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How To Listen To Classical Music

Discussion in 'Score Study Resources' started by Rohann van Rensburg, Jan 25, 2019.

  1. I'd love if the experienced could share their insights, but considering how much attention this topic has gotten lately, I thought it worthwhile to post this video series. I understand and can sympathize with newer folks talking about how they find classical music "boring", but I believe strongly it comes down to familiarity, understanding and how one listens. Taking time to sit down and do nothing but listen is a valuable skill and will open you to a world of music you've probably never experienced.
    The channel also has breakdowns on various musical "forms" which makes it a lot easier to appreciate what they do and also identify what style draws you:

    I'd also highly, highly recommend investing into a good listening setup. If you don't have good speakers, or room for good speakers, or if where you live is noisy:
    I own these, and they sound incredible. You will pick up detail, and it will sound spacious.

    If all of the above, but where you live is quiet, and you listen predominantly at home:

    If you have more cash:

    or (what I have):

    (Note that the higher the "ohm" value the more it needs to be driven by i.e. an audio interface or headphone amp).

    I sometimes wear them for literally 7h straight with no discomfort.
  2. Have you heard of "Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concert Series?". You can find the whole series on youtube and it does more of the same of what this series is doing. Bernstein wanted to show people to not be scared of classical music, that if you understand whats going on that you would appreciate it much more. As well, Bernstein is just a great teacher.

    I think videos like these are great.
    Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  3. I don't have this fear of classical music dying. There is much to feel positive about IMO.

    The life-blood of the artform is really investing ones attention to learning an instrument (or sing).

    At it's best it is inspirational/aspirational.

    I agree it really needs to be a live music experience. I don't have time to go thru all my thoughts but for sure I think we need more public funding: Schools having orchestra, Paying teachers well etc.,
    Community classes for chamber music/adult learning about music.
    More homes with pianos.

    It is a different world now then when these pieces were written.

    A question from the other thread was loosely about "Why aren't people listening to Mahler." My bigger concern is why aren't people listening to say Verta.

    In today's world the following would be way outside the norm:

    Say Boise (Idaho) commissions Mike Verta a new work. One being a full 60 minute piece, and then a 5 minute fanfare that is to be inspired by Boise and the community.

    They pay him.... oh...say ......$250,000, and offer him free housing for up to three months in Boise. As part of the commision he travels there to do workshops/master classes,meets the orchestra.
    He gets two-three full rehearsal during the process to workshop the piece with the full orchestra.
    He agree to attend the concert and has say 12 months to finish.

    They agree to play the works 20 times.
    Half of these performances are during the day and for schools to bring their students to hear the work.
    The short fanfare would be played that year for important community events; say 4th of July (etc.) at the parks (or where ever).
    Similar to the Central Park concerts of the NY Phil.

    This sounds like a total fantasy in our current times. But it's really very achievable.
    Many people philosophically are against the use of tax money for these things.

    At it's best CULTURE is wonderful for cultural understanding, community,
    and back to being aspirational of what humans can do.
    Something I assert we could use very much right now.

    We need more beauty in this world. Aristotle wrote about this, so this is nothing new.

    250 years ago universities were about what we now call "humanities".
    The focus is now almost exclusive on training for the line of work you are going in.

    Which is very important....I don't want to sound dismissive of that at all. That's very important.

    It just means one's attention is on something else.

    I read the other day that 28% of adults admitted to not reading a single book last year.

    They get their fill of reading from the internet. (I'll stop before I jump off a bridge. )
  4. #4 Rohann van Rensburg, Jan 25, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2019
    While I'm pessimistic about people's ability to appreciate and value beauty, or have values period, I'm very much in agreement here. More on this in a minute. I don't know why the emphasis has been so much on STEM and strictly academic subjects, but the erosion of higher education is pointing to a need for holistic education and the amazing curriculum changes being made in gradeschool here in Canada is also really driving creativity and a "top down" approach in every subject. I have a number of teacher friends at a local private school that's having an insane influx of students due to these changes, with creativity being encouraged and facilitated in literally every course available.
    I would blame the errant philosophical positions we've taken as a culture (i.e. hard reductionism), but that's another discussion in an of itself; suffice it to say the value of music is at least being rediscovered for younger children and early education (why this wasn't blatantly obvious to anyone with a shred of life experience is a mystery). It's especially interesting watching my just-under-2 year old in this regard. I play her tons of music, much of it complex, and simply point out different instrument groups, etc to her. She can pick them out of an orchestra by hearing them quite easily now and regularly requests more complex classical works, even though she didn't like them on first listen. She's been obsessed with the Imperial March and Harry Potter theme lately, and will just sit and listen to it sometimes -- it just requires exposure and understanding.

    I do think, however, people need education on how to understand and value old works. If the only music you listen to is pop radio music in the background, of course sitting down and paying attention to music will be foreign to you. People need guidance (that was the main intent of my posting the video, not so much the "classical music is dying" vibe). Yours has been instrumental (ba-dum-tsh) in helping me find and understand pieces I wasn't initially attracted to.

    This is why I agree with you re: Capitalism. When money is the focal point, and everyone has an equal say (regardless of education, intelligence, wisdom, etc), a pragmatic culture will of course frown upon things it doesn't understand. I think this is vastly different in Europe, where they actually have the collective wisdom to understand values like this. I desperately hope this changes in North America (especially here in Canada, my word are we ever culturally imporverished, especially when it comes to cultural appreciations for and valuing of beauty -- our sensibility, publicly, is completely second-rate).

    I couldn't agree more. And this is where I'm not pessimistic -- transcendent/timeless works of beauty will outlive a culture's inability to appreciate it. Whether or not we appreciate what is available to us, I believe it will last -- Aristotle is an excellent reference in this regard.
    I think attention is far too much on something else. Your book example simply feeds into that -- look at the results. Speaking broadly here, but we live in the age of having access to an incredible amount of information, art, literature, etc at our fingertips, but our cultural values don't align with wisdom and appreciation for that. The results speak for themselves -- the rise in philosophical postmodernism and the rebellion against the idea of truth, brutally low literary and musical appreciation and competence, etc. I can download, for free, a copy of Moby Dick, A Tale of Two Cities, War and Peace, The Odyssey, you name it -- all on my phone. How many people actually take advantage of that? We're creatures of convenience, and easy distraction. Beauty won't disappear if our culture does, and it's entirely to our detriment if we don't appreciate what is good for us. The evidence is rather clear that the internet, social media, convenience, etc isn't making people happy or more fulfilled, it simply breeds and encourages our vices. There is potential for utility, of course -- this forum has been massive for my musical education. But our inability to make correct value judgments desperately needs addressing.

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