Monday, January 16, 2012

How to listen to classical music

A 20-minute lecture/demonstration by conductor/pianist Benjamin Zander.  I have known for a long time that my biggest problem with listening to classical music is because my musical attention span is too short, having grown up listening to pop (which includes country), and the phrases are much longer with most classical pieces.

This is informative and entertaining, and quite funny.  I really liked the part about raising one's eyebrows to indicate a deceptive cadence.  That really cracked me up.  It reminds me of one time when someone at church asked me how I could hit the high notes when I'm leading singing.  I told them, "I stand on my tiptoes."  Which is partly a joke, and partly the literal truth.*

*But since I'm a tenor, hitting the high notes isn't that hard. The low notes are what really tear my voice up.


  1. I haven't had time to watch this yet, but, having had some musical training, I know it does help your enjoyment of classical music if someone else who is more experienced teaches you what to listen for. It sounds almost counter-intuitive (you should like what you hear right away, or you just don't like it, right?) and it sounds like a lot of work (some classical music pieces are really a chore to listen to), but learning how to listen can open up some musical worlds that you might never have spent the energy on before.

  2. I think enjoyment of classical music goes along with some level of musical literacy. The same goes for jazz. Not that I want to sound like a snob, but I think enjoyment is enhanced--at least--when you know, or kind of know what's going on.

    With most pop music sometimes I wish I didn't know what was going on.

    1. Just watched it. Good stuff.

      He did a great job with that Chopin piece, explaining how delayed resolution works. We all know what musical resolution is, even if we don't know that we know. Songs and phrases and sections just sound "done" when they are resolved into the tonic chord, and when they aren't (especially when we are expecting it) that creates tension that makes the piece interesting and (usually) pleasurable to listen to.