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Thread: New to Music

  1. #1
    Senior Member nefigah's Avatar
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    Question New to Music

    Hello all,

    I suppose the title of this post is a bit of a misnomer, as I've been listening to and playing (on guitar and drums) rock stuff for most of my life. However, classical music is a completely new thing for me. I recently took an interest in it after taking a class here in college on Western art/music history. It's had a dramatic effect on my life. I'm trying to learn more about it and find out what it means. I want to have a part in it also. I've begun taking piano lessons, and my current ultimate aspiration is to be an organist and to play Bach (which I realize is probably unattainable, as I'm already 25... but hey, it's a dream).

    However, I lack not only the intuitive skill in being able to garner the meaning of the music, but also anyone to really talk about it with. My family and friends, much like me, fall into the "uncultured swine" class of folk (and I say that with love!), and so I'm at a bit of a loss. I stumbled upon this community, and hope that I can find help here. I apologize in advance for my ignorance and any possible annoyance.

    I hope some of you wouldn't mind addressing some things that have been on my mind:
    Is an understanding of classical music possible through effort, or is it an intuitive thing?
    How much of the meaning of a piece is personal, and how much was placed by the composer and should be sought out?
    What is the proper way to listen--do I concentrate on a specific part or instrument, do I attempt to look at it as a whole, should I be thinking about things the music invokes, or be more focused on the music itself?
    Can listening to pieces by solo instruments provide as much value as listening to an orchestra?
    Is it normal for the sounds of certain instruments to be an "acquired taste"? (I noticed when listening to Eine kleine Nachtmusik for the first time last night, that although the range of sound was incredible, the fact that it was all string instruments gave it this smooth texture that I'm not used to.)
    Are there certain pieces that are more suited "for beginners"?

    Thank you for your time!
    -Jordan

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    Member kiwipolish's Avatar
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    Hello nefigah and welcome.

    Music is intuition. Just follow your feelings and intuition. If you like a particular genre or instrument, listen to it / work on it until you feel the need to explore further. I don't believe there are any rules. Let your curiosity and appetite guide you.

    You are 25 and a beginner... I have a cousin who was in your situation at your age. Absolute beginner, with a new interest in music. Then he heard of an opera composition competition and he wrote an opera for it - his Opus 1. He won the competition and now, 20 years later, makes his living as a composer.

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    just listen to some of the standards and your interest will be stimulated in certain directions.
    you will have much fun.
    try mahler sym 1.

    dj

  4. #4
    Andante
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    nefiga, a very dear friend of mine took up the Flute just before retirement at 65, he was not new to music but needed an interest to retire with. enjoy your music

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    Senior Member Elgarian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nefigah View Post
    What is the proper way to listen--do I concentrate on a specific part or instrument, do I attempt to look at it as a whole, should I be thinking about things the music invokes, or be more focused on the music itself?
    Gosh, I really sympathise with you over this. Quite recently I went through a stage like this myself. After listening to classical music for more than thirty years, I suddenly found myself questioning whether I was listening 'correctly' - in fact, it wasn't long before I wondered whether I really knew how to listen at all. I started to try to listen in a more focused, rational way, deliberately and consciously focusing on the themes, and the way they were developed, and so on... and within a few weeks realised that I was no longer enjoying any music at all! I'd made myself really quite miserable!

    Fortunately, it just so happened that at this time I chanced upon a recording of Massenet's opera Cendrillon (Cinderella), about which I knew nothing at all - I didn't even have a libretto, so I had only the vaguest notion about what was going on. And without making any conscious effort at all, but just sitting relaxed, listening through a pair of headphones while drinking a cup of coffee in the garden on a sunny day, I found myself laughing, smiling, sometimes eyes filling with tears as the music found its way through all the barriers I'd been building during the previous weeks.

    We're all different, so I don't believe that there's one 'correct' way to listen to music. I even listen to different composers differently: when I listen to Sibelius, my head is full of images of snow-covered valley slopes, fir trees, and soaring gulls. I just can't help it. When I listen to William Boyce, I want to dance and say good morning to everyone, and what a fine day it is. When I listen to Haydn I get no images at all - just a kind of 'atmospheric' eighteenth-century feeling, and a sense of 'rightness'. And all this seems to be the whole point of listening to music, to me: to extend and enrich our imaginative experience of life in ways which we couldn't achieve by any other means. Vaughan Williams said something (I can't find the exact quote offhand) about that power of music to evoke different states of being when he talked about the soldier who listens for the sound of the bugle. The soldier doesn't want to read the score, or an analysis of the essentials of bugle-playing. He just wants to hear and feel the music, because it's that, plain and simple, which will inspire him.

    So if I were in your position, I'd just keep listening for the bugle. I'd grab every chance to listen to as wide a range of music as possible, and wait for something to 'happen' - listen for the thrill of the sound of the bugle - and then seize on that, when it happens, and follow wherever it seems to lead.
    Last edited by Elgarian; Aug-24-2008 at 12:12.

  6. #6
    Senior Member nefigah's Avatar
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    Thank you for the responses. You conveyed what I needed to hear: that perhaps enjoying and creating music is not hopeless for me yet.

    I'm a computer programmer, and in general I've always tended toward the more logical side of things--I like processes, strategies. Hence my questions about things that probably don't have right answers! But I will continue on the journey. Last night I purchased a recording of Haydn's No. 88 and Beethoven's 3rd... I'm anxious to experience all I can!

    --Jordan

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    Senior Member Elgarian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nefigah View Post
    I'm anxious to experience all I can!
    Well, here's something wonderfully fine that you can try, at no cost at all:

    http://www.operatoday.com/content/20..._la_bohm_3.php

    Just click on the streaming audio link (on the far right below the photo, in red lettering). It will cost you nothing, yet this is a stupendous performance of La Boheme, and by the end of the first act (about half an hour of some of the very best singing of his very best music) you'll be able to decide pretty well whether Puccini is for you or not.

  8. #8
    Andante
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    nefigah One way of finding out what is going on is to focus on a particular instrument say in a string quartet, start with one movement listen to the Cello, then replay and follow the 1st Violin or the Viola etc etc. In a symphony which will be a little harder focus on the sections, strings, woodwind and so on, eventually you will be able to follow them all and hopefully get a better understanding and enjoyment of our music I still do it

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    Senior Member Rachovsky's Avatar
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    Hi Jordan (I'm Jordon) --

    I'm a youngster as well (I'm 17) so you and I have an entire life to listen to music (especially classical music I hope). Everytime I think of that It feels so exciting, heh. I wont specifically answer your questions, but I smile every time I see someone recommending a new listener to Mahler. He's having a more profound effect on the classical music world isn't he? I only wish I had discovered Mahler from the get go of listening to classical music.

    Here, go to my Youtube channel. It's: http://www.youtube.com/user/Sinneo91
    I have 3 playlists on there that I currently listen to on at least a weekly basis. Just click "Play All" on the right side for it to automatically move to the next 10 minutes without you having to do it manually.

    Try out the 2 Mahler first. Mahler's Symphony No. 2 is probably my most favorite symphony. Then Berlioz's Requiem is quite astounding. If you get a chance, listen to them and tell me what you think.

    Oh by the way, I can completely commiserate with you and your "uncultured swine." My mom listens to mainstream music and my dad likes bluegrass and country...
    Last edited by Rachovsky; Aug-25-2008 at 03:37.


    Music is the one incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend. -- Beethoven

  10. #10
    Senior Member nefigah's Avatar
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    Lots to sink my teeth into

    Elgarian-- Opera! I like Pavarotti's voice and have enjoyed solo performances I have seen of his. After listening, I can tell it is of high quality but not something I yet have a feel for. Another goal set Thank you for the link!

    Andante-- This sounds fun. Any piece you would recommend to start such an exercise with?

    Jordon-- Though the misspelling of our name saddens me , your music brings much happiness! It's fascinating (and admittedly somewhat distracting) to watch the orchestra in action. The technical aspect of music also interests me, and the gestures of the conductor, the fingering (and embouchure) of the players, and just in general being able to connect sounds with images is a lot to take in!

  11. #11
    Senior Member BuddhaBandit's Avatar
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    Nefigah-
    I'm still fairly young myself and, like you, spent many of my "formative" years with rock, country, blues, etc. and playing piano and guitar in those styles. When I first started getting into classical music, I faced much the same dilemma as you (and many other "noobs") face: with the breadth and depth of the repertoire, what is the right way to explore? Here's a few things that helped me:

    1. Listen to as much music as you can, from every period, movement, etc. You might not be able to distinguish the "masterpieces" at first listen, but by comparing the great works to the average works you'll get a better understanding of why some composers are so revered.

    2. Read the liner notes to all the albums you listen. Many liner note essays specifically point out elements of interest in the music, or the goal of the composer in writing it. Is the oboe and flute duet in the finale key to the piece? Do the soft chords in the strings accent the melodic line? Liner notes often help with the "what should I listen for?" question.

