FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS   

  1. How can I learn how to listen to classical music and really enjoy it? How can I understand it?
  2. Where can I find the essence of classical music, so that when I hear it, I do not want to escape it in fear of falling asleep?  Why does it annoy me for its soothing effects in that way?  Is there something more to it that I am missing?
  3. Why do more people not listen to classical music in everyday life, for instance, if it is as great and as brilliant as some people say it is?
  4. Who is the greatest composer of all time in the category of classical music according to most authorities on classical? 
  5. What is the difference between classical music and semi-classical music?  According to that difference should it  be easier somehow to understand and to like semi-classical if semi-classical is indeed like a watered-down version of classical music?  Would you recommend listening to semi-classical music for a long time before graduating to classical music as a logical progression in learning?
  6. When is a good time to introduce classical music to children, since it is more difficult even for adults to understand and adapt to?  Is there a composer of classical whom you might recommend for children at the newcomer level? 
  7. Why should anyone want to change the kind of music to which one listens over to classical, anyway?
  8. What if I try to learn to listen to classical  music in good faith, and then I find that it just does not seem to be something I can learn to appreciate?  It has always seemed stilted to me and even uninterpretable.  Yet, I am told that classical music is an outstanding form of musical art, and I just cannot easily keep dismissing it.
  9. Is there any way you can measure the suitability of an individual such as myself, or anyone else like me, to the classical style of music?  I am afraid I have lost out on something great, and will continue to do so, unless I can resolve my quandary over this supposedly elevated musical art form, classical music.
  10. I am determined to acquaint myself with classical music, and I have tried starting with one or two short classical works like you said.  I believed that I could develop a memory for this kind of music upon your advice.  It did not work for me.  I moved on in logical progression to a couple of other masterpieces which were longer, and I was back in the same mold of not being interested after trying to concentrate, followed by being impatient and unable to recruit my mind any more to listening but for dissatisfaction.  What should I do? 
  11. I found that I have a fairly good facility in learning to appreciate classical music.  I am now at the point where I can go to my collection of CDs and find a selection from a choice of three or four composers which will give me an inner calm and lift my spirits.  I know from what I have read here that this is considered an accomplishment, and that I am on my way to a greater musical realization than ever before.  Should I set a goal for myself in terms of being able to recognize a piece by its composer in order to call myself truly educated in classical music?

                 

1.  How can I learn how to listen  to classical music and really enjoy it? How can I understand it?  

1.  Of course these questions are ultimately synonymous: to enjoy classical one must understand it at some level.  However, as one learns to enjoy classical music more and more, there is the unfolding of an understanding which may deepen almost unbeknownst to the listener at first.  Read the essay Contemplations on Music for basic guidance as to developing the mental attitude requisite to a good receptive mind for the classical music art form.  This essay will expound the treasured key to the deeper understanding of classical music: contemplation.  If one develops an awareness that classical music as an art form is indeed contemplative, then that awareness alone will prepare the mind and sensitivities as to how to begin to listen; allow your intuition to come into play as you listen to your chosen piece and try to reflect freely.  If there is a mood elicited in you by the music, surrender; if deeper emotions arise, realize that these also can be integrated in the event of the creation of the emotions besides in an overall, unified sense once you have achieved the ability to contemplate the message of a classical piece as an entity unto itself.  As you learn to understand an entire piece by connecting the passages and movements of the piece, a unity in your understanding has developed; this unity will engender a contemplative mind for listening to and perceiving classical music.

To be able to apprehend an entire piece of classical music whether it is short in duration or long is an accomplishment.  However, if one attempts to develop a contemplative ardor for the music, then a new mode of listening experience will dawn with some time and practice which will further grow into an actual ability to comprehend classical music.  In this new and highly contemplative mode the mind is available to unify in the understanding of the work with the work even as it unfolds.  In such a contemplative state of realization of the music, there is no sense of being lost or stranded or perplexed somehow by any passage or statement being presently heard.  Thus the music gains a richness in its own context as it is heard with no remarkable effort to tie any part or division or movement into an overall understanding.  Indeed, as you learn to understand an entire piece by effortlessly connecting the passages and movements of the piece, a unity in your understanding will have developed; that unity will engender a contemplative mind for listening and perceiving classical music.  However, this will take some experience and patience for a newcomer to classical music.  

