There is a reason that Looney Tunes did so many cartoons based off of operas and using classical music – and why these are the pieces of classical music we all know.
“The Beautiful Blue Danube,” aka Looney Tunes “A Corny Concerto” and “The Ride of the Valkyries,” aka “Kill The Wabbit” and who can forget the “The Barber of Seville”? These are all well-known and successful pieces of music that are classical. Wagner, Strauss and Verdi were at one time household names, and while still well-known, sadly these names mean nothing to a growing number of people these days. They think classical music is boring and think they can’t relate to it, which is an important distinction to consider. People who “hate” classical music or say they just can’t relate to it, aren’t giving it a chance.
Maybe they think it wasn’t meant for them, or you have to have a music degree to appreciate anything about classical music. But consider why the movie “The Pianist” was such a blockbuster. We all know it wasn’t because of Adrian Brody’s good looks –it was because of the emotional rollercoaster this movie took us on through his music. I personally tried to watch this movie three times and could never get through it because of the horrible scenes of what the Jewish people endured. I ended up just buying the CD as I wanted so much to hear the music. If you have never seen this movie or heard the music, I highly recommend the sound track, but prepare yourself for the strong and powerful emotional ride the music alone gives you.
There is a reason that the German officer, Hosenfeld, helped Szpilman after hearing him play Chopin’s “Ballade in G Minor,” – because of the power of music. Hosenfeld was so moved by the beauty and intensity of the musical performance that he did something that went against his training and chose to help Szpilman. He did this because Hosenfeld wasn’t a robot, but a real person, and there really are powers that can move a human being instead of orders from a superior officer. In this case it was music. Another great and powerful movie with a musical
rollercoaster twist is “Shine”, which portrays the emotional stress David Helfgott endures during his training for perfection.
Knowing the power music can have, it is frustrating to think how many people close themselves off from their own enjoyment of classical music. Common excuses include: it’s boring; there are no words; concerts are too long and you have to sit still. Well, classical music is certainly not boring, and as for having no words, ask yourself if you’ve never had a moment of silent communication with someone. Then you can realize the power of communicating without words.
Note that the pivotal moment of “The Pianist” was a piece of music without words. There were no song lyrics to tell the listener what to think. The performer relies on the emotions he himself can infuse into the sounds, combined with the skill of the composer in actually arranging the music to mean something. Magical things can happen when listening to classical music.
Leonard Bernstein, says it perfectly, “Music . . . can name the unnamable and communicate the unknowable.”
Sometimes it really does help to have a little guidance, especially when listening to a piece for the first time. If you know a little about what the composer is trying to express in a particular piece, it sets up certain expectations. It would certainly change your experience of Mozart’s Requiem Mass if you expected it to be a party jam.
Benjamin Zander, a classical music expert and enthusiast, tells a story of a conversation he had with a young teenage boy in Ireland, who fought on the streets as part of the struggle between Catholics and Protestants. Zander had spoken and performed at the boy’s school, playing Chopin’s SOMETHING after explaining the basis for classical composition: it shows you your home, takes you away, and then brings you back home, safe and sound.
He told the audience to listen to how Chopin does this. He also told them to think of a person they love who was no longer with them while they listen. The next morning, the boy found Zander and told him how the year before, his brother had been shot and killed, but he had never cried for him. Not until Zander had explained how to listen to classical music did the boy feel tears streaming down his face for his brother, listening to the powerful sorrow in Chopin’s SOMETHING. “It felt good to cry for my brother,” he told Zander.
This experience convinced Zander that “everyone” can enjoy classical music – if they were willing to listen with an open mind, one would be amazed at what it could do to one’s heart. Opening the mind is more important than knowing how, because in the end, no one can tell you how you listen because no one can listen for you. You must be the one to discover what is meaningful for you, and you can’t do it unless you start trying out classical music. After all, haven’t you ever wondered why symphonies are still around when supposedly no one listens to classical music anymore?
Now, please tell me where that last piece of music took you?