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Dear 100 Hour Board,

(55 days left until graduation...probably more like 51 by the time this posts)

So I was sitting in my World Music Cultures class (interesting subject), and I noticed that audiences at performances in Asia and other places would clap at the end of pieces. This probably isn't what they did traditionally. It's probably a product of Western culture invading the East, but how did cultures in Asia, Africa, and South America traditionally appreciate a good performance? Are there any left who preserve their culture by not clapping?

--Snow White, who wouldn't mind hearing some koto right now

A: Dear Snow White,

Here's a small sampling of world clapping-alternatives.

As far as the history of Europe (and the Mediterranean) goes, clapping as applause has always existed, but with variations. In Rome, for instance, there was
a set ritual of applause for public performances, expressing degrees of approval: snapping the finger and thumb, clapping with the flat or hollow palm, waving the flap of the toga, for which last the emperor Aurelian substituted a handkerchief (orarium), distributed to all Roman citizens (see Stole). In the theatre, at the close of the play, the chief actor called out "Valete et plaudite!", and the audience, guided by an unofficial choregus, chaunted their applause antiphonally. This was often organized and paid for (Böttiger, Über das Applaudieren im Theater bei den Alten, Leipz., 1822).
(Wikipedia. org/wiki/Applause)

A pair of ivory clappers, with hands painted on the ends, suggest that hand-clapping had a place in ancient Egyptian culture. Applause is mentioned explicitly in English texts as early as Chaucer, although in the 18th century it was more popular among the upper classes for women to flutter their fans, as a sort of visual applause.

There's also the Green Party-born practice of "twinkling," a way of expressing approval by holding up the hands and wriggling the fingers, adapted from the similar American Sign Language version of clapping; and there's the beat-era tradition of snapping in approval after jazz music or beat poetry. And in Germany academic settings, one pounds the desk or table in approval instead of clapping, so long as there's a desk or table available.

Supposedly in Tibet, clapping is the equivalent to booing, although my source on that one's a mite sketchy. Muslims, rather than clapping, traditionally shoutout Allahu Akbar!, "Allah is Great" (the use of invokation instead of applause was a condition of the Taliban government's allowing football in Afghanistan). Alternately, in Iraq, a high-pitche vocalized trill called a zaghareet expresses approval after an artistic performance. Buddhists wave their hands instead of clapping.

Happy graduation in 49 days.

-A. A. Melyngoch