For those of you who do not yet know me, my name is Daniel Broniatowski, D.M.A. I am a classical violinist, music school director, wedding and event classical music contractor, and a classical music advocate. Our music school and wedding music agency are located in Boston and we serve New England.
I write today's article with a focus on listening. Listening is, in my opinion, the most important part of the classical-music-experience. Without our ears, none of this would be possible. We wouldn't be able to play and we wouldn't be able to participate in a concert audience.
Note how I worded the last phrase.."participate in a concert audience". I didn't use the words "hear" or even "listen". I used the word "participate", which brings me to an even more important premise of mine.
I am convinced that Classical Music is a tool that can bring peace to the world. Does that mean that Classical Music will make you a better or more peaceful person? No! The mere act of listening to classical music might temporarily put you in an emotional state but it will not change your life forever - unless one additional element is involved. It is the inclination of the listener and the performer that makes the difference between Classical Music being a conduit for peace vs. merely pleasant, beautiful sound. Before I get into this, let's set the stage:
We live in a world that is very dangerous. There is war in much of the world and things are getting worse. Many attribute conflict to fundamental disagreements between cultures, tribes, and clans. Others attribute conflict to one country wanting the resources of another country.
While all of the above may be true, there is a stronger, yet untapped, force in the world that connects all of us through our greater humanity. This is what many call "love". When I say "love", I don't mean the kind that we get from feelings. After all, feelings are never permanent, no matter how good or bad. What I mean by "love" is the true understanding of another man or woman's soul and using that understanding to better this person's life in a way that will empower them to help others. It is my belief that Classical Music fits into all of this by serving as a reflection of true love, when used correctly.
We musicians and music-lovers know that Classical Music is beautiful. It has an inherent harmony and structure that really can speak across all cultures. Furthermore, every emotion known to man (and woman) is represented in classical music because this music often imitates the voice - a voice that represents genuine emotion.
Yet, many people are unfortunately emotionally closed. They do not resonate with this music, or any music that depicts a reflection of genuine emotion. They might resonate very strongly with a pop song that talks about temporary feelings of love (or more likely, lust and sex), but they do not feel a deep connection with the emotions in Classical Music or pop music that deals with true human emotion. For the record, it is worth noting that not all Classical Music will speak to all lovers of Classical Music and not all Pop Music is lustful.
Let me take one quick step back again, for the record:
By "emotionally closed", I am not insinuating that these individuals do not feel emotion. Nor do I insinuate that they are worse people than Classical Music lovers. My point is that there is a rich world of emotion that they have not yet opened up to. Hence, the word "closed".
So where do we go with this? Should these "emotionally closed" individuals be sensitized to Classical Music? And how does one do this?
The reality is that no one can or should force anyone to do anything in this world. Yet, if Classical Music can be a reflection of true love, which is my premise above, then I believe very strongly that there are millions of individuals out there who are already receptive and willing to support our cause. For their own personal reasons, they have come to a point in life where they have realized that there has to be more to our existence than mere feelings and desires.
I bet that most of my readers are not yet convinced with my argument that Classical Music can represent true love and some might even think I'm crazy. In fact, some of you might think that I am towing a narrow line and am putting this into black-and-white pop vs. classical terms. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the principle that I am about to discuss can equally apply to pop music of value as well. Now we're getting to the nitty gritty and this is the true crux of the matter:
Quality Music of all genres is a tool in which one can learn to listen.
That's it - full stop.
For those who have been to orchestra concerts in the United States, I am certain that you have seen the myriad of cultures and ancestries represented by looking at the faces of the musicians or their last names. Rarely do we musicians or concert-goers ever place importance on the music played as "typically German" or "typically French" anymore. Yes, there was a time when this type of nationalism mattered, but those days are gone in Classical Music.
So the beauty of Classical Music is that some 100 individuals in the orchestra have rehearsed all nuances, phrases, and timbres in the music so that the important emotional content of the composer is delivered with the conductor's interpretation. These individuals, all of various beliefs, have all come together to listen to one another and create a symbiotic relationship.
This relationship is only symbiotic if all the musicians are in this together. Furthermore, it is necessary to truly understand where the other musicians are coming from to create this whole from many parts. I would imagine that such a project would be even more effective if a bunch of musicians came together to create their own composition!
Do you see where I'm going with this? Through listening, one can understand. Through understanding, diverse individuals achieve synthesis.
Now, of course not all of my readers can play in orchestras. The beauty of this philosophy is that one need not do so in order to derive the benefits of learning how to listen. The benefits can be derived through two means:
1. Take music lessons. Whether you are 4 or 104, music lessons teach you to know thyself. When learning music, you develop a dialogue with your mind, body, and soul in order to achieve that same type of symbiosis above. Only this time, you are achieving a balance within. Again, this can only be achieved if your inclination is to do so, as opposed to the student who learns because his/her parents pressured him/her. Of course, as a teacher, I know full well that when the going gets tough, kids need to be taught to "stay the course", but that is a topic for a different time.
2. Learn how to be an active listener. Listening to quality classical music recordings with two to four parts for just 10 minutes per day teaches us to listen to more than one perspective. I would suggest picking just one short piece for strings per week (look for duos, trios, and quartets on Youtube). Listen to it every day for one week. You will be amazed that you can hear more and more detail and musical exchange of ideas, emotions, and thoughts, as the days go on. This is what I mean by active listening. Of course this type of listening requires attention. You can't read, do homework, or write e mails while doing this type of listening.
3. Attend concerts! By experiencing live music with a host of other like-minded individuals, you are coming together as a community. Of course, the challenge of the artist and concert programmer is to bring everyone together under a common theme.
Still, you'll become a better listener if you view the concert as a genuine dialogue between composer, performer, and listener. Listen carefully and you will understand!
Stay tuned for next week's blog post where I'll outline some of my favorite suggestions!
Daniel Broniatowski, D.M.A.
Music to Warm the Heart
Maestro Musicians, LLC
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