A few years ago, while talking with my cousin, I mentioned something about attending a symphony concert. He said, “UGH. Classical music is BORING!” Then he made a choke-gagging sound and pretended to die, complete with tongue lolling out and glassy eyes fixed vacantly into space.

I guess he forgot that I have a master’s degree in music performance. My main instrument is the viola, but I also play violin pretty well and can massacre a few easy songs on guitar and piano. Oh, and I sing. In fact, I am the best singer in the entire world. (For realz; my kids told me I am.)

I don’t really care that my cousin was insensitive. I get it; people have opinions. But I feel like, when it comes to Classical music, the public’s apathy towards it is not simply a matter of opinion; it is a matter of ignorance. Maybe I’m an odd bird, or perhaps I was born with the musical inclinations of an 88 year old. (But if that’s the case, then why do I like rap music?)

I just cannot imagine a person listening to some of this stuff (Classical music) and not being moved, either to tears or into a fit of ecstasy (OMG I CANNOT spell that word. Took me five tries GRRR). I have a few favorites that drive me to the point of wanting to fling myself out a window or go dry hump the nearest available human. Is it seriously just me? People who say Classical music is boring, I’m sorry, but I don’t think you’re doing it right.

But who can blame a person for being ignorant about a type of music that has been evolving for the last five centuries? Even if a person is curious to know more, where would one begin?

Right here, mutha fucka. I can enlighten you. The truth is, I’ve been selfish. All this time I’ve been writing about PMS, marriage, ADHD and girly parts, I’ve been withholding this soul-shifting music from you. You ought to be pissed, really.

Now please get someplace where you can turn on your volume and won’t be embarrassed if you’re discovered having an existential nervous breakdown.

bach
Er… yeah, note the furrowed brow. Life was super hard back then. (Image: stupidass Wikipedia)

We’ll start with a dude name Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). Pronounced “Bock” except you have to gag a little on the “ck,” because, German. Stuff was building up for a couple hundred years before him, but he’s considered the God Father of Classical music. No bloody horse heads for him, though. He was mostly a straight arrow, always writing music for the church or the noblemen he worked for (that’s how it was back then), but he was a huge music snob (rightly so) and kept getting “dismissed” from or quitting various positions, often because he wasn’t happy with the quality of the performers with regards to the music he was composing. He even went to jail over it for a little while. And by the way, Bach had 20 kids with two different wives (not sister wives; that would have been frowned upon), only 10 of whom survived to adulthood. Crazy, right?

But Bach wrote what is, in my opinion, the most beautiful piece of music ever written: The Chaconne. This piece is hardly even mentioned in the description of Bach on Wikipedia, which only serves to confirm my distaste for that site. The Chaconne, itself 15 minutes long, is actually the last part of a larger violin piece that Bach wrote, since, back then, music was SUPER-HOLY-SHIT long because there were no TVs or smart phones to distract people or make them impatient. In those days, people had time to sit around for hours and let their hearts fall apart over a piece of music.

Imagine being from a tiny town on the country side, never having heard much music other than maybe some folk tunes on an out-of-tune harpsichord, played by your grandmother in a mediocre fashion… and then, for whatever reason, you get the opportunity to travel into town and attend a recital, and what you hear is this (The Chaconne):

(If you don’t have time to listen to the whole thing, just listen from 4:38 – that’s where I get all verklempt and, if I’m PMSing, snot-cry.)

Bach also wrote the cello suites (suite = a larger piece encompassing several smaller pieces), which were virtually undiscovered for 200 years until a Spanish cellist by the name of Pablo Cassals (1876-1973) picked up the suites and made them famous. Everyone – even people who claim Classical music is lame – knows the first movement of Bach’s first cello suite:

By the way, I think it’s ridiculous that Yo-Yo Ma is randomly playing cello in the snow in this video. It makes me think of a lingerie commercial (Nobody actually does that!). Also, this happens to be the piece I played for my audition that won me a scholarship to the Aspen Festival of Music. 😉

So, that’s a little bit of Bach. What do you think? Did you have a musicgasm? Were you at least slightly moved? A tiny bit? Eh… maybe it’s just me. But if you guys enjoy my little diversions into Classical music, I’ll do a post like this every so often. If you don’t enjoy them, that’s just fine, I suppose, but you should know I will probably respond to this rejection by listening to the last act of Puccini’s Tosca on YouTube while sobbing over the state of the world and pulling my hair out in clumps. I’ll be like Leeloo from Fifth Element when she learns about war. Don’t do that to me, you guys.

27 Comments

  1. I love this. As I sit here working, my TV is on the classical station and I keep hoping for my favorite not really classical but kind of symphonic tune to play, even though I know it never will. I love, Bach, Mozart, and I love love love some Beethoven, mostly Moonlight Sonata. My mom used to play it on the piano over and over and over and over again when I was a kid.