In essence, your goal in learning to enjoy classical music is to achieve the singular ability to contemplate it as you listen.   

 

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2.  Where can I find the essence of classical music, so that when I hear it, I do not want to escape it in fear of falling asleep, for instance?  Why does it annoy me for its soothing effects in that way?  Is there something more to it that I am missing?

2.  In order to accept and understand the soothing effects that classical music may have, one must indeed find the essence of classical music and surrender to its very nature.  If one is expecting to hear the same type of  music to which one is conditioned, then one will never really have the receptivity of mind necessary to make the transformation over to classical music.  The essay Reflections on Music says this about the classical art form:  

However, the primary motive of a classical piece is to depict the integrity of the simple beauty of euphony or combinations of sounds that agree with one another and have a pleasing effect therefore. (From Reflections on Music.)   

Knowing this, one can learn to expect and then appreciate what is there in this style of music as compared to others.  Indeed, there is always the beauty and harmony of nature to remind one of the place of symmetry and perfection in the very nature of reality about us.  Similarly, the nature of sound is found in its perfectly proportioned harmonics; essentially, then, a musical expression   in classical music will tend to reflect that profound perfection of the comprise of sound at the grosser levels of actual works made up of of sound.  This is music.  To know this about music is to honor the very real nature of sound itself.  

Please refer to Reflections for a careful exposition of the nature of art in order to develop an understanding of classical music for what it is as a musical art form.  If one extols peace and harmony in everyday living and experience, then the analogy of classical music as a soporific agent will not be so threatening to the newcomer to the beautiful world of classical music.  Classical music, indeed, honors the rarefied nature of sound itself since it seeks a perfection ideal based upon harmony and pleasing sounds.  

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3.  Why do more people not listen to classical music in everyday life, for instance, if it is as great and brilliant as some people say it is?         

3.  Did you ever notice that some people are likely to relate events and interests in a more abstract way than others?  Many people are practical-minded and are not likely to embark on a conversation about how they developed a certain hobby or a well-developed knowledge of a certain area of interest.  Most of the people who understand the subtlety of truth also have a mind which is more likely to conceptualize readily in the abstract plane.  When two such differing people talk, an observer can often discern the basic difference in the types of minds which are expressing, one being disposed to the abstract, while another being more disposed to the practical realm.   

  Thus, some people will easily discuss the weather as if it is all-important since they are focused on reasoning their way through the physical world.  Others will not even understand that focus on the physical realm, taking for granted the usual pattern  of living as they observe and perhaps generalize about people and things.  The same innate characteristics found in people for  the type of mind they enjoy as they live their lives will express then again in their aesthetic sensitivities for music.  Those who tend to conceptualize more from an abstract viewpoint continuously will also find a kinship with the abstract nature of classical music.  

 For reverberations of the truth of music quite happenstantial to a moment in a forest, say, or on a mountainside on a summer's day or by a placid pond at sunset will forever feed the inspiration and forever kindle the aspiration of a musician who wishes to reflect the creation in the language of music. (From Reverberations on Music.)

To one who is consumed in the concrete matters of living rather than being aware of the more subtle truth and beauty of the world about us, there is no particular inspiration to be found in the wonder that is the world.  The mind of such a doer in life is perhaps not available for the cadence in the crickets' calls or the call of an owl at night.  Such a mind might be more preoccupied with simple matters and grosser level observations relating to how to abide in the next change in the weather, for example.  If you are the kind of person who admires the perplexities of life and the call of the sunset or the beauty of the snow instead of its need for removal, then perhaps you would be suited to learning to appreciate and love the abstract nature of classical music, as well.  Many who would have naturally taken to classical have been perhaps acclimated to other kinds of music in the popular realm and do not even understand themselves as potential devotees of this more ancient form of music.  The true measure of the brilliance of classical music does not therefore lie in the numbers of people who are devoted to it or who like it or even prefer it.  It is a question of the likelihood of  exposure to classical music in a society whose tastes for music are formed more from a popular venue which comes to them of a day,  so that the actual choice to learn about classical is perhaps never even made one way or the other.  Yet, many of those whose cognitive abilities have never been exercised in finding their truest sensitivities for music at all are actually equipped by predilection for  the more abstract kind of music, classical,  and they may not know it.  Consult the Web page entitled, 'Works'   for a brief discussion of our current era as regards the musical art.  This essay might assist you in analyzing how it is that we are not a classically oriented culture in the music sector of art.  There might be an emotional burden for some who basically love classical music but never own up to it deeply or fully  due to a lack of awareness as to why it does not abound in our every day surround.    

