When I was an infant, quite some time ago, I started listening to Classical music! It was because my mom would sing it and play it on the piano in the living room, and because she would put on recordings of Classical music and rave about the greatness of the compositions and performances.
She used to tell us that I was about three years old when I began listening to Classical music on my own, and I’d listen all the way through a symphony or concerto, like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony or Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto, or Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ Symphony or Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Scheherazade’ or even Tchaikovsky’s ‘Pathetique’.
I was enraptured even at that age by the way this music would seem to have a perfect emotional life built into its progress of notes. It was like… going on an adventurous journey! One melodic and harmonic statement would seem to inexorably lead to another, so my interest was piqued from moment to moment by the anticipation of what was sure to come just around the bend.
Development was the key to my young interest and attention! Classical music in particular (and Romantic Period music as one ultimate form) had the trait of drawing you forward into its world, sometimes to a fantastic realm as in ‘Scheherazade’, or to an acoustic land of magnificent pathos as in the Rachmaninoff. In such works a melody didn’t usually have sections that repeated predictably, but instead it purposely transformed itself into new incarnations of the original idea and even beyond to sometimes overwhelming new ideas, and swapping instruments and whole sections of the orchestra as it progressed; it traveled to somewhere truly intriguing!
What makes some music seem exciting (or when it lacks something, boring) to you? Is it because it has a certain thrilling sound quality? Or that it has an amazing rhythmic sense? Or does it take you on a voyage of adventure? I think my favorite music combines all of these, but particularly the voyage!
Now and then I hear someone say that Classical music is boring. Well, I must say that I agree that some is --- if it’s insipid chamber music for lace-and-silk balls or such. But if it follows the usual goals of development of a theme, I find it anything but boring, and in many cases actually thrilling! Now if ‘boring’ means ‘not enough banging drums and bass and screaming guitars,’ well, what does one say about that definition…? Yes, Classical music doesn’t have those particular elements most of the time.
But still, Classical music isn’t the only genre that has these characteristics, of course. Now, it’s a common practice in some quarters of popular music to follow the K.I.S.S. principle --- ‘keep it simple, stupid’ --- to make sure there’s plenty of repetition and that it feels ‘danceable’ or such; but I must say that I favor any Rock, Jazz, Pop, Country, Folk, etc. that includes some sort of development through key modulations, chord modifications, countermelodies, volume and texture changes, instrument swapping, improvisation, emotional surprises --- whatever can enrich the story somehow! And that’s the word: story. Is there a narrative?
A childhood with Classical music did that to me. How do you like music to be?