    • Those TV stations, Pandora, and others like them have been fantastic for introducing people to classical music. I’m hoping to spark interest in those who would otherwise turn up their noses. =)

  2. Vocal performance major here, and I feel the same way about opera. I catch so much $hit from my friends and family, which only makes me pity them. They have NO IDEA what they’re missing out on.

    Not a huge fan of rap, so maybe I am an 80-year-old trapped in the body of a “29” (and holding!)-year-old?

  3. As an adult I have always enjoyed listening to classical music. I had a blast choosing music for my wedding- things I loved that were not traditional for the march, etc. As a kid, I was too cool to really listen- “my dad listens to classical so it must be awful.” Thank goodness I outgrew my ignorance and was willing to give it a try.

    I was missing out on so much. Now I am able to share with my kids- even the little things like listening to Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty bring such joy.

    • Tchaikovsky will be discussed in an upcoming post – the violin concerto. Absolutely epic piece of music. And I agree, his ballets are fantastic! Listen to his last symphony, too, the Pathetique. =)

  4. I have to admit with some shame that Gershwins Rhapsody in Blue is my all time favorite. I know its commercial but that was my intro to non pop culture music and its always in my head.

    • That piece is a pop-culture favorite with good reason, though! I haven’t met a classical musician yet who doesn’t love Rhapsody in Blue. =)

  5. This was a fun post! I’m not a hater, but I’m not highly schooled either. I have a FB friend who’s an opera singer/voice teacher at Yale, and I make sure she shows up in my feed always because her sophisticated music jokes and shout outs for things like Sopranos to perform in productions of operas I’ve never heard of class up my FB page. More like this would be welcomed! 🙂

  6. I would very much enjoy further classical music posts! I’m classically trained on piano (although my skills have deteriorated throughout my adult life), and definitely appreciate classical music. For me, the artist that makes me verklempt is Chopin, and the piece his Premiere Ballade.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RR7eUSFsn28

    I agree; I go crazy when (usually) kids say how “boring” it is. They just don’t know what to listen for. It’s definitely a cultural deficit, not anything wrong with classical music itself.

    Really wish I had taken up a stringed instrument.

    • And all string players who don’t play piano wish they had spent time learning piano. 😉 I love Chopin too, but didn’t study his music much since my training was mostly in string / orchestral music. =)

  7. I actually enjoy classical music when I hear it, I just tend to not seek it out because, it’s harder to sing along with than you know, everything else. 🙂 My daughter dances, and her favorite is ballet which means many, many hours sitting listening to classic music accompanied by a teacher shouting French terms at my kid. 🙂

  8. I love classical! Loved this post; I learned from it and laughed–best combo ever 🙂
    Moonlight Sonata is a favorite. I play classical when I’m working on grad school stuff and also in my classroom sometimes. Keeps the teenagers calm and focused.

    • I’m excited to do posts about the music that is NOT relaxing. So much of it is full of tension and angst – and doesn’t get heard much. Make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss those!

  9. OMG, twinnies! I have a B Mus (hons) in music performace majoring in viola, although I did the first half of my degree on violin. I thought I would be the next big thing in chamber music but to be honest I wasn’t willing to make the sacrifices needed to make it – I had kids instead 🙂

    I have taught piano violin and viola for almost 15 years now (although much less since I’ve been ordained) and I find most pop music to be boring and repetitive. Bring on the classical music any day!

    One of my favourite pieces for violin is Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto – it gives me goosebumps every time.

    • That. Is. So. Freaking. Cool! I know I’ve heard the Glass but I’m not that familiar with it. I will have to have a relisten now.

  10. Sunday after church, standing on a shady sidewalk in South America, waiting for a bus, rocking out to Handel’s Messiah Chorus…yes that happens, more often than I like to admit. The guys on motorcycle’s think I’m weird.

  11. Pingback: Think Classical Music is “Boring”? Maybe You’re Just Doing It Wrong. - BLUNTmoms

  12. The classical station plays all day at my office, I have really started to enjoy it. Thanks for some Bach background, can’t wait for your next one! 🙂

  13. I know this post is super old but I stumbled on it after someone shared your post on the P.O.S. swimmer… great post, BTW. Anyways, my 12 year old daughter plays the violin and plays beautifully but sometimes goes through the “violin music isn’t cool” moments. We watched The Chaconne video and we were both in tears. Seriously beautiful and an amazing violinist as well! I let her read this blog post too and after reading the part about playing the cello in the snow she turned to me and said, “violists are always the funniest”. I thought about it for a second and she’s right… and thank God because someone needs to balance out the high strung violinists. 😉 So thank you for sharing such a beautiful piece. You have a new fan for sure!

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