I found this article on NPR Music to be of interest, questioning if we can learn to love music that we (at first) hate.
It makes perfect sense to me. I think that’s why the classical music “industry” has for many years been “in trouble,” although I’ve often reminded that it may not be as bad-off as we at first expect. But the fact that many concerts I attend here in the U.S. are attended by folks far older than me is not encouraging.
I find a lot of popular music immediately affective with a “good entry factor.” G.E.F., if you will, we might say means “it has a catchy tune.” It’s got a good beat, a good guitar riff, and it may be sung by a sexy young singer.
Compare that to a Beethoven string quartet? It really shouldn’t baffle us why the first might launch a multi-million dollar career for the artist and the second seems appropriate as a soundtrack for a movie featuring a stuffy library.
These cultural associations are not only stereotypical, but they are continually perpetuated in our culture.
I am guilty of the same experiences. Despite my mother playing Beethoven for me as a baby (she was beating the Mozart for Babies Craze), I didn’t grow up wearing a wig or humming the Eroica symphony. In fact, my first symphony concert at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh was boring to me, and by the time I’d found Bach, Beethoven was seen as an enemy.
I was a baroque fan back in high school. All four years, in fact. It was my secret little eccentricity. Vivaldi, Bach, and Telemann were in. The Romantics were out, but the classics like Mozart were simply not cool enough.
So I remember writing my friend in college after studying Beethoven. I studied music, and that included study of harmony, melody, and historical trends. “I was wrong. Beethoven’s music can be profound… I was wrong to put him below Bach.”
“Blasphemy!” my friend wrote back.
Today I listen to Bach far more frequently than Beethoven. I know a good number of BWV numbers and I’m not even sure when Beethoven died.
But the intense study of his music revealed an appreciation and love for the music, all the same. For me, it may simply not be as approachable. But spending some time with it revealed the recognition that me and the music could get along.
The more you hear, the more you’ll love. Sounds good to us.
It’s only too sad today that I don’t have more time to read with score in hand. There’s more to love with all kinds of music, even the kind celebrated with live performance at the Grammy’s.