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

  • Paul Lansky – Contemplating Weather

    The more I hear Paul Lansky’s post-serial music, the more I like it. This new release features three such works: Contemplating Weather for chorale and 11 instruments; Travel Diary for percussion duo; and It All Adds Up for piano duo. Contemplating Weather has what I would describe as a post-tonal Copland character to it. The harmonies are very modal […]

  • Smokey & The Mirror and The Honey Dewdrops on Lambeth Live, Aug 7

    Coming up August 7, Smokey & The Mirror and The Honey Dewdrops will put on a rare co-bill edition of Lambeth Live, and you are invited!  Smokey & The Mirror will put on the first set, followed by The Honey Dewdrops.  And as a special treat, they will perform the final set together. Lambeth Live […]

  • Ann Sexton Interview 2/27/2012

    South Carolina Soul diva Ann Sexton talks about her career in ’70s Soul. You can download the interview here or stream it live below:

  • Harpeth Rising “Shifted” to Folk & Beyond, Aug 6

    Chamberfolk trio Harpeth Rising is currently in the midst of a tour around the United States and Europe in support of their upcoming album, “Shifted”.  They found time to stop by WTJU a few weeks back, and Folk & Beyond will air some of that visit this Thursday, August 6, from 4-6 pm (edt).  Harpeth […]

  • New Jazz Adds – 7/30/2015

    New Jazz Adds – 8/3/2015 Chris Dingman – The Subliminal And The Sublime (Inner Arts Initiative): Dingman composes and plays vibraphone as well as creating beautiful sonic textures through his direction and melding the performance of the players in his group: Loren Stillman (alto sax), Fabian Almazan (piano), Ryan Ferreira (guitar), Linda Oh (bass) and […]

  • Aug 1 Gather ‘Round: The Revelers (2015)

    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 […]