Maybe it’s a midlife thing. Not just the blogging. Also the realization when I turned forty: my life will be too short to work my way through to all the music that’s out there. Therefore, I imposed two tough choices upon myself:
- Devote a maximum of your spare time to music.
- Stick to classical.
I’ve had an on-and-off relationship with classical music since I saw Amadeus when I was eight. After a few years in the company of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, I felt Nirvana, REM and The Doors were more in touch with my teenage angst. Then I picked Schubert’s fourteenth string quartet from my parents’ discarded vinyl collection. And things changed again.
Here was music that painted a picture of emotional longing and despair just as persuasively as the three-minute songs I’d been listening to. Only spread out over a larger canvas. The increased longevity and complexity required a little more listening effort – but the reward was also greater. For most of you, I bet, that’s what draws you to classical music.
But not all classical music is late Schubert. I realized that during my musicology studies surrounded by people who favored renaissance polyphony and contemporary music of the strictly atonal variety. One guy proclaimed that no interesting music was written between Ockeghem and Schoenberg. I’m still not sure whether or not he was joking.
I’m not suggesting these people were posturers, just that they were operating on a different level of musical intelligence. One that I nor the vast majority of music lovers could ever reach. So I became the one who did the posturing: passing my exams by talking about music I never listened to. I invested my last remnants of musicological enthusiasm in a master’s thesis about Schubert’s late piano sonatas. And moved on to a modest career in marketing.
Meanwhile, I discovered that there was a lot of contemporary music out there that was both clever and accessible. It just wasn’t classical music. I went through a Beatles phase, a Radiohead phase, a Joe Jackson phase, a Steely Dan phase. In between those main courses I nibbled from hip-hop, prog rock, metal, jazz, … And classical, revisiting the old hits from way back.
Your vinyl-collecting hipster friend is right: if you look for it, you can find good music in all genres. Why would you lock yourself into one of those tiny boxes?
Because that box makes life a lot simpler. It protects you against the most severe cases of FOMO. And it comes with a strange sense of achievement – like digging a nice deep hole instead of scraping the top layer of an acre of sand.
And as boxes go, classical music is an excellent one to be in. Considering the quantity and variety of the repertoire, you could even call it cheating to consider it a genre. And yet, that’s what publications, record labels and streaming services do. That makes it easier to keep up, while you’re still constantly surprised. Even the contemporary stuff has become listenable again since I last cared to listen.
To sum things up. I’m a middle-aged man with a hobby: listening to, reading about and musing about classical music. And because that’s not something I want to bore my loved ones or even vague acquaintances with – and because I like writing – I share it with whoever’s interested. If that inlcudes you, make me happy by following my Facebook or Twitter feed, or by subscribing: