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Thread: Essential classical music for a new listener?

  1. #31
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    If I were starting a collection from scratch, I would proceed along a frame more or less resembling this:

    Palestrina – Masses and Motets
    Handel – Messiah, Concerti Grossi
    Bach – Organ works, Brandenburg Concerti, Goldberg Var., Mass in B Minor, Matthew Passion
    Haydn – Late Symphonies, Creation, Nelson Mass, String Quartets, Piano Sonatas
    Mozart – Late Symphonies, Requiem, Piano Concerti, String Quartets, Don Giovanni, Magic Flute, Figaro
    Beethoven – Symphonies, Piano Sonatas and Concerti, String Quartets, Fidelio, Missa Solemnis
    Schubert – Lieder, Late Symphonies
    Wagner – Ring, Tristan und Isolde, Meistersinger, Parsifal
    Verdi – Otello, Falstaff

    That alone is a lifetime of musical enjoyment. Quality over quantity, by all means. Master the old giants, then proceed to the lesser lights, while going back to the giants continually.

    It's too easy to become enthralled with the obscure or the out of the way, when one hasn't even plumbed the depths of the essential works. Critics talk about the excellencies of Aprha Behn when they haven't read Shakespeare, or of an obscure Zoroastrian text when they haven't read the King James Bible. The same absurd tendency can be found in music criticism--people who haven't listen to some of Mozart's greatest works touting a forgotten medieval Lithuanian housewife who wrote fugues for the slavic banjo. Keep clear of all that nonsense.
    Last edited by Logos; Nov-06-2012 at 00:12.

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  3. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Logos View Post
    That alone is a lifetime of musical enjoyment. Quality over quantity, by all means. Master the old giants, then proceed to the lesser lights, while going back to the giants continually.

    It's too easy to become enthralled with obscure or the out of the way, when one hasn't even plumbed the depths of the essential works.
    Or, alternatively, begin sampling the various recommendations and explore organically - reaching out along the veins of what you've found interesting, enjoyable, beautiful, delightful, invigorating, fun, cerebral, challenging.

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  5. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacLeod View Post
    Or, alternatively, begin sampling the various recommendations and explore organically - reaching out along the veins of what you've found interesting, enjoyable, beautiful, delightful, invigorating, fun, cerebral, challenging.
    Sure, but average man's taste today is so corrupted that, if he were simply to follow his own caprice, he would be more likely to wind up in a musical ghetto rather than a musical parnassus. That kind of thinking is the very reason for the neglect of great art in general. The grab-bag "organic sampling" approach (which is precisely the one the common man uses) is the equivalent to having no guidance at all, in which case one might as well leave everyone to wander aimlessly as they already do.

    All this springs from the fallacy that critical thinking is a matter of simply finding what one "likes", rather than learning to like what is great.
    Last edited by Logos; Nov-05-2012 at 23:29.

  6. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Logos View Post
    Sure, but average man's taste today is so corrupted that, if he were simply to follow his own caprice, he would be more likely to wind up in a musical ghetto rather than a musical parnassus. That kind of thinking is the very reason for the neglect of great music. The kind of grab-bag "organic sampling" (which is precisely the one the common man uses) is the equivalent to having no guidance at all, in which case one might as well leave everyone to wander aimlessly as they already do.
    Ah, that life could be so well-organised, so free from corruption, we only suffer beauty, joy, rapture as our elders and betters make all our decisions for us and we never stray into error.

    Hmmphh!

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  8. #35
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    Fair enough. The 'elders' may sometimes lead one into error, but the common man, simply by following his own lights as if he were born perfect, is guaranteed to stray into error. In any case, his supposedly pure inner sense of taste is simply a product of his (usually bad) education. None of us are really choosing for ourselves--it's simply a matter of following true elders or false, stupid ones.

  9. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Logos View Post
    That alone is a lifetime of musical enjoyment. Quality over quantity, by all means. Master the old giants, then proceed to the lesser lights, while going back to the giants continually.
    This begs an important question, how did the composers you call "the old giants" come to be called that, by you or by anyone else?

