(This is another instalment in the Music Mondays series.)
I’m not sure if classical music has experienced a decline in popularity, but you rarely hear young people talking about it, what with the kpop and the rap and the sexy-and-I-know it. Now, I don’t want to sound like a high-brow artsy-fartsy person, but I do think classical music is worth a listen, and I think people have the misconception that it’s “difficult” to appreciate.
At the core, classical music is just like any other type of music. Perhaps it’s not as exciting and the meaning isn’t as clear as a song with lyrics and electric guitar. Classical music versus pop music is kinda like poetry versus prose.
Classical music, at least the instrumental kind, is all about suggestion over depiction. Focus on what the music makes you think of rather than the what the music is telling you; music doesn’t speak, music nudges. We know that Justin Bieber falls madly in love with a “baby” in “Baby,” but we’re not quite sure what Mozart means in his Serenade No.10 in B flat major. We have to…wonder.
Perhaps at this point I’ll mention the misnomer of the term “classical music.” “Classical” music, technically, refers to music of the Classical era, which is 1750-1825, precisely, and only concerns a circle of some of the most well-known musicians: Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, etc., while other famous musicians, such as Bach and Schubert, belong to other artistic “eras” (Baroque and Romantic, to be precise).
There was a funny trend in the Classical period known as absolute music. With this principle, music has no meaning; it is just pure sound. This is why Classical musicians such as Beethoven named their pieces for their genres, keys, and numbers, such as “Symphony No.5 in C minor” whereas later musicians like Ravel named their pieces with programmatic titles, like “Jeux d’eau” (“water games”).
Absolute music presents us with a problem: how are we supposed to know what Mozart means, then, in his Serenade No.10 in B flat major? I think Salieri in the Academy Award-winning movie Amadeus––while he doesn’t really figure it out––puts the piece aptly into words for us to understand a little more what Mozart is saying.
Absolute music isn’t as easy to understand as Macklemore, but it gives us a little freedom––a little “wiggle-room,” I believe. It’s the same with poetry as opposed to prose. By suggesting something rather than outright telling us, classical music (and poetry!) nudges to let our interpretations and imaginations run wild. And sometimes that’s what we need, I think.
This is it on talk of classical music today. I’ll for sure speak of it again, as I’m an enthusiast of the genre. However, next week I’ll talk about rock music! (As I am an even bigger enthusiast of that genre!)
Are you a fan of classical music? What is it about classical music that makes you return to it? If you’re a fan of classical music, what is your view on poetry and poetry interpretation?
- Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra (creative commons license 2.5: Derek Gleeson)
- Violin (public domain)
- Beethoven (public domain)
Click here for more Music Mondays…where the auditory and literary arts meet!