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4.  Who is the greatest composer of all time in the category of classical music according to most authorities on classical? 

4.  Johann Sebastian Bach     

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 5.  What is the difference between classical music and semi-classical music?  According to that difference should it  be easier somehow to understand and to like semi-classical if semi-classical is indeed like a watered-down version of classical music?

5.  The basic difference between classical and semi-classical music is found in the formality which is lent to the classical style; such formality derives from the more structured form of the classical work.  Although there are of course many different kinds of classical pieces to consider, the one feature which prevails in all of them is a certain definition of structure in the overall piece according to its own particular genre.  Semi-classical music, on the other hand, relies for its appeal less on the formality in statement which is so characteristic of classical music and more upon its fluid and less imposing phrases.  These phrases may not interconnect past the power of melody and variation on melody, for instance, which might be lent by rhythmic changes.  Thus, there is likely to be a greater simplicity of statement in a semi-classical piece.  Many will take shelter in this more easy-going sound of a semi-classical piece since it does not require so much focus of attention.  In classical works the focus is to be found in figuring out how the overall message of the musical piece is to be found past the partitions of macro-structure or beyond the divisions of  movements such as in a symphony.  This focus into a classical piece throughout its duration requires the exercise of memory cognitively and becomes easier once an ear for classical music is developed:

Such a movement or even a recurring theme of short extent, a leitmotif, for example, of course knows its own mathematical composition or harmonics. However, that very composition has a meaning or a certain inherent message which finds its source in its contrast to or in its indirect apposition to a neighboring part of the overall work. ( From Remembrances on Music.)     

From the quote above taken from the essay Remembrances, one can begin to see how the classical piece must be connected together by the memory of what had come before a given passage.  The mellifluous phrase and harmony of composition in what might be called the infrastructure of the classical work is used then to propound a higher level statement through the use of an overall change in meaning and mood, perhaps; as the work moves dynamically into a new mode or movement, that which constitutes its overall structure, its macrostructure, unfolds.  

Semi-classical music may only involve a type of sound which matches classical music for the euphony, the sweet-sounding, melodious and soothing rhythmic character which lulls the senses.  Therein does semi-classical music find its completion -- it stops -- and yet it is still in progress to be heard.  In a very real sense, semi-classical music makes a unilateral statement.  The similarities between semi-classical music and classical music are remarkable especially in this day when loudness and rebelliousness are often communicated through the musical sphere of the popular music culture; yet classical and semi-classical music are different in that classical music employs more than one mode of temperament in order to satisfy its full sense of expression.  It is no wonder that  the two styles of music, classical and semi-classical, are often understood by casual listeners as about the same--but they are far from equivalent to one another.  Semi-classical is easier to understand since it lives to say one message in as non-descript a way as possible and prefers for its measure of brilliance an holistic statement of a single outstanding feature.  That feature might be its catchy melody or its alluring rhythmics or its complex harmony interfaced with a leading progression of melody over and over again.  This simplicity in semi-classical music as compared to classical music is why it might be considered a watered-down version of classical since their outstanding similarities in euphonious composition cause one to strongly associate the two styles, one with the other.    

