Why do we applaud to indicate appreciation of a performance?
March 23, 2004 6:41 PM   Subscribe

Why do we applaud to indicate appreciation of a performance?
posted by Nikolai to Human Relations (11 answers total)
opera queens always know : >

it's a roman thing, originally
posted by amberglow at 6:45 PM on March 23, 2004

Because the sign at the front of the studio audience flashes "Applause"?
posted by dg at 7:32 PM on March 23, 2004

Here's the Wikipedia explanation. I don't think anyone here has solved the puzzle, though. From amberglow's link:

The word for applause/applaud comes for the Latin APPLAUDERE which means
exactly the same as what we understand by TO APPLAUD.

This - to some extent - explains the concept of applause. But it doesn't sound much different from the concept of adulation. In fact, it sounds like the exact same thing. It doesn't mention clapping at all, which I think is what you were asking about.

Amberglow's link also brings up another (unanswered) interesting question, about whether people use clapping in other cultures. As it says in amberglow's link:

What do the Chinese and the Japanese do, for

Neither of these questions have been really answered. Is it just that people like to smack their hands together? In Russia, they clap in Concert to express approval. That sounds to me like a kind of fun Communistic way to clap. But what do they do elsewhere? Where did clapping come from?

I don't think this thread has answered that question yet, and I'd like to know too.
posted by interrobang at 12:42 AM on March 24, 2004

Because it's a convenient way to make a big sound using your body, I guess. Just like screaming, or stamping your feet, except that clapping was the only one civilised enough to survive into the concert halls and theatres.

As a side note, I found this tragically badly scanned article on applause, apparently from the 1911 edition of the Encylopedia Brittanica. It's almost entirely useless to read, and hence humourous in an odd sort of way. The entire site is just full of this completely garbled encylopedia text. What's the point?
posted by chrismear at 1:14 AM on March 24, 2004

I seem to recall seeing period films that show appreciation in theatres expressed through kicking and stamping, with boards at the base of seats provided for this purpose. Can't find anything on google though.
posted by biffa at 2:36 AM on March 24, 2004

dude, I yell at concerts all the time! oh. that kind of concert?

The Hungarians use the 'Communist Clap,' as we called it, a slow clap in unison that speeds up until it breaks down into chaos, at which point a new slow clap emerges, and the cycle repeats. It sounds incredible.

Reading the history of Dylan's '66 tour recently, I learned that 'slow clapping,' as it's called in the U.S., is apparently an insult to the performer round here, and will actually be used to drown the performer out, as can be oserved in the Live 1966 CD...

Curious stuff, probably having more to do with the Cold War than the origins of clapping, but cool none-the-less.
posted by kaibutsu at 5:14 AM on March 24, 2004

Deaf people wave their hands above their heads. I know it isn't quite germane, but I think it's nifty.
posted by Vidiot at 7:02 AM on March 24, 2004

from the same opera listserv thread: some Japanese precursors, etc
posted by amberglow at 8:46 AM on March 24, 2004

Deaf people wave their hands above their heads.

So are we to assume that they just don't care?
posted by kindall at 1:22 PM on March 24, 2004 [1 favorite]

At Finney Chapel, at Oberlin College, the kids in the balcony stomp their feet on the wooden floor to show their approval of a performer. This makes a thunderous noise, and will probably bring the whole balcony down some day. I've also seen this foot stomping approval in the movie "Student Prince," with Mario Labonza -- where the students in Heidelberg University do it in the classroom.
posted by Faze at 1:44 PM on March 24, 2004

Foot stomping is pretty common in the UK, particularly among fellow musicians (e.g. an orchestra will do it to applaud a soloist) and if you go to the BBC Proms you will hear a thunderous combination of slow rhythmic foot stomping (the standing prommers jump up and down) in unison with hand clapping, which accelerates until it dissolves into normal applause -- if the performance merits it of course. I find it interesting that some cultures give standing ovations far more than others: it's almost unheard of in the UK, except for opera and special occasion galas, such as performers' well-advanced birthdays.
posted by cbrody at 5:37 PM on March 24, 2004

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