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Someone asked me recently, “Is music one of those things that you just like more and more the more you know about it?” Indeed.
I started in one of those classes where the teacher brings in a lot of different music instruments (mostly percussion) and lets the kids play with them a while, creating a terrible raucous of a noise. This was the second grade, and somewhere around that point or slightly after, we were all given the choice of instruments. For me, for some reason, it was the clarinet or the saxophone. At the time, it had the closest relation to popular music through its association with jazz. My parents (my whole family, really) love music, mostly the kid of stuff that would have been on the radio in the 70s, to make a generalization. I grew up around quite a wide range of what would be considered contemporary or adult rock or pop, and it’s in my blood to be unable not to sing along, even with only a tenuous grasp of the lyrics. That was as far as my musical exposure had gotten. From the standpoint of someone else my age, by middle school, I’d learned to enjoy and appreciate music my peers had never heard. By the same token, though, I didn’t have any older siblings, so I came around much later to enjoying stuff my peers did, and I thoroughly enjoyed pop music and radio stuff, but real music people, you know, find stuff that’s not on the radio, stuff that the mainstream doesn’t play, and that’s when you feel like a cool kid.
My initial focus on classical music began when I finally started taking piano lessons, after having moved halfway around the world, so ended up taking lessons in Chinese, but the idea came to me… that I’d like to know as much as possible about this centuries-long history of music, to hear something and know not just who it might be, but what piece it is, and when it was written, and for whom, and why, etc.
That’s quite a tall order, but as I said at the beginning, the more you know about something, it seems, the more you appreciate it, and that is certainly the case here. What began as listening to some Chopin and Rachmaninoff or Schumann sonatas while walking the dog eventually turned into this: more than 600 articles, now including concert reviews, a podcast, and having met some very cool people, and listened to a ton of music, but with the feeling that I still haven’t even begun.
Some of my album purchases happen in the same manner you’d go to the grocery store hungry and throw all kinds of expensive delicious looking stuff in your basket and maybe forget you have it.
The short version of the story, then, is that I am not a musician in any manner, and that in the practical, real-world arena of doing something with music (conducting, writing, performing), I am wholly incapable. My hope then, can only be that some interest, curiosity, enjoyment, passion, can be contagious, spread around a bit, to introduce something to somebody that they’ll love, so go check out some of the pieces and see if there’s not something incredible to be found.