In terms of the question of liking semi-classical more than classical, an analogy might serve to make the moot point: this is similar to asking whether a simple plot is better than an involving and complex plot in a drama.  A simple plot may have a great didactic import which cannot be matched only because its simplicity says the most; yet, there will always be those who admire the long and involved dramas, feeling that such dramas reflect more accurately the real nature of life and living.  Similarly, a classical music piece is more complex and involving than a semi-classical piece; a classical piece can be much more indirect than a semi-classical piece, and in order to understand it fully, the listener must comprehend each passage as it relates to what had come before.  This is similar to figuring out a plot at a theater performance in a sense.  Further, imagine having a sense of what is to come next in a symphony, say, so that when it is heard, there is a certain requitement of your sensibilities.  This also describes the joy of the more varied musical presentation that is the classical art form as compared to the semi-classical art form.  

There is a definite common sense in keying into semi-classical music as a leading exercise before embarking upon the classical music journey; although such "training" is not necessarily required, the similarities in the two styles of music, classical and semi-classical, will expand the mind if one turns one's attention preliminarily to the easier art form of the two -- semi-classical.  This preparatory familiarization with semi-classical music before attempting to understand and enjoy classical music might be especially advisable for someone who has submerged into habituating sense desires by the highly graphical music imagery of the rock culture, for example.  The classical music tradition carries with it a message of transcending the sense desires on the behalf of seeking an enlightened outlook or an enlightened mind, depending on how devoted to the idea of truth one may be by level and by other ways and values.    

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6.  When is is a good time to introduce classical music to children, since it is more difficult even for adults to understand and adapt to?  Is there a composer of classical whom you might recommend for children at the newcomer level?

6.  Children are more receptive to music than we might realize readily since they have not yet developed the inhibitions likely to be placed upon them by their immediate cultural milieu.  The environment and social milieu of children will foster certain expectations of them and will affect them simply by placement.  If a child is given an opportunity to cognize a higher art form such as classical music, then a definite learning process will have taken seed and also form for that child.  Such a seed can be incalculably influential across time; indeed, even after years of exposure to the stories of torment and tragedy often told so vociferously and expressionistically by the bards of hard luck in some of the popular cults of sense-driven music, the early influences and learning through classical which had visited a child still in the formative stage of artistic appreciation and awareness will remain there to be tapped for that youth or youth now grown.  Since holistic music such as classical orders the mind much as any pleasant language would, it is conceivable that an infant can also be blessed by the presence of classical music.  Even then, the selections for listening might be chosen so as not to inculcate upset and tumultuous emotional content for those in their infancies who live for the constant reassurance and security which parenthood may provide.  Music which supports that context of thematic harmony and peace found in the household can actually uplift and help form a personality which is nurtured by contentment; further, the contentedness of the language of the classical music art form is built-in through its grace, its often peace-generating messages and melodies.

 Mozart is an excellent composer for children of all ages.  He is also a child prodigy, so that children feel a sense of  belonging to Mozart when told of his early beginnings.  Mozart's music is filled with easily achieved resolutions.  These resolutions play through an overall dynamic enterprise seemingly effortlessly, purporting meaning and message.  Children like that kind of statement musically since it makes them feel protected and assured of good outcome.  Brahms is also highly recommended for young listeners who should be taught the finer and more subtle nuances of the language of music as early as possible.  Strauss is a genius who should visit anyone's life, young or younger, and especially if the parent sees a dancer or a figure skater in the child and wants to cultivate the physical culture alongside the musical edification of the youth.  The physical aspects of dancing or skating to classical music invoke gravity, the very connection to the Mother Earth.  Such a connection with the Earth through dancing or skating draws the body more specifically into the body-mind-spirit troika, lending a new and deeper meaning to the place of classical music to cultivate the youth.  

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7.  Why should anyone want to change the kind of music to which one listens over to classical, anyway?

7.  Yet, such say needed to be said as never before; even had time alone courted its day for the giving was the moving hand caught in its wake, embossed in some supernal yet animate light, an embrace of godly gift, held mellifluously only in what a composer can describe as totality. In the wake of such visitation, at having heard what was being created extemporaneously thus so, does the composer settle in the knowledge of the message much like an ear giving audience to a new accord, a sublime word connoting faith and high truth. For this is the most elevated passage of classical worth, its moment and the birth of that moment can only be described as on the order of revelation itself.  (From Revelations on Music.)

