Breaking down barriers

Young people sometimes seem intimidated by the ritual of reverent silence surrounding the performance. It wasn’t always like that. Performers used to try to get applause between movements. In the 19th century, to have a movement encored was a mark of success. The second movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony was encored at the premiere and quite often thereafter. Today, if someone applauds between movements, stuffy audience members try to shush them. I find that wrong-headed. Why should we crush someone’s emotional expression?

Isn’t spontaneous visceral response exactly why we make and listen to music? Orchestras around the world are thinking about how to break down the barriers between old music and young audiences. I applaud this effort, even when it means we try some radical things. No risk, no fun.