The Early Clapper

I’ve found that every once in a while you run into people who have specific traits that are irksome.  These traits are not irksome to everyone (then they would be annoying) but usually relate to a specific pet-peeve or, unintentionally, create more work for whom is irked.   For example maybe you can’t stand when people people stretch while they talk to you, or when a co-worker loudly takes a personal call right next to you, (just for the record neither one of these really bothers me,) or when someone starts texting in the middle of a conversation with you (this one does though.)

So here’s one that as a recording engineer just gets under my skin.  It is “The Early Clapper.”  This is the audience member who starts clapping right as the music is ending.  They always clap first, sometimes yell “Bravo!” before the last note has even tapered out.  I don’t think this person is intentionally meddling into the experience in a negative way, but their immediacy to interact does not allow the the performance to come to a natural conclusion; they’ve essentially inserted themselves into the landscape of the artistic work, assuming that their “enthusiasm” is enjoyed by all around them.

The irksome part is not when this happens at some point in an amazing performance, but when it happens at the end of every concluding point.  The exact same person, gets their two claps in as the reverb tail dies out, every time.  Now the unchecked enthusiasm begins to reek of in-authenticity.  This action is not in response to the actual performance, it is a performance in of itself that this audience member puts on each time they attend a concert.  It is, in essence, their contribution to the art, their way of being involved.  Like the parent who yells “It’s OK.  You’re doing great!” at their embarrassed 9 year old soccer player who just booted the ball thirty feet wide of the goal.  The discontinuity between the need to give encouragement and act itself pulls both the audience and the performer out of the zone.  Maybe this is the same person who turns to you when you’re watching a football game and says “Did you see that pass?!?!?!” Well, I’m staring at the screen, so yeah, I saw the pass.

Now to take this back to the engineering side of things The Early Clapper causes all sorts of extra work in post production.  Sometimes, if their timing is off and they come in early, it actually creates this very unnatural spike in the middle of the last note.  If it’s particularly bad I do some fancy editing and remove parts of the transient, possibly automate an eq to cut down specific frequencies right on the hit; essentially it becomes editing gymnastics of trial and error.  If they’re merely earlier than everyone else then getting an appropriate fade where the clapping doesn’t sound inordinately loud becomes difficult because you hear these first two claps significantly louder than the applause that come after them.  Sometimes I try editing them out completely, but this is often the most harsh sounding edit.  Sometimes it’s bringing in other applause from a different point in the concert.

So why bring this up?  I had an early clapper at the last recital I recorded.  This person probably added three hours to the mixing/editing process.  Worst I’ve ever had to deal with.  I’m glad that my mixing suite is soundproof; not proud of some of the things I grumbled and yelled through the ether of computer and time at this patron.

Good stuff.