This brief quote from the essay Revelations may describe the inspiration from which this classical composer derives music.  However, in order for the newcomer to classical music to better understand why it is desirable to undergo perhaps even a reformational change to this style of music, it becomes necessary to seek an introductory level of readiness for the learning experience at hand.  There is not likely to be an immediate grasp of the kind of ultimate source in inspiration for the act of composing when a newcomer first  hears the composition.  However, when on faith such a newcomer learns if only by reading how deeply engrossing is the process of composing in classical music, then a receptivity of mind has been in turn inspired for the new student of this most beautiful and uplifting musical art form, classical music.  Word alone of this penultimate inspiration of the classical music composer may set a goal-mindedness in the newcomer as part of an interest, and an understanding of the elevated style of classical will be nicely formulated in the mind.  For if the music had arisen from a higher source, then this exact attribute of greater level of self-realization in the composer can be cognized by a skilled listener.  

It is also true that the more profoundly inspired classical works can become more immediately understood by anyone who listens to classical music, experienced or not experienced, because those works of more profound inspirational source tend to be of a more universal level of truth.  Therefore, a highly inspired composer or a composer whose inspiration is especially prominent in a given piece is likely to be understood more easily and sooner.  These are fine points of more subtle truth regarding how classical music is born in the act of composing; however, such as  these fine points of truth lead to a deeper and exacting understanding of why it is desirable to become educated in classical music at all.  If the composer of a classical work feels uplifted to the point of enlightenment through realizing a composition in the act of composing it, then that constitutes evidence that classical music has the power to enlighten others, as well.  This is true for myself as a composer since such religiously inspired composers as Vivaldi, Handel,  Haydn,  Johann Sebastian Bach and others had uplifted and enlightened me before I ever composed classical music; in me there was the ardent desire to answer what I had heard in the musical art of these fine composers.  Of all theJohann Sebastian Bach composers who have formed my knowledge of music, however, Bach is the most realized; therefore, Bach has taught me the most.  Bach is beyond measure to me.  Bach is my ultimate source in Western classical music, my all-giving teacher.  Beethoven, who comes from the era called the Classical Era that began with the death of Bach, embraced my musical sensitivities before my deeper acquaintance with Bach.  Yet despite the fact that he came from a different musical era of Bach, Beethoven himself in turn had been most ardently inspired by the works of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Some of this question of why one should consider including or changing over to classical music from other music styles as answered thus far must be taken on faith at first.  However, there is a more gross level analytical viewpoint on this question of the preference of music style as regards the value for listening to classical music besides other styles of music.  It is true that classical music invokes the universal level of truth through its sheer perfection and its innate orderliness.  Compare this invocation of the absolute nature of truth to the reveling in sense desires which is likely to be fomented in pop music, for example.  Such sense desires connote a merely temporal satisfaction of desire that is transient in nature; emotional satisfaction alone will not live on through ages.  To wit, the statement of the composer of the Classical Era would require balance in emotion born then again of a real context.

Consider this simple fact of the immortality of truly fine classical music as testimony of what it means to cultivate through the music art a more elevated sensitivity.  In this way, a devotee of classical music will be blessed by reaching for the soul of the contemporary civilization, culture and society in which that devotee lives.  The question therefore becomes one of how deeply entrusted to truth you may wish to become; you can use classical music as a vehicle to the soul of your times and realize yourself in it.  

     

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8.  What if I try to learn to listen to classical  music in good faith, and then I find that it just does not seem to be something I can learn to appreciate?  It has always seemed stilted to me and even uninterpretable.  Yet, I am told that classical music is an outstanding form of musical art, and I just cannot easily keep dismissing it.

8.  Knowing that in classical music there is an outstanding form of  musical art to be interpreted by yourself shows faith.  To further act upon this faith and to begin to understand classical is to build more than the knowledge by hearsay which had inspired your curiosity; indeed, to so act on faith and to test the evidence that classical music is worthwhile is itself a bold undertaking since the evidence spans centuries across antiquity.  Yet even so, you must discover classical music for yourself as an individual in your own right.  This remarkable history of classical music seems to frighten some people; feeling incapable of such a proven great musical art as classical, they humbly put it aside, taking themselves to be outside of it.  This places a mental block which will temper their enthusiasm to actually ever try to accept classical music fundamentally.  Since this music requires an awareness which turns into a cultivation as it is more fully appreciated, such people may never learn to love classical music.  

