Thursday, August 13, 2015

Ten Things You Need to Know About Classical Music

1. There are lots of Baroque pieces other than the Four Seasons by Vivaldi, other Adagios than the one by Albinoni (who didn't actually write it), other Canons than the one by Pachelbel and other symphonies than the ones by Beethoven and Mahler.
2. You don't actually have to read music to appreciate classical music, but it certainly doesn't hurt.
3. Yes, you can clap between movements, but, as you can tell from the somewhat strained smiles of the performers and the stony silence of those folks sitting beside you, maybe you should wait until the end of the piece?
4. The only reason that serious classical musicians dress in those boring formal clothes is so that they will not be mistaken for hip-hop artists.

5. No, conductors are not paid by the beat, nor by how deeply they bow, nor by how much they perspire, nor by how high they leap in the air. Well, except for Gustavo Dudamel...
6. Composers are paid about 1/10 of the fee to compose the music of what conductors are paid to conduct it.
7. No, Bach did not actually write anything for the Moog Synthesizer.
8. Classical music is not actually a tiny niche product, about 2% of total sales, in the music industry. Well, ok, it is, economically. But culturally, it is an enormous tradition stretching back over 1000 years, well before the Beatles' first LP.
9. No, trombones are not made to sit in the back of the orchestra just because they tend to play too loud. Well, that's not the only reason.
10. And finally, despite what you may hear, the concertmaster does not get to sit in front because he or she is the cutest violinist.

That drawing at the top is of Hector Berlioz conducting, so let's end with a piece by him. This is the Symphonie fantastique with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France & Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra conducted by Gustavo Dudamel:


A.C. Douglas said...

Hilarious...and perfect!

Also, a better -- much better -- reading of Symphonie fantastique:


Bryan Townsend said...

Thanks, AC! Alas, the link you sent is blocked here in Mexico for some reason. I'm sure it is a better reading, but I picked Dudamel because I mentioned him in the post.

A.C. Douglas said...

Actually, I was surprised to see the Munch recording available anywhere on YouTube as I would have expected it to be blocked by RCA (or whoever owns the copyright these days) as a copyright violation. That stellar 1954 recording is still in print and in fact has never been out of print since the first day of its release.

And, yes, I immediately understood why you put up the Dudamel video. My mention of the Munch reading was as a sort of aside.


Marc Puckett said...

Number 3 is the best response to that silly question, ha! Last night saw what's her name, the excellent percussionist, at the Guardian enthusing in answer to it, 'yes, yes, yes, applaud whenever you like! it is a sign of creative life!' or words to that effect. Evelyn Glennie.

Bryan Townsend said...

Yes, that particular question is the one that is most redolent of The Narrative! Thou shalt not question the audiences god-given right to clap between movements.

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Thanks, your blog looks interesting.