How to listen to classical music

It’s funny how consistent the comments are when folks discover I host a classical music program on WTJU. “Wow, you must be smart to listen to classical music.” “I guess you have to know a lot about classical music to appreciate it.” “I don’t have a degree in music, so I just listen to [insert any other musical genre here].”
Well, none of that needs to be true. I’ve always said you just have to listen with open ears and an open mind. Embrace the works that move you, and pass on the ones that don’t. Never mind about what you think you “should” like, or what the experts think are the non plus ultra. It’s just between you and the music.

But you do have to listen, or you’ll completely miss out on what could be a life-changing experience.

And that’s part of the point Benjamin F. Carlson made in his Atlantic post aptly titled “The Secret to Classical Music: It’s Just Music.” He writes:

My thesis is that people aren’t listening [to classical music] because they haven’t had the right introduction, and because of the image. In today’s world, the lovely words “opera” and “symphony” are redolent with snobbery. As I know too well, liking the music is seen as a bit eccentric, if not geriatric, pretentious, and politically reactionary: a bit like wearing furs or an ascot as a twentysomething.

I hope we can get past that. Classical music is old, but it isn’t for old men. The music survived because it is some of the best work humans have done in four centuries. For the thrill of a late-Beethoven trill, it’s worth getting past the admittedly stuffy, stagey conventions. Besides: the post-modern mind has a genius for stripping things—whether mutton-chops or sitars or kheffiyehs—from their context. It’s time Bach, author of the most face-melting harpsichord riffs known to man, came in for his turn.

Carlson’s post kicks off a series he’s writing to introduce his fellow twentysomethings to the joys of classical music — without the baggage. I’m looking forward to it, and so should you. Whether your a full-blown classical music nerd like myself or just a casual listener, there’s a lot to gain by looking afresh at the assumptions underlying your listening habits.

And he’s right — classical music isn’t just for old men. Heck, it’s not even just for men.

More Recent Posts

  • Danny Knicely & Jack Dunlap on Folk & Beyond, Oct 15

    Multi-instrumentalist Danny Knicely and his VA Folklife apprentice on the mandolin, Jack Dunlap, will stop by the WTJU studios Thursday afternoon, October 15, at 4 pm for a visit to Folk & Beyond.  Later that evening they will be putting on a concert at The Front Porch in Charlottesville (details). Danny and Jack are currently […]

  • Oct 10 Gather ‘Round: David Grier & Chris Thile (2000)

    Gather ‘Round each Saturday night from 8-9 for WTJU Folk‘s concert series; both archived and live. There will be shows from The Prism Coffeehouse and VA Folklife archives mixed in with some from our announcers’ own libraries. And you never know when a live concert might pop up!  91.1 FM around Charlottesville, 102.9 FM down […]

  • Blue Ridge Irish Music School Invades AWII, Oct 10

    Members of the Blue Ridge Irish Music School (BRIMS) will take over the October 10 edition of Atlantic Weekly II, playing some of their favorite pieces LIVE to help raise funds during WTJU’s Fall Pledge Drive.  We might even get in a few tunes from Maivish, who will be performing that same evening at C’Ville […]

  • Something New Meets The Future, Oct 7

    Something New, heard each Wednesday afternoon from 4-6 (edt) as part of the WTJU Folk afternoon lineup, shares the latest in new releases.  Tune in this Wednesday afternoon as they take a glimpse into the future, playing a few tunes which have not even been released!  Local singer/songwriter Jason Burke might even stop by to […]

  • Phenomenal Fiddling with Isabella Gorman & Victor Furtado on Sunset Road, Oct 9

    Local young fiddle phenom Isabella Gorman visits with Sunset Road host Pete as they share some of their favorite fiddle players. Isabella will bring her fiddle & play a few tunes, and she will be accompanied by banjo player extraordinaire Victor Furtado  For the right pledge Pete might even join in!  Want to hear your […]