Now you may beg the question and say that this analysis makes you doubt that classical music is actually so great, or else it would be immediately loved by anyone.  In answer to that doubt, it must be stated that there is an indirectness in the language of classical music which must be confronted before classical can be admitted to the mind as somewhat integrated for the newcomer.  This barrier to immediate apprehension of the indirectness in classical music is more easily crossed by some than by others.  It is your task as an individual to patiently work at finding  how to transcend your own particular obstacle to really hearing classical music for its message as well as for your enjoyment of it.  This may take time, and it may take strategy.  A good strategy might be to test how open your mind actually is to this music genre, simply  by exposing yourself to a wide variety of classical music for a while such as by listening to classical music radio stations.   If you find that you are receptive to it in a general sense, then half the task is accomplished since that is the basic requirement.  If you find that your mind balks at the music, and you cannot endure listening to it for long out of botheration, then you might try a more narrow approach.  In such a case, find a single piece of music which you like somewhat and memorize it mentally.  Learn to hear what comes next before you hear it, and this will develop for you the memory which is requisite to understanding classical music in general.  It is similar to learning a song, and it might help you to think of it in this way.  If you start with a short piece, then your task should be easier for you.  Start with just one or two classical works which you can begin to grasp, and from there you will progress.

A piece I would recommend to anyone who is trying to thus narrow the approach through the memorization of a single, short piece is Four Seasons by Vivaldi.  Choose even one season, find yourself in it, and listen to it enough so that you will know what comes next in it.  You might even envision the season being listened to as you hear the composer's rendition.  Infuse your impressions of the nature of the season into the music as you listen.  This might place your mind beyond the obstacle you experience in trying to find yourself in classical music since it will invoke the practical nicely; indeed, everyone is familiar with the temperaments of spring, summer, fall and winter.  See what Vivaldi has to say about these seasons with his ornate handiwork as a truly fine composer, a masterful composer.

Learning to listen to an entire symphony may take some time and practice for you, so patience in this pastime is of the utmost importance.  There is no sense in dismissing classical music only because your first efforts gave no discernable fruits.  Each person has a learning curve which is unique, and learning to appreciate classical music is like learning a new language.  Keep this in mind, and simply persevere according to the philosophy that efforts to learn require a vision which encompasses the ignorance you wish to replace with knowledge.  Do not decry your retained ignorance; rather, look forward to conquering what is left of your ignorance once you retain a beginner's familiarity with the enchanting world of classical music.  

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9.  Is there any way you can measure the suitability of an individual such as me myself or anyone else like me to the classical style of music?  I am afraid I have lost out on something  great and will continue to do so  unless I can solve my quandary  over this supposedly elevated musical art form, classical music.

9.  Please read the answer to question three (3) above on this FAQ page for the basic characteristics of a person most likely to learn to love the language of classical music.  Understand also that there will be those whose learning of classical music may bring them to a new vision of reality way beyond their own natural traits of ideation in all other endeavors and modes of activity in life; classical music has the uncanny power to inspire a new and deeper self-realization.  Therefore, the primary consideration in the question of suitability in an individual to the classical style of music is more of a question of that individual's interest in it.  If you are in a quandary over the classical music art form and whether or not to cultivate an interest in it, then your only answer is to satisfy your curiosity and go forth on a program of educating yourself in classical music.  Even if you did not excel in the abstract Zooming in on a tangent line discipline of mathematics, for example, do not therefore dismiss your interest in classical music.  Music is akin to mathematics; this is true.  However, if your mathematical abilities have never been truly tapped, for instance, then you may not know that classical music is for you. 

