Thursday, May 18, 2006


So the posts I linked to the other day have continued to stir discussion about how to get people interested in classical music, and I thought I'd share my own thoughts.

In my experience any unfamiliar genre of music will fail to leave an impression the first few times you hear it as your brain has to some degree be trained to know how to listen to it. We've all grown up with exposure to pop and (hopefully) rock music so it takes no conscious effort to appreciate these genres, whereas unless you've grown up with them jazz, blues or classical can take a little while before it too becomes familiar enough to appreciate easily.

I find the best way to listen to something unfamiliar is to put it on in the background while you do something mentally undemanding. Two memorable 'holy shit this is fucking good' moments happened for me this way, once when Ravel's Bolero came on the radio while I was driving home from work and again when listening to Debussy's La Mer while playing Civ 4.

I think classical aficionado's often don't really appreciate this. To them a certain piece's appeal is obvious and if anyone doesn't get it they assume there must be something wrong with them. And of course the snobbishness can go the other way too, someone with no knowledge of classical music might get told that Beethoven's seventh is the greatest piece of music ever written, but feel nothing when they first hear it themselves and write this whole 'classical music' thing off as an 'emperor's new clothes' type of pretentiousness, or just some old person thing to be classified under 'shit I don't care about' along with Coronation Street.

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