Appreciating Classical Music and the Arts

Many people have the same complaints about classical music and poetry. Some say classical music bores them and poetry just does not make any sense. In reality, they suffer a problem very similar to culture shock, or in other words, they have not learned how to appreciate poetry or classical music. I should be clear that most people fall into this category. Even people who have studied the arts often times do not put forth the energy required to appreciate some classical music or poetry. A look at how people listen and appreciate might help to understand what a listener or reader really has to do if they want to avoid being bored to tears by T. S. Eliot's "Ash Wednesday" or Pier Gynt's Hall of the Mountain King.

Spoiled by popular music, most people have never been taught how to listen to classical music. Popular music tends to consist of about three chords, has a repetitive 'hook', and nearly always consists of a four-four beat, three verses, and a chorus, except when it's even simpler than that. Most popular music will repeat the important bits multiple times with a catchy rhythm just in case you didn't hear it the first time, so you can learn the words to a song without ever really listening to it. In fact, anyone who happened to sit down and do nothing but listen intently to all the chord progressions, the lyrics, and the subtleties of the popular genre will most likely get really bored, really fast. Although they will come away knowing the song by heart. Which just emphasizes my point, popular music teaches all the wrong lessons for listening to classical music.

Classical music also has a melodic 'hook', often call a motif. This motif goes around and around, but every time suffers important alterations. The casual listener often finds himself bored to tears as it seemingly repeats itself over and over, but only because s/he is only superficially listening. More careful attention reveals that the composer takes that melody and flips it upside down, sideways, backwards, high, low, fast, slow, and finally pulls it right side up again, all to the counterpoint of an entire orchestra. In other words, you cannot do other things while listening to classical music. Cleaning the house to the sound of the Beatles will work fine, but listening to Mozart's Requiem with the vacuum cleaner going will make it range from inaudible to noise. The secret to enjoyment lies in paying attention and ignoring outside distractions. I won't promise that this way of listening will make classical your favorite music, but at least you will know what you've been missing.