Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What's on my radio these days

When I was in my twenties, I drove around listening to classical music on my car radio. I went, by myself, to downtown Chicago on Wednesday nights for inexpensive shows offered by the Chicago Symphony. This at a time when $5 meant a lot to me.

Sounds like a priority.

I once went to the Field Museum because a classical concert was being offered at no charge one evening. I had a great time although I was alone. There are some things I prefer to do alone rather than have to wonder if the person I’m with is having a good time. I also spent the money once to take a class offered through adult education as a distraction. I remember the teacher, a youngish man, spouting off about how we would not study Mozart because he was offended by the number of people (most of those in the class, I’ll bet) who were only interested in classical music because they’d seen the recent movie about Mozart.

What a short-sighted person and no true teacher, he.

I say who cares what brought them in? Start with Mozart and then introduce them to things from the same period. How many people he could have influenced! Instead he made classical music seem like a snotty club.

I like music in general and even when I was in high school, I thought it silly of those who claimed one type better than any others (although of course I have preferences, too). In elementary school, I took music classes every year studying folk music, mountain music, working music and (hooray!) classical music. I can still remember the classroom where I first listened to Pictures at an Exhibition.

I knew early on music evolves from one generation to the next. In high school I took a music appreciation class (Easy A!). In college, I took so many non-technical music classes that I became friends with the professor who taught them.

Some of the ones I took: general music history going back deep into time, a class that talked about the differences between Eastern and Western music and a History in Jazz class. Most of the classes involved tests in the chapel on campus. We had to sit and listen to short snips of music and identify each snippet. I always sailed through these.

Other assignments included going to musical performances on our own, so I scoured the papers looking for free performances. I wrote publicity for the university and when Mark O’Conner came to town, I wrote one of my favorite headlines: Mark O’Conner Fiddles Around at K-State.

I hope he wasn’t offended. But a couple papers picked up my press release and used my headline, so I was pleased.

You know those questions your friends ask when everyone is really bored, like what if your life had a soundtrack? If my life had a soundtrack it would be filled with classical music. I don’t really care much what. I can remember driving around Chicago listening to it and thinking about what it would be like to be a stay at home mom, for instance. In my mind, I had the baby in the back seat and classical music on the radio.

When I was in college, I remember walking into my advisor’s office and he was listening to classical music. I felt envy. I also remember standing in a hallway in another building waiting for a classroom to open up. A professor’s door stood open and classical music was pouring forth.

It was then I thought, “How lucky is he to have a job where he can listen to classical music all day?”

I still remember those tiny moments from years and decades ago.

When I was in the fifth grade in Ohio, Mrs. Williams took her class to a performance and I was one of the lucky ones. It was the Jupiter Symphony. I sat in the dark, mesmerized by the music and the motion on the stage: the instruments grouped together and moving in unison. All the violins at the same time, all the musicians turning pages at the same time, me in the back, in the dark, watching so many people as a unit made of only a few pieces. Percussion, winds, strings: I was fascinated.

I don’t remember if I talked about it much or showed a lot of excitement when I got home, but I was hooked for life. I still go to a performance and get as much pleasure watching as I do listening.

Over the years I have gone through stages of listening to a lot of classical music. Currently, with the rate of work being thrown my way and barely having time to move from one task to the other here in my office, I am listening to it exclusively.

How lucky am I?

Pretty lucky.


Rose said...

I don't 'get' classical music...I often wonder what that says about me. I do hear bits and pieces that really appeal to me...but it is just the odd piece. I often wonder if I had been exposed to it as a kid if I would have liked it more.

At the same time, I did not grow up with Irish music but it strikes a cord deep within me. It has that familiar feel to it as if I had known it all my life....

Rambling Woods said...

My parents always had classical music playing, but sometimes it was the soundtrack of their awful drunken fights so it took some time for me to be able to appreciate it without having some kind of awful flashback. I understand sometimes wanting to do things alone..I thought I was alone in that need...Michelle