February 2010 - 09:55 AM

That's why in certain cases, in which it is really considered to interrupt, directives have to be made--especially, as has been pointed out, in cases where it might not always seem obvious, as with the MacMillan.


There are many kinds of performances that might induce a hushed atmosphere that could be disturbed by applause, though. It could be considered a little presumptuous to issue pre-performance directives that what you're about to see is "sacred," so hush up, everybody.

I know that I can be having an epiphanal moment in the middle of a grocery store, if the right things come together. I can't and don't expect the rest of the world to come to a halt to honor the moment, but it's still significant to me.


I've experienced something similar.

#58 sandik

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Posted 24 February 2010 - 12:25 PM

That's why in certain cases, in which it is really considered to interrupt, directives have to be made--especially, as has been pointed out, in cases where it might not always seem obvious, as with the MacMillan.


There are many kinds of performances that might induce a hushed atmosphere that could be disturbed by applause, though. It could be considered a little presumptuous to issue pre-performance directives that what you're about to see is "sacred," so hush up, everybody.


It's kind of awkward to mandate an ephiphany, isn't it? It makes me think of someone with a faux German accent -- "You vill be moofed!" (or else?)


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