    Quote Originally Posted by Logos View Post
    It's too easy to become enthralled with the obscure or the out of the way, when one hasn't even plumbed the depths of the essential works.
    Is it? Again, without establishing the legitimacy of "the essential works," we're criticizing other works for what? For being poorly crafted? For being badly conceived? For failing to carry out their own premises? No. For being "obscure" or "out of the way," as if that's a quality of the works themselves. (Not that "essential" is either, mind you!)

    Quote Originally Posted by Logos View Post
    Critics talk about the excellencies of Aprha Behn when they haven't read Shakespeare, or of an obscure Zoroastrian text when they haven't read the King James Bible.
    Do they? Who? Who are they? What are their names? (How do you know that a critic praising Aphra Behn hasn't read Shakespeare?) I was a voracious reader as a child and declared English as my major in college. I went on the acquire a masters degree in literature and spent a decade working on a PhD in same. My area was Elizabethan drama. I never ever read any critic who praised Aphra Behn without having read Shakespeare, so far as I know. Far as I know, all the critics I read had read both Shakespeare and the King James bible. I know I did.

    Quote Originally Posted by Logos View Post
    The same absurd tendency can be found in music criticism--people who haven't listen to some of Mozart's greatest works touting a forgotten medieval Lithuanian housewife who wrote fugues for the slavic banjo. Keep clear of all that nonsense.
    Keeping clear of nonsense is good advice. Assertions like the one that there are people who haven't listened to Mozart's greatest works (though I suppose they have listened to Mozart's minor works, eh?) who tout a medieval Lithuanian housewife (sexist, too?) who wrote fugues for the slavic banjo are pretty good nonsense.

    Quote Originally Posted by Logos View Post
    Sure, but average man's taste today is so corrupted that, if he were simply to follow his own caprice, he would be more likely to wind up in a musical ghetto rather than a musical parnassus.
    I could spend many happy hours unpacking this wee bit silliness, but I'll resist the temptation to say simply that criticism that takes place entirely on the level of such generalizations as "the average man" is nae sa mooch creeticism as malarkey.

    Quote Originally Posted by Logos View Post
    The grab-bag "organic sampling" approach (which is precisely the one the common man uses) is the equivalent to having no guidance at all, in which case one might as well leave everyone to wander aimlessly as they already do.
    You have a very low opinion of your fellow travellers, it's true. But is it true that your fellow travellers are low? (Are people wandering aimlessly? Is it fair to twist "organic sampling" into something trivial by adding "grab-bag" to it?)

    Well, let's get down to specifics--if only you would!!

    I grew up in a lower middle-class family. No one around me had any interest in music and certainly none in classical music. With the aid of a few 78s a few LPs and the radio, I began sampling classical music on my own. Of course, I was limited to whatever had been recorded and whatever the radio stations played. I'm not sure I'd want to call that "being led by the elders." So I listened and learned to make judgments for myself. I didn't "end up" anywhere, nor ghetto nor parnassus. I had a lot of fun, though, and still do. Among the composers I favored in my capricious grab-bagging were such people as Palestrina, Handel, Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Wagner, and Verdi. As well as a few (dozens and dozens) others, as I did not confine my listening to a (mostly) Germanic ghetto.

    So much for your average man's capricious and aimless wandering.

    Quote Originally Posted by Logos View Post
    All this springs from the fallacy that critical thinking is a matter of simply finding what one "likes", rather than learning to like what is great.
    Aside from the fact that no one, so far as I know, has ever said that "critical thinking is a matter of finding what one likes," there's another wee bit of fallaciousness going on here, and that is that learning to like different things is somehow a trivial activity if the different things one learns to like are not also "the great masterpieces of Western civilization (as approved by the best authorities)."
    Last edited by some guy; Nov-06-2012 at 01:55.

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  11. #37
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    That's all well and good. My point was simply that if we operate on a "personalized taste" basis we'll end up with people that use a schizophrenic piñata as their avatar. Hypothetically speaking of course. Thank you modern progress for giving us such persons. How did the world ever get along without them?
    Last edited by Logos; Nov-06-2012 at 02:31.

