Thursday, July 11, 2013

On Learning About Classical Music

I've been really excited to write about this. I feel like I should put it off longer but I'm too pumped to wait.

No, I'm not pregnant, or engaged, or moving.

I've been listening to classical music. Exclusively, even. At some point I'll go back to my usual 21st century stuff too, but opening the doors to the world of classical music is an exciting thing.

I've always really liked classical music. As a kid, I remember my mom buying this toy for my younger cousin's birthday. I can't remember what it was, but it played different music. One of the buttons played the first bar of Beethoven's "Für Elise." I didn't know what it was, but I loved it, and was sad when we had to give the toy to my cousin.

In Iqaluit, I often got sick of 99.9FM Raven Rock. One day I found a classical music station and I left it on there for quite awhile. I always thought it was bizarre that for a place with 7000 people and very few radio stations, we had a classical station. Still, I never bothered to learn anything about it.

Then last week, I got tired of my usual Sirius XM presets, as I often do. Even though I hate public radio, I don't think Sirius XM is always that much of an improvement. Many stations have annoying DJs but worse, they replay the same music. I used to download music I heard that I liked. Eventually I learned it was a waste of money because Sirius XM beats every good song-horse to a bloody, pulpy death.

Last week I decided I should find new presets (my car allows 18 and I've only used 10 or so). I stumbled upon the only 2 classical stations. Maybe it was the ability to see what I was listening to, or maybe it's this whole minimalism kick I've been on, but the classical music stuck. I haven't listened to modern music in a solid week now (except for in public places where I don't control the music).

The big thing with classical music is the learning involved to truly appreciate it. I've been looking at websites and glossaries but it's confusing. I haven't quite figured out the difference between a symphony and a movement. What's a sonata (besides a Hyundai)? And a concerto? Why do I care what key (?) the piece is in? Do people care about what orchestra/quartet/etc is playing the piece, or are they more concerned with hearing the specific piece?

Obviously, classical music is quite a bit different from current pop music. There's no albums, singles, or music videos. To really understand a piece, you need to understand the era it was written in, who composed it, what was going on in their life at that point in time. It's not as simple as listening to the words to understand the message. That's as far as music from the Romantic era is concerned, apparently the Classical music is pretty emotionless and mostly a game of technique. Even though this new interest of mine is a bit daunting, it's like a breath of fresh air compared to all the crap on the radio right now. I can only handle so much Mumford and Sons.

I plan to write more about this as my musical education grows and I discover more specifically what I like and don't like. If you know the answers to any of the questions I asked a few paragraphs above, feel free to answer them (in laymen's terms for the time being).


  1. I LOVED this post, Jaime! And don't worry about not knowing. I've been listening to classical music pretty much my entire life and I'm still learning things....or in some cases forgetting and remembering. A sonata is a piece (usually divided into 3 sections, or movements) for a solo interment and a concerto is a large work (again normally 3 movements) for orchestra and a solo instrument....there are tons of these for piano and violin. I know "Fur Elise is a type of short piano piece called a bagatelle but really, I'd have to look it up to remember what exactly a bagatelle is. I wouldn't call classical music emotionless but that's just my own opinion. A lot of dance forms were used in classical, Mozart for example....and the instrumentation obviously is very different so I think for many people it takes a little getting used to IMHO. It wasn't until after university really that I started to pay attention to what ensemble/artist was recording a particular piece. For some people this isn't important. For me I have strong preferences just depending on what style of music it is and who composed it but sometimes its just nice to listen to it for its own sake. I saw online that the old armoury building in Windsor is going to be re-purposed as a new music school for the university which had me uber-excited and wishing I was back in university (minus the early mornings and studying of course.) Anyhow, I'm rambling here

    1. Darcy! I'm so glad you commented, I was hoping you would. I knew you liked classical music so I was hoping you would help me out with the terminology. Thanks for that, by the way.

      I didn't mean all classical music was emotionless...I was referring to the Classical Era, because I've read that rich people paid composers to write stuff for background music at parties. Maybe this is what you're saying isn't definitely know more than I do, of course.

      Right now I'm only listening to stuff from the Romantic Era, namely Beethoven. From what I can tell, I don't know how much I'm going to like modern stuff. I bought a CD of more modern romantic classical music (at least I think it's a little more modern) and I don't like any of it nearly as much as I like Beethoven. I'm hooked on piano sonata no. 14 right now. :)

      Before I get rambling too, thanks again for the clarification on terms. Explanation in laymen's terms helps a lot.

  2. I agree with Darcy, not emotionless. It's the original EMO! Just listen to Beethoven, his stuff is so full of anger or sadness (although he is in the Romantic period, apparently a lot of his stuff is considered more classic stlye..hahah I have no idea what I'm talking about, I just googled that shit). Beethoven is my favourite, I started listening to him when I was 3, Fur Elise was inside my teddy bear and I played it over and over. Then we went to Beethoven's house (I lived in Germany when I was 3).

    Then I really got heavy into the "NeoClassical" in highschool, it's dark and dramatic; Stravinsky. I also really dig Bartok.

    Anyways enjoy, I love putting it on for the girls. I can only handle it in doses though, it's refreshing to start, but wears on my quickly, especially if I'm not in the mood for it. Though I'll listen to anything short of rap.



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