Etiquette & superstition: clapping

I have never understood the zen koan “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” You learn the answer by clapping with one hand. Who can’t clap with one hand?

ETIQUETTE: In a recent Royal Philharmonic Society lecture, New Yorker classical writer Alex Ross put forth the idea that the “rule” of not clapping between movements of a classical piece should be put out to pasture. The transcript of his speech is a whole six pages long, and with the internet and stuff that’s just a lot of reading for me to do these days, but basically he says that people used to clap between movements, people like to clap between movements, and the idea of being humiliated for not knowing “the right time to clap” turns a lot of people off from going to classical concerts. It’s killing classical music. Also, the whole clapping between movements is for barbarians” is an idea that has been around for about 100 years, and its main proponents were anti-Semites. I think he has something here. Clap your hands, people. It’s nice to show appreciation.

SUPERSTITION: If you see a blob of soot hanging off of the fireplace grate, it means a stranger is coming to visit. To find out when the stranger is coming, clap your hands near the blob. If the blob flies off from the air force of the first clap, it means the stranger is coming today. If the blob flies after the second clap, the stranger is coming tomorrow. If the blob doesn’t fly off until the fifth clap, you probably have enough time to clean the house before the stranger shows up. And you probably should; that’s some tough soot you have there.

Photo by Rev Dan Catt on flickr

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. I completely agree about clapping between movements. See the program notes for “Mellifluous Aurora”.


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