Thursday, February 5, 2009

Stand facing the CD player

When I was a kid getting into classical music, I had no interest at all in how the orchestra was set up, or who was better, the Berlin Philharmonic or the Vienna Philharmonic, or how a piano worked, or even what an oboe sounded like as opposed to a clarinet. I didn't care about the nuts and bolts of music.

I just wanted to hear it.

I am still kind of like that.

There is this magic moment when a piece of music just hits you. It's great when that is how people discover that classical music is not something to be afraid of, that it is something to be loved. Different pieces do it for different people. I read once how a guy fell in love with music because of the theme from the last movement of Brahms' First Symphony. (My brother George told me the Kingston Trio made a Christmas carol out of that theme. I think they should be jailed for that. Once you get words to something like that in your head you never get them out.)

The point I am getting at is, you can take all the music appreciation classes and the world and read every book musicologists ever wrote, but it all comes down to something clicking with you. That is when you fall in love with music. And it can be a magical moment.

I got thinking of that this morning because I was on You Tube sifting through the recordings posted there of Leonard Pennario. I do that all the time because I like to post to one each day on my Pennario blog. There aren't many Pennario performances on YouTube, so out of desperation, I started listening to his performance of the slow movement of the "Pathetique," accompanied by orchestra. It was on his hit record "Concertos Under the Stars."

I know, the nerve, the nerve, putting orchestra with the "Pathetique"! Pennario and I used to laugh about that. But really, the arrangement is nice, and Pennario plays that melody beautifully with that unselfconscious style he had. And the thing that got me today is, people who are listening to it on YouTube love it! They don't know beans about Beethoven, or that the "Pathetique" is not supposed to have an orchestra with it. They are not hung up on that. They stumble on this video someone has made with a picture of a sunset, and they don't worry about that this is, ahem, Classical Music. They hit "play."

And something happens to them. Here, I'm going to cut and paste a comment someone posted to that video two weeks ago:

"i dont know but i feel sadness in listening to this music and at the same time some uplifting weird feeling indeed a combination of a positive and negative"

I actually get tears in my eyes reading that!

Four days ago someone named "RKHSMan" answered that earlier listener. He wrote:

"I know what you mean it really is a beautiful piece of music. I've only really just started to listen to classical music (I usually listen to death metal of all things) and this and moonlight sonata are some of my favourites. The emmotion of happy and sad as you said in this piece are amazing I couldnt agree with you more."

Isn't that beautiful? You could sit these people down and explain to them about Beethoven's genius and the honesty of Pennario's playing, but you don't have to. They have it all figured out. And now here they are struggling with trying to put into words a feeling that music has never given them before.

That is a wonderful moment.

1 comment:

  1. There is another perspective about this. When I was young and first discovered art music, my tastes were very narrow. Later, when I began to play the organ for economic reasons, I encountered pieces by composers I'd never heard of that were both very good works and that moved me deeply. Also, working with Bach's music (he was an acquired taste, by the way), made me learn, by osmosis, to hear polyphonically, which in turn taught me to hear pieces I thought I knew in deeper detail.

    The negative part of all this was developing a critical sense which becomes always harder to please. One can call it snobbery or elitism, but it's impossible to go back.

    Result of all this: Paradox! Also, that music can be a cruel mistress.