3 examples of applause


I typed the word “applause” into the search window of my iTunes library and 3 tracks came up. Apparently, I had separately tracked off applause on Jack Spicer’s July 15th 1965 reading of The Holy Grail, David Shapiro’s 2004 UMass reading, and Mark McMorris’ 2005 UMass reading. Recorded applause seems like something no one really thinks about much. What was interesting was that all three tracks lasted between 23 and 25 seconds long. The Spicer has about 15 seconds of actual clapping and then it dies down. Mark McMorris has almost 24 full seconds of clapping. The Shapiro applause is pretty long too but it seems to die down a bit and then pick up again near the end. Of the three, I think my favorite is the Spicer because the sound is less easily identifiable as applause due to tape decay and recording limitations.


I feel like something could be learned by studying the applause from various readings across time. It’s valuable to recognize that applause as a sonic phenomenon is more various than is generally acknowledged. Applause is one of the constants at the end of most poetry recordings so it might be a good baseline indicator of the sound/recording environment. For example, some of my recordings were made from the audience in a space with a PA system. You might not be able to tell that until the end when you hear hands clapping 4 inches from the mic. I find that sometimes as I listen to an audio recording the dissonance and materiality of the recording fades somewhat as I am filtering for clear speech. However, when the applause happens at the end I am often reminded again of the textures of the sound environment. Also, in the same way that crowd laughter doesn’t necessarily “mean” one static thing (that something is funny) I would argue that applause is not always just a fixed response of approval. One example of this might be the way some readers have been cut off during an extraordinarily long reading by interruptive applause from someone in charge of the event.


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