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Joshua Iyer

Pondering Session: Classical music

March 9, 2013 at 4:54 PM

Today I was out for my morning Saturday walk, pondering about pondering, life, and music while listening to Bach's Concerto for Three Violins in D Major. First, two quick thoughts about that piece: one, it modulates to A Major right at the very beginning, which is kind of weird, but then again, it's Bach. And two, it's very violin-based and I love it! :)

Anyways. On my walk, I was thinking about how nice it would be to be springtime weather, because right now there's still snow on the ground. It was raining a little during my walk, which made me think of rainy summer nights. Respectively, I thought of the morning birds of spring and the evening cicadas of summer and also the storms summer brings. AFter that, I remembered Vivaldi's Four Seasons (and I'm doing a project with "Winter." As a side note, it's coming along great!) Then I began to think about what it would be like to sit in a chair in the summer, but then I really began to put connections to music. Just how did music start? I mean, we have facts about when it began as humans, but is there a such thing as music in animals, like the birds and cicadas I mentioned?

I believe there is. I believe, in their own way, the birds and the cicadas have their own symphonies. They pass songs down through the generations. (Any other facts you guys know of this subject would be helpful, too!) Then I began to think about all the various instruments we have in our world today. There are 'natural' instruments and 'electronic' instruments. Many natural instruments have been converted into electronic ones (i.e. guitars, basses, violins, drums). Many electronic instruments have been more recently created by us (i.e. synthesizers, 8-bit video game sound files, MIDI, etc.) I have a metaphorical belief that these natural instruments, like the guitar, the violin, the trumpet, the flute, the oboe, etc. all were grown by nature. They are bound to nature, just as our singing voice is. Obviously, this did not occur, but these instruments were around long before electricity was discovered and used to create more instruments. Now, I'm not saying any of these electronic instruments are bad; if anything, they're very helpful to create music just by yourself (I use GarageBand and I have to use synthesizers to get some sounds I want.).

In English class we read a poem recently that depicted the great war humans are having against nature. We are trying to take over nature with our roads, our cars, our computers. (Again, I'm not saying any of this is bad. Without computers, how would you be reading this right now?) But no matter what we do, nature will always fight back. This is what is keeping classical music alive. Classical music used to be the pop stars and digital downloads of pop music today. Again, it's not bad. But people are actually disliking classical music, and the reason, as my Music Theory teacher has said, is because they don't know how to listen to it. That's what part of my Vivaldi project is - we're writing down what's happening in the symphony or concerto as it happens in the piece, so we create a movie of the piece, essentially, every moment, each movement, will be shown in the movie. Maybe we can get classical music alive. Many film and gaming composers writing music now for orchestras are trying to do this. We just need to keep trying.

So yeah. That was my pondering session. You can think about a lot of things on a walk. I think I'm going to leave it at that, so as you've always been doing, record your comments about this; I'm curious to know what you think. Thanks for reading!

From jean dubuisson
Posted on March 9, 2013 at 8:14 PM
hi Joshua, I think it is a very common misconception that classical music was the pop music of the past. classical music was the music of the social upper class. pop music at the time was folk music, played by troubadours and the like.
From Mallory Linehan
Posted on March 9, 2013 at 8:03 PM
I think you made a really great point: most people in our generation (younger ones in particular) don't know how to listen to classical music.
Just the other night, I was riding in the car with a friend from my high school orchestra and her father, and he was saying that he thinks my orchestra director only picks out music that SHE likes (in his words: old, European sounding music that us parents have never heard). This made me ponder a bit as well: why is it that it's hard for a lot of people my age (and even older) to appreciate the beauty in Classical music? One theory I've begun to accept is that people simply don't listen to it loudly enough. I know that sounds strange, but I think playing in an orchestra, in the midst of all the sounds being created, gives one such a great experience of the music they may be playing. If you listen to a really great symphony too quietly, you don't notice all the little details and moving parts.
Another hypothesis I have generated is that Classical music is a language much harder to understand. Yet another example from just recently: I'm in a "Stress Management" gym class at school, and our very first assignment is to find a song that has a good message. One of the very first direction for the assignment was that the song had to have words. As much as I love all kinds of music, I believe you can say just as much, if not more, with classical music. For example, I can listen to any Katy Perry song (nothing against her, personally, I'm sure she's a wonderful person) once and know exactly what it's about. Not really open to interpretation; this is exactly what she's trying to say. But something else, lets say, Fur Elise--because everyone knows this tune--could be about a lot of different things, all depending on the way you play it. It could be tentative and somber, then optimistic and playful, and back to the first--an idea that can't be ignored, a thought that is heavy and persistent--then something breaks or changes, and it is suddenly fiery and challenging, until the notes fly upwards and fall back down into that same, echoing state of mind.
Classical music is not bounded by words, which is why people like you and me can spend our lives studying the violin and never be quite finished. It's easy to dislike the things one does not understand, but I don't think anyone can argue that there isn't something achingly beautiful about a bow gently pulling a single sweet song out a violin in an open auditorium.
From Joshua Iyer
Posted on March 9, 2013 at 11:40 PM
Ok, thank you for the correction! And thanks for the ideas and theories. I do agree that classical music is open for interpretation, and maybe that's why some people don't 'understand' it.
From Tommy Atkinson
Posted on March 10, 2013 at 3:25 AM
I think every classical musician should watch this video and share it with their friends. It's Benjamin Zander (conductor) talking about the transformative power of classical music. It's a great way to start thinking about classical music for someone who never really has before.

From Joshua Iyer
Posted on March 10, 2013 at 4:52 PM
Oh yes, I've watched those videos in orchestra class; they did inspire me quite a bit. I don't believe I saw this one, so I'll watch it! Thanks for sharing!
From Kathryn Martin
Posted on March 12, 2013 at 2:11 AM
you're really funny joshua iyer. I enjoy reading all your little blogs and updates and find them very refreshing. :)

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