Moreover, individuals can evolve in a single lifetime as according to the power of universal truth to enlighten them, so that classical music can enlighten them past their own proven levels of accomplishments and tendencies or even abilities in all other sectors in the arts and sciences.  The key for anyone interested in the possibility of becoming acquainted with classical music simply is to open the mind to this remarkable gift to mankind, classical music.  Believe in the full potential of the self, yourself, as you set out on your newly appointed mission to become familiar with classical music.  It might become one of your favorite pastimes.  Indeed, classical music might become your very star.  

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10.  I am determined to acquaint myself with classical music, and I have tried starting with one or two short classical works like you said.  I believed that I could develop a memory for this kind of music upon your advice.  It did not work for me.  I moved on in logical progression to a couple of other masterpieces which were longer, and I was back in the same mold of not being interested after trying to concentrate, followed by being impatient and unable to recruit my mind any more to listening but for dissatisfaction.  What should I do?  Is there a way for me?

10.  Yes, there is a way for you.  If you are determined, then there is a way for you to progress into coming to know how to listen to and enjoy classical music.  It takes more effort for some than for others to study classical music as enjoyers; but if you envision the reward for your efforts in learning more of classical music, then you should not fret and focus on the current state of affairs for you yourself.  Rather, try a new strategy and continue to have the faith that memory will come to you in its own time.  For you in particular, the power of memory is not in tact properly.  Memory is required so that you can follow the progression in a longer piece.  Even though from what you have said you have probably developed your memory somewhat at least at the level of familiarity, this is indeed the first step, the sheer beginning for you.  There is a problem for you of attention span, or so it seems; however, there is a way to circumnavigate this setback for you.  Instead of approaching the music directly, you should try an indirect and more subliminal approach in order to develop a familiarity at a more intuitive level.  The prescription I would offer you in accomplishing an indirect approach to gain an appreciation of classical music is as follows: you must listen to classical music in a non-concentrative fashion.  This listening can be done by playing your choice of classical music while working on other things such as puttering around the house doing small errands or while enjoying a hobby at which you excel.  At the same time that you preoccupy your mind with other concerns, you can play the chosen classical works at a lowered volume if you like.  You  will find that using these two techniques of learning to listen to classical music, listening while doing other things and by keeping the volume low, you will occasionally  focus in on the piece and then change your focus back to your work at hand.  Thus, your favored work will feed your ability to stay as if in the listening mode over much longer periods of time since you will transfer the sense of satisfaction from the task or tasks external to the music to the music itself.  Also, much of the learning which is bound to occur in this indirect method will be untested until one day you realize how far you have actually progressed.  In your case this is critical since your deficit is in level of concentration.  You will find that it becomes easier to concentrate on classical music the more familiar you become with it even if this familiarity is less direct.  

I recommend this indirect method of learning to enjoy classical music as a pastime from my own personal experience.  That is how I first began to  systematically study symphony works.  After hearing the symphonies of Beethoven while studying science simultaneously over weeks together, I would separate them from the act of studying, and listen single-pointedly to them.  My mind was much more open to the music after this indirect approach.  Also, I found that the music helped me study, and the studies also accompanied the music, so to speak.  If you drive frequently and play some pieces or a chosen piece at a lowered volume, so that your concentration on the music is second to the road, then it will also seep into your memory well without the interference of worry that you cannot sustain your concentration long enough to develop a memory or a love for the classical music art.  Great things do not come easily. A realistic appreciation of the greatness of classical music even before you learn to enjoy it will temper your dissatisfaction as you contend with any impatience which will be bound to crop up as you learn to nurture a devotion to classical.  

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11.  I found that I have a fairly good facility in learning to appreciate classical music.  I am now at the point where I can go to my collection of CDs and find a selection from a choice of three or four composers which will give me an inner calm and lift my spirits.  I know from what I have read here that this is considered an accomplishment and that I am on my way to a greater musical realization than ever before.  Should I set a goal for myself in terms of being able to recognize a piece by its composer in order to call myself truly educated in classical music?  

11.  It is commendable to be able to recognize a composer and further to be able to name a composition by that composer.  There are knowers of classical music who have a prodigious record of such factual knowledge, and some of those knowledgeable people also understand even more of what underlies the music they so site for its place in the development of the composer in mind.  This is a more advanced and also refined knowledge of classical music to which anyone would naturally aspire; indeed, if without consulting an external source of information you are able to name the composer alone of a piece being heard but not its name, you will feel identified deeply with the composer.  This sense of recognition of a composer is most consoling; in addition, it does require greater familiarity than the average among classical music devotees with each composer of a period of classical music, especially since composers of like period wrote alike according to their period style.

