Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Is Classical Music really out of style?

I don’t know about you, but a well-played Mozart string quartet can really change how I feel. My spirits get lifted and I feel on top of the world. Am I the only one who feels this way? In this day and age, proclaiming that you enjoy Classical Music is like stamping a big red “LOSER” on your forehead. But why? Why does this happen to people who enjoy classical music?

Pretentious? Elitist? Square? Sure, classical music has been the music of choice for royalty ever since Josquin and Palestrina evolved Gregorian chant into lighthearted motets and chansons, but it is first and foremost music. And I don’t even care what kind of classical music you like. You could like Baroque music, Renaissance music, Medieval music, Neoclassical music, Rococo music, Atonal music, it doesn’t really matter. If you enjoy any one of those, you are looked down upon by popular culture. I know that not many people admire Baroque music. I don’t blame them, as Baroque music was supposed to be cerebral and give the person a chance to actually ‘listen’ to the music, rather than to just ‘hear’ it. It places a large amount of mental strain on the listener. I would not berate a person for finding Baroque music to not be particularly interesting. I personally think the Baroque period produced some of the finest pieces of music in the history of mankind. Bach’s genius is evident in his Brandenburg concertos as they still run chills through my bones whenever I hear them. The first uplifting notes of Brandenburg 3, the rousing harpsichord of Brandenburg 5, the mellow sound of Brandenburg 1; they all appeal to a range of senses that other music cannot. During the Classical period, Mozart’s overtures to his famous operas like Die Zauberflote, Idomeneo, or Don Giovanni have the same effect. Full orchestras of 30+ people coming together to make a harmony so wonderful and so praiseworthy should not be overlooked by people other than those who claim classical music to be “an acquired taste.” But it’s not just the sheer intensity of large symphonies that can produce this effect on a person. A cellist such as Yo-Yo Ma can play Bach’s solo Cello Suites to the point where people can feel the notes rushing through their head. Quartets by Mozart and Haydn encourage small-group playing and the combination of instruments produce a quality so textured and refined that every quartet sounds different, even if they are playing the exact same piece.

I’m not saying that everyone should like Classical music. Some people out there just plain hate it. But, people should not be driven away by the common stereotypes that have regretfully hung onto this genre of music for the past 400 years. It’s not ‘high-brow,’ it’s not ‘elite,’ it’s not ‘snobbish.’ It’s music. And one of the beauties of music is that anyone can listen to it and form their own opinions on it. So, try out classical music if you haven’t already. You’d be surprised at what treasures you can find. And by the way, it’s Mozart’s 250th on the 27th!


Anonymous Jacque said...

The stereotypes surrounding classical music concern me. They may contribute to a stark mystique which makes classical music seem inaccessible to younger audiences.

10:20 PM  
Blogger Ryan Kellett said...

I agree stereotypes exist, but there is a changing attitude out there regarding the subject in the eyes of youth. I think it has to do with a lot of the "crossover classical" artists. I hate the genre but it doesn't stop many from enjoying a form of classical music that is somewhat more accessable. That upsurge in crossover has allowed for actual classical to be revived. For instance, there has been record youth attendance in the last several years at the San Francisco Opera. That's because youth realize that, as you say, classical is music too and it may even be "cool" (if you consider all the sex, gossip, and murder that happens in operas...).

8:02 PM  

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