(Awkward Silence)

Just read this excellent article by Alex Ross about the ever-thorny issue of WHEN to applaud in classical musical concerts, and the sad state of affairs that we currently find ourselves in, sitting in stony silence until the bitter end - even when particular moments in the music are begging for a little listener love made audible! I would love for A Far Cry to be part of the solution and turn this around - but how?

We've made a few tentative steps in that direction. One is to take music to unconventional venues where "the rules" are different (like the Paradise rock club last spring) and simply enjoy the energy of an audience that felt free to express itself out loud!

Another is to attract audience members that aren't afraid to share a little sonic enthusiasm (this is a shout-out to Holly Brewer of HUMANWINE whose magnificent shout-outs after every movement of the Tchaikovsky Serenade are still ringing in my ears!)

But I get the sense that there must a more over-arching solution out there, one that would put us all on the same page when it comes to the shared enthusiasm of a communal musical experience. Wow, this is getting more detailed than I'd intended - I just wanted to share the link - and now I'm going on off the same tangents I do when I speak to an audience!

OK, so there's a Middle Eastern word that I absolutely love. It's called "tarab" and means "musical enchantment" or "that great feeling you get when the right thing happens" or "groove" or... you get the idea. In Arabic classical music (to the poor extent that I, a total beginner, understand) this state is the goal, and everything else goes into creating it. Same thing over here in the West of course, though we use different tools to create and share our enchanting experiences. The difference is that we don't have a WORD to describe it, and we don't have a way of sharing it among each other, except for the obligatory applause at the end of the entire piece. Yawn.

I remember once, a long time ago, someone asking me why I was laughing as I heard a particular recording - I think it was the first time I'd listened to Respighi's "Ancient Airs and Dances." She thought that I was making fun of the recording, and I was at a loss to explain that, in that moment, laughter was the only tool I could use to express my delight in hearing this music and having a little dialogue with the composer, who kept playing with, frustrating, and finally fulfilling my expectations.

(This experience was then reflected, years later, when I was asking an Arabic classical musician about tarab and he pointed out a particular cadence, saying "Everyone knows it's coming, but it's still great when it arrives, and it's up to the musician to place it in just the right spot and execute it with just the right kind of flair...")

Anyway. None of this is really news to us - we just have to poke our heads in the nearest jazz club to get a sense of how Western audiences can participate in this kind of music-making. But I think it is amazing that there is a word out there that sums it up and allows it to be easily shared.

One of the reasons that I knew I had to join A Far Cry after 5 minutes of watching and listening to the group perform was that it was obvious, both sonically and visually, that this unnamed value was at the heart of what the group was doing. And boy, would I have loved to applaud after every movement of the Handel concerto grosso, Op. 6 no 6, that I heard that night.

Except - and here's the rub - that not every magical transition between movements would have been possible had I started clapping. This is a tricky business! I remember, for instance, that the last movement came almost as a surprise - a little dance tacked on at the end of a larger statement, like the perfect dessert. Would that have worked if we had all applauded? Perhaps it would have. Tough to say!

But to me, that problem seems like a small price to pay if what we would get in return is a real conversation between audience and performers - a volley of enthusiasm that could be tossed back and forth, and which would also, I hope, be expressed through still, shared silences.

Let's talk about this! Maybe there is a solution out there. I'm addressing this as much to my fellow Criers as I am to everyone else. I think this is a conversation we could all benefit from. Anyone who has two cents to add, feel free to comment! And as always... thanks for listening!

Oh, right. The link.

Read It!