So you want to listen to classical music?

For most classical music seems like some closed club that you need to know music theory to enjoy. In this article, I explain why anyone can get into it.

This question seems daunting, almost like a challenge. I remember being asked that by a person I know who likes classical music and fits into the mould that so many of that ilk seem to be made from. She was the highfalutin kind of person who seemed to make out that in order to appreciate classical music you had to know the ins and out of musical theory, and that if you did not understand even the simple basics of music theory then you would not be capable of enjoying this art form. Her question sounded more like she was mocking me rather than looking to discuss a common interest with me. She knew I had no musical training, while she had. The impression she gave me was that there was no way I could possibly like classical music because I knew nothing about it.

But this is complete and utter rubbish. You can enjoy any art form whatsoever without having even the slightest idea how someone does something. From painting, through music, the only thing you need to know is that art is appreciated not because one knows the theory behind its construction but (1) you like what you are seeing, reading, or hearing, and (2) beyond the superficial of aesthetics there is some deeper emotional connection to the piece.

Classical music is as hardcore and rebellious as punk rock. Trust me, the more you get to know about it the more you will see that this is the case.

When you look at other music forms, like pop, rock, or whatever, a person enjoys the song or tune simply for that reason. They might just like the catchy tune or melody, the drum beat and baselines, or just enjoy the lyrics. But apart from that, you have no idea what the composer went through when writing it, what music theory went into its composition, or what tricks went into its being recorded. The same can definitely be said about classical music. You do not need to know about music theory to enjoy it, no matter what form you are listening to.

The difference between classical music and all the other forms of musical genres is the fact that classical stretch further back in time taking in hundreds of years of music history whereas most other forms are a still relatively new. Pop is the best example, this form really only got started in the late 50s early 60s.

A common misconception, therefore, is that classical music is old, stuffy, and out of date. A relic, or museum piece that nobody young would like. But this is just not true at all. Classical music is as hardcore and rebellious as punk rock. Trust me, the more you get to know about it the more you will see that this is the case.

Just as rock can be divided into different forms based on when it was recorded, say for example rock and roll, hard rock, prog rock, punk rock, and heavy metal, all tell you something of the style and time period, so too can Classical music be divided into sub-genres that tell you something of the style and times they were written in.

There are 7 definite periods of classical music. These are as follows.

The Ancient (pre 500) Early music (500- 1400)The Renaissance (1400-1600) The Baroque (1600- 1750) The Classical Period (1750-1820) The Romantic Period (1820- 1910) and The Contemporary Period (1910- today) I personally like to split the contemporary period into two parts. The Modern (1910-1930) and the Post Modern (1930- today) because it is crazy to compare the works of Rachmaninov with that of Philip Glass.

In the end, the best way to get into the music is to just listen to it.

The best way to get into the music, however, is not to get too bogged down with the dates and titles of these periods. The point is that you should look at each of these different periods as a chance to find what particular type of classical music you like best. Plunge into the music by sampling the different periods to find what you like. Remember also that a lot of the early periods were written mostly for the church and tend to be religious, though not always. It is good to note that these early periods also contain a lot more vocal music. The Classical period saw a move away from religious music as society became more secular.

Just listen to what you can, find what you like, and don’t let anyone put you off. Everyone starts any endeavour with the same amount of knowledge.

Another good way to get into music is to think of composers that you would like to listen to. The classical period contains a lot of the names that we have come to know about, Mozart, Hayden, Beethoven for example. This could help as you do some research, look up the different periods and see what names were big names and see if you can come up with something that really reaches you. Google the names of the composers and see what comes up, in the end, the best way to get into the music is to just listen to it.

Don’t let anyone put you off. Classical music is not an exclusive club that requires some insider knowledge. It is just like any other type of music that you listen to. Just pick up an album and listen, go to concerts, they are not expensive and if you are unsure of when to clap, just wait for others to start clapping. I will deal more about concert going in another post, but for now, just listen to what you can, find what you like, and don’t let anyone put you off. Everyone starts any endeavour with the same amount of knowledge.

Classical music is not an exclusive club that requires some insider knowledge. It is just like any other type of music that you listen to. Just pick up an album and listen.

The only thing you really need to know is that when you look up a piece of classical music, say for example Beethoven’s 5th symphony, and you see Op 67, it might be confusing. Don’t fret. This stands for opus and is a device that enables us to slot a piece in the order of it’s being written. For Mozart, this is designated as a K number, not an OP number. These numbers help us, for example, Beethoven’s first symphony is his Opus 21, which means he wrote 20 other pieces of music before writing that symphony, his second symphony has the opus number 36. We see then that it is a really helpful device for dating a work and seeing where it slots in the overall work of the composer. I added this explanation because someone once asked what the OP number meant and she was laughed at by people who felt too happy to tear down rather than help. These people seem to care nothing about the music but simply relish the pretence of elitism that the music gives them. Take no heed of those ones. Classical music is a great form. Get into it.

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