Alex Ross on the unnatural etiquette that guides applause (emphasis mine):
In the eighteenth century listeners often burst into applause while the music was playing, much as patrons in jazz clubs do today. The practice seems to have died out in the course of the nineteenth century, although audiences almost always applauded after movements of large-scale works. Then, in the early years of the twentieth century, the idea took root that one should remain resolutely silent throughout a multi-movement piece. …. The work itself should dictate our behaviour, not some hard-and-fast code of etiquette.
Perhaps concerts should become, in a way, more old-fashioned — more local, communal. … [I]nstitutions might work on strengthening the bond between performer and public — remarks beforehand, gatherings afterward, and, certainly, a relaxation of the Rule.
Applause makes me uncomfortable. And I’m not alone. Rarely, am I truly moved by a piece, a performance, a sound, a talk, that I burst into clapping. Moved sure, but hand clapping? Is it the natural reaction that our body wants?