There’s a malady sweeping the nation that’s highly contagious to concertgoers. It doesn’t have a name yet, so let’s call it Excessive Ovation Syndrome (EOS for short). Those suffering from it stand and applaud at performances that aren’t good enough to deserve such enthusiasm. In extreme cases, they shout “Bravo!” during events that are best forgotten.
The more people pay for tickets, the more susceptible they are to EOS, because ovations confirm that their money was well spent. Even those in bargain seats can easily catch it from their neighbors. The urge to stand and cheer may be irresistible if everyone around you is doing it.
Here is more. Is the fear that too much costly clapping goes on? I believe most of these people enjoy the pretentious show of approval. A more plausible worry is that audiences, if they approve all performances, can no longer signal quality to performers. Given that other and arguably more accurate signals remain in place (critics, bloggers, the conductor, etc.), I am not sure we should be concerned by greater noise in the audience signal. After all, the very complaint suggests that the audience cannot be trusted to judge quality, so why not neutralize them?
And if the excess clapping gives the less musically sophisticated attendees a better memory of the show, that is arguably a benefit. Are we not, after all, committed egalitarians?
Against my better aesthetic judgment, I am on the verge of endorsing Excessive Ovation Syndrome.