Everyone loves classical music…

they just don’t know it yet!

I’m finally getting around to populating this little section here on resources, and I have a big post I’m working on for next week, but I thought it might be good to share something I found extremely entertaining and insightful as a bit of a preface before I start talking about how I see/hear classical music.
This man is a professional. He’s a professional musician as well as some kind of speaker (motivational?), but he makes a very strong point here. Watch the video (from a TED conference) first and then let’s talk. (If you want subtitles, the TED website has this talk here and offers many)
Now, a few points he makes here I really like. There’s not much I can say that he didn’t, so I don’t want to rehash it, just review it really quickly in light of what I’ll be posting later on about how I see classical music.

  1. How you think about music affects how you play it. The example he gave of the child who puts ‘impulses’ on the music and makes it feel choppy and awkward as opposed to the more advanced student who works on phrasing is a simple example, but it makes a good point. Especially with solo music, interpretation is often the hardest (or at least most nebulous and personal) part of performance. People will use words like ‘uninspired’ or even just ‘boring’ or ‘plain’ to describe a piece played in a way that seems to lack insight or emotion or feeling.
  2. How you think about music affects how you hear it. Even if you can’t play the piano and know nothing about music, you can still come to understand it enough to appreciate it more. This one of Chopin’s etudes is one I’ve worked on before, and it is not technically difficult (if I can try to play it, it can’t be technically demanding), but what is so difficult is interpretation. Most people, as he said, probably heard the beginning and felt it is beautiful, but perhaps didn’t know why. That “down to B, down to A, down to G” all the way to E that he describes is a critical part of ‘the story’ that music tells, it’s just that it’s much simpler and more linear in this situation.
Remember these points and this whole presentation as we get into next week and the tome I’m going to post about how I feel about classical music. Most critically is that if you can ‘see’, ‘hear’ or grasp onto the story, the journey that the composer is telling, no matter what you’re listening to, you’re bound to be moved. Granted, classical music is not about instant gratification like modern pop music is; it’s not just four minutes of a really good hook or a riff with a drum beat and some vocals over it. You have to work for it some, but it’s like reading a good book. While it may take some effort and time at first, once you get used to it, you do get hooked, and will discover worlds and stories and entire lifetimes to be enjoyed from the comfort of your own headphones.
In next week’s post, we will analyze the structure of and ideas behind the symphony, one of the most common forms in classical music, and see if we can suss out what a symphony is and maybe how a complete beginner can look at it with a view to appreciating it.

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