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According To Greg Sandow, "Classical Music Is Easy "

  The irrepressible composer,critic,teacher and blogger Greg Sandow is at it again, bless him, at his blog  at artsjournal.com .  A recent post discusses a  recent survey by 60 Minutes magazine about which kinds of music people found most easy or difficult to loisten to .  900 people were questioned and asked to rank Heavy Metal , Country music Hip Hop and classical according to how easy or difficult they are to listen to .

  The most difficult ?  The majority said Heavy metal .  Only a small percentage  said classical .  Interesting, but what kind of classical music have these people heard ?  Sandow sets up  his usual straw men of  classical musicians and fans supposedly praising the lofty complexisty and profundity of classical and looking down at the Neanderthal public which is too stupid to appreciate it  etc. 

   But classical music is a vast field with  vastly differing kinds of music ranging from quite simple to mind-bogglingly complex .  Naturally, not too many people like to  spend their time with the most complex kind , although some do and  don't mind the challenge at all, including yours truly .  In classical, there are  works as simple and straightforward as Vivaldi's The Four Seasons and Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik ,  and works  by composers such as Elliott Carter, Pierre Boulez, the late Milton Babbitt and others  which  are abpout as easy to grasp as a treatise on nuclear physics  or  advanced mathematics . 

   Sandow cites the cliche abpout the way so many people enjoy classical music because's so "relaxing"  and "sweetly melifluous".  Certainly, some classical music is beautiful , melifluous and soothing .  Then he compares classical with  the raw power of Heavy Metal, sayuing that htis is music that really makes people sit up and pay attention . 

   Well, there are quite a few classical works which make Heavy Metal sound like a lulaby !  A 100 piece orchestra  can generate more raw power than any Rock band, which needs amplification,anyway .  Not only that, it has  something you just don't get in rock - dynamic constrast, or many gradations of loud and soft, from almost inaudible to  the wake the dead and cause earthquakes level .

   Some examples of these would be  "The Ride Of The Valkyries" , from Wagner's Ring, Die Walkure to be specific ,  Stravinsky's Rite of Spring , Prokofiev's Scythian Suite ,  Hekla by the obscure Icelandic composer  Jon Leifs (  1899 - 1968 ), which portrays the mighty volcano of that name ,  the Alpine symphony of Richard Strauss, which has a section describing an alpin storm which will make you run for shelter ,  Prokofiev's infernal symphony no 3 ,  Ottorino Respighi's symphonic poems The Pines of Rome and Roman Festivals ,  Mahler's gargantuan choral symphony, his 8th, written for  everything including the kitchen sink  .In fact, many Heavy Metal musicians really love these loud  works and think they're cool as all getout .   But these classical composers also wroite plenty of quiet,reflective music,too .

    The five string quartets of  103 ! year old American composer Elliott Carter may call for only two violins, a viola and a cello ,  but they are  mind-bendingly intricate works , filled  with  unbelievably complex and irregular rhythms  ,  and so many different ideas  going on at the same time  that it will make you rmind reel .  Not much noise, but  an awful lot to ponder . 

    One thing that makes classical so different from other kinds of music is that  you cannot really understand it without  a context .  Why ? Becaise when most people think of music, they think of simple songs  with lyrics .  But while vocal music is a very important part of classical ,  much of it is purely instrumental ,  and if you just hear  sounds without some  kind of context, some fram eof reference, it will be meaningless to you .

   Suppose I tell ask a friend of mine who is not into classical  music and knows  virtually nothing baout it  to  listen to a symphony by Brahms on CD .  He will ask , what's a symphony, who the heck is Brahms ?  What are thpoise strange sounds? Why the heck am I listenoing to this  stuff ?  You see, he doesn't know that a symphony is  a form of classical music , sort of like  a  sonnet is a form of poetry , and that Johannes Brahms was a German guy  from the 19th century who was a composer and wrote it . Maybe I'm exagerating about how ignorant  about so many people are about classicla music , but I think you get my point .

   Now do you still think classical music is easy ?

Posted: Jun 11 2012, 08:41 PM by the horn | with no comments
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