The Music Room > Classical Music for Beginners

Introducing New Listeners to Classical Music

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k a rl h e nn i ng:

--- Quote from: SimonNZ on November 26, 2021, 04:49:17 PM ---A young collegue at my work heard me playing the classical radio station a few weeks back and next time we had to work together asked that it be left playing for the whole of our ten hour shift so he could get a sense of it.

Luckily for him the station changed some years back to playing only individual movements rather than whole works, so its more useful as a sampler and if there is something he might actively dislike it will be replaced in short order.

He had questions for me all through the night and it was unexpected just how little context he had fot the most basic assumptions about classical music performance I would previously thought were acquired through osmosis or films and tv even if you've never heard a whole symphony.

At one point he recognized a tune from an advertisement, I said it was Vivaldi, and much of our conversation was centered on Vivaldi. He was surprised to learn he died going on three hundred years ago and people were writing music back then. He said "So you haven't been to a Vivaldi concert, then". I said I'd been to many, and he honestly didn't understand how that was possible and I had to explain publishing and that most concerts are without the composer and using only the sheet music as their guide. At another point he looked up Vivaldi on Spotify and asked if these were Vivaldi's own recordings, and I had to explain that he died before recorded sound and how and when that technology happened. I showed him a portrait and again he was genuinely baffled that someone should look and dress so strangely.

I don't offer these anecdotes here to mock him, but to express my own surprise that its now possible to reach the age of twenty five with absolute zero context. I was given at least a sketchy outline at school. He tells me it was never mentioned.

My main advice was to treat it like getting into any other genre of music: don't treat it like homework - if you find something you like play more of that.

--- End quote ---

Very nice!


--- Quote from: k a rl h e nn i ng on November 26, 2021, 04:59:23 PM ---Very nice!

--- End quote ---

It was an interesting evening with a lot of conversation.

And I think I managed to avoid the various traps of snobbery, most dangerously when he said his dad was a big fan of Andre Rieu and how did I rate him? I delicately replied that its really a different genre closer to theater, all about putting on a show, nothing wrong with that, but classical was more about following the composers wishes faithfully, rather than bending them to the needs of the show.

Another thing he was completely unaware of was the number of countries classical music comes from, seeming to believe it was an Anglo thing. When I identified composers and their nationality he was continually surprised that they came from Russia, France or Germany.

When I was about 15 I had a conversation with a guy in his forties about Bach's Goldberg Variations. Had to explain most of the basics: Johann Sebastian Bach was a guy who lived in Germany in the 1700s. He wrote this, uh, song for his student to play. It was commissioned by a rich nobleman at the time who wanted music to entertain him at night and who employed this student as a court musician. So this was Bach's student playing on the recording? No, he also died before recording technology was invented, but now modern-day performers play covers of the song, like in jazz. Oh, okay. [Despite this agreement I had to re-explain this point several times; the guy insisted he'd heard Beethoven conduct "Ode to Joy" once.] Isn't it weird that the student had a modern name like Goldberg way back in the 1700s? What do you mean by a modern name? I mean.... [several minutes of euphemisms follow, eventually leading to:] He was Jewish right? No, at this time Jews did not usually have surnames and were just named "Son/Daughter of [parent's name]"; this was a common German surname and Jews would later adopt it and others when trying to integrate better into European society. [Ok, I will admit 15-year-old me had the timeframe wrong on that.] Oh. You know, it's wild that we still have this song from the 1700s and know what it sounded like, from back when there were kings and aristocrats. Yeah, it's pretty wild. How long is this song anyway, it seems to have been going on for a while? It's about 80 minutes. Wow. That's insane. People were so different back then. He's really dead now? Etc.

Admittedly, this was rural New England and despite his age this guy had probably not been to college or even high school. But even people who have, didn't necessarily always take school seriously enough to remember much of what they learned.

In any case, I have no idea if he ever listened to any more classical music after this, but it was illuminating to understand the knowledge barriers people might face even if they do experience chance exposure to classical music and like what they hear.

Quite stunning. I would seriously not have expected such barriers and naively assumed that everyone knew that dead people's music was still played (like dead people's dramas such as Shakespeare's). And can one go through 10-15 years of education in a developed country and never have seen a picture some king or general or Newton in 17th-18th century garb and wig?

71 dB:
I have to say I was also pretty clueless about classical music until I started getting into it in the latter part of the 90's when I was already 25 or so. Maybe some people get great music education in school. I didn't, nor was I even that interested. I was into Math, Physics and visual arts in school. My father listened to jazz and it sounded so OLD to my ears! My attitude was that classical music is just too old music for modern ears, music from the time before electricity, transistors, computers, cars, microwave ovens, lasers, etc. I thought that someone having lived hundreds of years ago must have experienced the World completely differently from us and therefore music that mattered for them must have be completely different form the music that matters to us in a World where man has landed the Moon. In time I learned how this assumption is completely wrong, but people do have these strange false ignorant assumptions. For you it may be something else than music.

It was my best friend who got me interested of classical music in the university by hyping about how good Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet sounds. He played violin in the university orchestra and knew at least something about music theory while for me as simple concepts as chords where strange (yes, I was shocked to learn, that you can play several different notes at the same time forming chords). As people here may know, I have learned about music theory only recently, thanks to Youtube, and it has been a long journey. It is surprising to me how some people know music theory at the age of 15. Who is interested of Neopolitan chords and Species Counterpoint at that age? I was interested of Legos and Star Wars! Now that I am 50 and Disney has ruined Star Wars I am totally into music theory! It is really interesting!


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