If you find that such a goal to be able to name the composer and/or piece being heard lies within your conceptual reach, then start now and educate yourself accordingly.  However, it is also critical as you progress in your study to find the message of the given composer in and through the music, so that you do not mistake sheer factual information as a more ultimate level of knowledge.  If a devotee of classical music grasps well a single composer who had achieved a certain level of expertise through his enlightenment, then in turn, taking that composer's work into your cognizance as potentially enlightening, you will also find an enlightenment as you grasp the composer's musical work or works.  This more elevated grasp of music is actually the finest goal to which you can aspire.  You may find that you naturally achieve this understanding of a composer, so the actual catalogue of works by various composers seems less impressive in your store of knowledge than does the message made possible behind the language of classical music.  Therefore, at the same time that you develop an ear for the sound and the various pieces of each composer whom you study,  concentrate further on the greater meaning which lies therein.  This is the finest moment in music for the listener: when the essential message of the classical work sounds its story, reaching through all  barriers, doubt, and ignorance, calling the truth in its most universal reach to the fore of the mind and spirit.  It is the message of the classical work that makes a most total statement of incalculable and invaluable worth to the listener.  That statement of truth has the power to further reach into the everyday life of the music devotee, and it guides inestimably the thoughts, deeds and pursuit of happiness according to the extent of the reach so realized.  If you are so inclined, combining the goal of learning the individual sound of each composer and perhaps even his various works by title with the more subtle task yet of realizing the message behind the composer's own variance in language is the way for you; in fact, this is the way will give you the greatest yield of truth through classical music.  Once that more ultimate level of knowledge is attained, you can choose your listening genre with a finer resolve according to your state of mind at a given moment or your need to continue a certain contemplation, perhaps.

Thus, as in all disciplines where the utmost in refined knowledge comprises the body of knowledge at hand for consideration, factual knowledge of classical music should become a platform for the most subtle truth,  the greater essence of the truth, which underlies the knowledge conferred by the language of classical music.  This is the way of education in classical music: to offer the truth to the devotee whose understanding will begin when the match between objective reality and the subjective will to seek greater self-realization is made successfully through the experience of listening to classical music.  The fact that such deeper self-realization is available through classical music is precisely why classical music never dies.  

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AFTERWORD :

In view of the foregoing guidance offered you as you begin your journey into the majestic realm of classical music, may you be blessed to find that for which you seek in this enlightening art form.  I encourage you to read the articles in this Web site to help you formulate your vision of music as you come closer to your goal of understanding classical music.  Some theoretical analysis should be very helpful to you as you begin to find yourself in classical music so that these articles may thus act like guides for you.    

Moreover, the prospectus for more articles at Starkmusic.org should also inspire you since you may continue learning even after you feel comfortable with the introduction you gain from these early essays.  These early essays should provide you your first acquaintance through reading and study and listening.  Once you find yourself playing a certain piece by a certain composer for upliftment and peace of mind, then you will know that you have arrived at a deeper realization of self.  Once this process of self-realization has taken seed form, a great gift to you has been conferred.  May that gift abound in your life.  This is my vision and prayer for you.

For those who are already skilled at understanding classical music, there is bound to be some new insight within these questions which will make you pause to think and re-think what you know and how to approach a new level in understanding classical.  Indeed, going back to first fundamentals is exactly how you can derive a new progression in your ability to appreciate the finer nuances of the language of music.

The Composer who cares,  

Marilynn Stark     December 29, 2002             

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By Composer Marilynn Stark
Copyright 2002   All rights reserved.
Revised: February 24, 2012 .

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 The above math graphic was taken from "Graphics for the Calculus Classroom" by Douglas N. Arnold.  The URL for this Web site is:  http://www.ima.umn.edu/~arnold/graphics.html     

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This page was last updated on 02/24/2012 02:26 AM