    3. Play some music (especially as you've begun taking lessons)! There is no better to understand the complex relationships in a piece than by performing the piece.

    4. Find a good, beginner's guidebook to classical music or a well-respected "Top 100" list and start listening.

    5. Participate as much as possible in discussions on forums like these.

    6. I don't like to recommend specific books or CDs (because, more often than not, my choices are pretty biased), but I believe Aaron Copland's "What to Listen For in Music" is a perfect introduction to the theory of classical music.

    Hope this helps! Welcome to the forum!

    The BB
    Take a look at the Bandit's blog, Americana Avenue.

  12. #12
    Andante
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    [QUOTE=nefigah;28695]Lots to sink my teeth into
    Andante-- This sounds fun. Any piece you would recommend to start such an exercise with?QUOTE]

    Any Haydn, Schubert, Beethoven St Qts will do, I was going to put a link to Schubert St Qt #8, 2nd mov but I have just gone onto a new computer with Vista and am still fumbling around with it. if you can get hold of the said Qt the Andante (2nd mov) is very lyrical and was written in his mid teens, how did he do it?

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    Senior Member nefigah's Avatar
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    Sorry to bug you all with what is probably a wacko interpretation, but I was so moved by it that I feel I have to talk about it to someone!

    So I laid down and listened to Beethoven's 3rd for the first real time. (Edit: the following started to appear in my mind in the 2nd movement.) I envisioned a battlefield, desolate. You can hear the wind. A lone soldier stumbles along, his vision darkening as he despairs at the destruction. He falls... he begins to dream in his fever. A triumphant return! A return home, in glory, victorious. People hear the distant march, they come running. There's excitement. They whisper. The proud sight of the banner held high! At the far end of the city, his beloved wife, oblivious to the hubbub. She thinks of old times while doing her chores. Then the sounds of the trumpets... could it be? The glorious reunion, an embrace, a joyful dance, a recantation of heroic deeds. Harsh reality returns, the dream fades... he is fading as well. The last twinge of sadness as his body relinquishes his spirit. (I almost began to cry at this point... but it is not over.) Happiness is back, the wistful sounds of the ascent of his soul. He notes the dancing and playing of cherubs. And then triumph! A welcome home indeed, though not to the home he left behind a few long months ago. Meanwhile, the fog of war has lifted, and the bodies of the deceased soldiers are arraigned for a funeral procession and a hero's burial. The shock of the wife as she realizes her husband is among them. The sadness. The price of freedom, victory. The triumphal salute to those who paid it, joined by heaven's choir.


    Forgive my silly imaginations But how amazing that music without lyrics can tell me a story!

    ---

    BB: Thank you for the advice! I appreciate your perspective as one who was in my shoes.

    Andante: Thanks. I have a long trip coming up, I'll make sure to pick up Schubert for it!
    Last edited by nefigah; Aug-26-2008 at 08:45.

  14. #14
    Senior Member purple99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nefigah View Post
    What is the proper way to listen
    Some people find context helpful. For example, I went to Bach’s St John Passion on Sunday. It’s about suffering and how humans deal with it (yeah, a real bundle of laughs ). It helps to know the sort of society Bach lived in, where the music comes from: tremendous infant mortality rates - Bach buried 10 of his 20 children. God-intoxicated. A silent place - no airplanes, cars, road drills, burglar alarms or hip-hop.

    So death was close in everyone’s lives - a bit like living in a warzone now, say Iraq or Afghanistan. People were in trouble, needed help, and turned to God and music to ease the pain. For example, it was dangerous even to fall in love. You knew your lover could die at any time and you’d face the heartbreak of being without them. Imagine the difference that made in daily life. It was extremely dangerous for women to have children. Many mothers died in childbirth. So when she married the woman made a tremendous commitment, and death was in the bridal chamber with her.

    Thought of in that context the piece takes on a different character. It becomes poignant, immediate, and (to me) intensely moving, rather than some dusty historic relic, albeit a beautiful and skillful one.

    Here’s a recording of the Bach I heard (scroll down to launch in RealPlayer). They use period instruments too, bringing you even closer to the original. It’s the best performance I’ve heard - stunning. You’ll probably hate it! It helps to read a translation of the words sung by the choir.

    Good questions btw.

  15. #15
    Andante
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    Hi 99, where have you been? I really have missed you, honest, no kidding, and your pics.

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