This weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… classical music… June 13, 2009Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
A guest post by D.J.P. O’Kane.
This post differs from other, similar, posts on a musical theme by containing references to classical music. Those of a nervous disposition should read no further. I don’t listen to classical music exclusively – I’ve been listening to Neko Case’s alt-country-indie pop crossover stuff a lot these days – but more often than not I’d put the likes of Maxim Vengerov playing Mozart on, rather whatever desperate faraggo has caught the popular imagination this week.
Here’s Neko Case with her song ‘This Tornado Loves You’:
And here’s Maxim Vengerov playing Mozart.
The reason I’m typing this is because WorldByStorm challenged me to write something about classical music in the style of his ‘this weekend I’m listening to. . . ‘ posts. In the comments section of one of those posts, I challenged him on the grounds that since he was even older than me (and I see new grey hairs every time I look in the mirror in the morning) it was a bit peculiar that he should be listening to musical genres that were identified in the deepest darkest depths of the twentieth century with ‘the young’ that motley crew united only by their shared membership in a chronological category.
I write this not only in a spirit of ‘hey, you kids, get off my lawn’, though I admit that that plays some part in my thinking. I’m writing this because I found that apart from nostalgia there is (for me) no real reason to listen to sounds that are (in my subjective opinion) incapable of dealing with complex and serious adult themes, or of connecting with the reality of our times in the way that classical, folk, jazz, or other genres can.
So one reason – though not the only reason for listening to classical music (or to Jazz, or Folk, or what have you) is that it provides a particular way of getting access to a broader view of the world than you’d get with the stuff ‘the kids’ listen to. Compare Joy Division’s flirtation with fascist imagery (and I’m not too sure about their name implying identification with the victims) with Oliver Messaien’s Quartet for the End of Time.
First off here’s Joy Division on UK television in the late 1970s:
Now here’s a contemporary rendering of the Quartet for the End of Time:
Messaien composed his piece while interned in a concentration camp in occupied Europe. I’ll admit that I don’t listen to this sort of thing very often, but I do think that it’s a more effective reflection in musical art of the reality of the twentieth century than you’d get with Joy Division. The fact that the musicians doing Messaien’s piece can actually play their instruments to a very high level of skill helps as well.
In conclusion, here’s my all time favourite classical piece, Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances, from the opera Prince Igor.