  12. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Logos View Post
    That's all well and good. My point was simply that if we operate on a "personalized taste" basis we'll end up with people that use a schizophrenic piñata as their avatar. Hypothetically speaking of course. Thank you modern progress for giving us such persons. How did the world ever get along without them?
    So, having had your post more comprehensively criticised than you could possibly have expected, the best you can do is comment on the poster's avatar?

    Lame.

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  14. #39
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    His argument was that, in his own life, he was without guidance in forming his taste, and yet his taste turned out to be magnificently pure and lofty; apparently we're to take this last part on faith alone, but seeing on the one hand how he lumps together the greatest composers with unnamed "dozens" of others, and on the other his penchant for the sharing of unnecessary personal details in a weird confessional kind of way, I find it more likely that we've got a standard case of decadent eclecticism. The pivot point of everything he said was his insistence on the perfection of his own taste, or at least the great lot of "fun" he had, which is meant to explode one of my arguments somehow, but again I don't know which one or by what means. You know, "comprehensive criticism" as you put it entails far more than simply disagreeing in strong language in an obsessive point by point reply. On has to actually say something with words instead of stringing them together idiotically, with silly comments about your personal experiences and flaunting your own bad breeding.
    Last edited by Logos; Nov-06-2012 at 08:13.

  15. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by Logos View Post
    i find it more likely that we've got a standard case of decadent eclecticism. The pivot point of everything he said was his insistence on the perfection of his own taste, or at least the great lot of "fun" he had, which is meant to explode one of my arguments somehow, but again I don't know which one or by what means. You know, "comprehensive criticism" as you put it entails far more than simply disagreeing in strong language in an obsessive point by point reply. On has to actually say something with words instead of stringing them together idiotically, with silly comments about your personal experiences and flaunting your own bad breeding.
    On the other hand, stringing together words which convey, in the context of a discussion about music, nothing more than pomposity, is no more a guarantee of making coherent sense than anything posted by someguy.

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  17. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by Logos View Post
    This begs an important question, how did the composers you call "the old giants" come to be called that, by you or by anyone else?
    Apparently he expects me play into some kind of trap wherein I make some some hardheaded, blindly dogmatic affirmation of authority, and then he'll pounce on me to stick it to the 'man' and say: 'we're all already having fun and we don't need anybody to tell us how to lead our lives mister, or choose what is good and bad'. All these cocksure aesthetic hedonists have been around as long as the pyramids, but never have they been so common or so boring.
    Last edited by Logos; Nov-06-2012 at 08:28.

  18. #42
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    I don't see the pomposity in a simple phrase that's been correctly applied.
    Last edited by Logos; Nov-06-2012 at 08:33.

  19. #43
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    Logos, you're not some of kind of musical moralist are you? Believing that one's taste in music is indicative of the extent to which we are upright citizens?

  20. #44
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    Anything can reflect someone's moral nature, but artistic tastes usually show only the presence or lack of deep interest in artistic criticism rather than in morality. That is to say, because most listeners perceive music only in a sensual way as the play of sounds, rather than as something containing a moral idea or an analogy to a moral idea, so that it would be meaningless to make a moral inference from their taste in that which they never thought to have any moral standpoint at all. That would be like suspecting a man of the theft of something which he never knew to exist.
    Last edited by Logos; Nov-06-2012 at 08:51.

  21. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by Logos View Post
    Anything can reflect someone's moral nature, but artistic tastes usually show only the presence or lack of deep interest in artistic criticism rather than in morality. That is to say, because most listeners perceive music only in a sensual way as the play of sounds, rather than as something containing a moral idea or an analogy to a moral idea, so that it would be meaningless to make a moral inference from their taste in that which they never thought to have any moral standpoint at all.
    Can you do 'simple'? I ask because you used the term 'decadent', a word I'd usually use (and seen used) in a moral context. You also talk about 'bad' breeding, 'corrupted' taste, straying into 'error'...you begin to sound like a preacher, and that those who 'follow their own caprice' are risking moral turpitude.

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