How is classical music unique?

So what’s so special about YOUR kind of music? some people ask classical musicians. As if we all were von oben snobs. Which some (a few) of us ARE, but that shouldn’t reflect negatively on the music.

Let me try to partially answer that question. And bear in mind that even though I am a classical pianist and composer I am no “homeboy”; as a listener I have traveled wide in the country of Melosophia.

So, a quick answer.

— If we compare different genres (classical, jazz, pop, rock, hip-hop, etc.) we can see that classical is an old beast. How old depends on how we are counting, but let’s say around thousand years? That’s old, an extra zero compared with other genres.

Old and I would say mature. Classical is out of kindergarten (even if we like to be scherzando childish at times).

hoffnung tuba-beer— It understands the values of softness, silence, meditation and inward turned centripetality. Classical music is not materialistic, praising money, fast cars and gold necklaces. Much of is it “religious”, turned towards a spiritual world.

There is no such thing as a gangsta sonata (but due to the unfortunate, modern tendency of desperately trying to be “with it” there might be one next year).

— Classical music has the highest level of Yin of the different genres, at least in our Western world. (Eastern music is a world to itself.) In a world caught up in Yang, often of a negative kind (action orientation, speed, stress, the fast buck, etc.) classical music can act as a balancing force.

— Classical musicians understand the meaning of long-term. Nobody ask how long it took a pianist to learn the pieces for his recital. And if it took a really LONG time, nobody says: The concert was an artistic success but a financial failure! We are (relatively) free from the germs of Taylorism and cost-effective hinking.

For example, Vladimir Horowitz was approached by a young fan after a recital.

Fan: Maestro, how do you play that phrase in bar 26 so beautifully?
Horowitz: Simple, my dear. It only took all of my life.

— The classical domain is far from a totally harmonious and ethical paradise, however, we do have a special place reserved for the Muse. It’s not just about our own careers and number of Twitter followers. The words inspiration, dedication and service (of things invisible) represent real values for us.

ornament5bThat is enough for now. However, check my first post about the silent aspect of classical: Collection of silences – 1.

3 thoughts on “How is classical music unique?”

  1. Mycket intressant, tänkvärt och mångsidigt resonemang tycker jag.

    Reflekterar till en intressant artikel i senaste numret av tidskriften Filosofi, där ett resonemang om ljud och musik förs, t.ex. om alla ljud är musik, är det musik som hörs från bilarnas ljud i trafiken, etc.

    Men jag tycker nog att Ladislaus hade mycket fler dimensioner i sitt resonemang.

    1. Tack Gösta.

      Bilars ljud tyckte kanske futuristerna var musik, men i vår värld redan så full av maskinljud känns det onödigt att även musik (som t.ex. techno) också ska köra in på maskinspåret.

      Det är inte mera monotoni, regelbundenhet och maskinell taktfasthet vi behöver utan mjuk och skör ungefärlighet. Jag är inspirerad av Harry Martinssons ord: “Ungefärlighet är det högsta mänskliga. Ungefärlighet är själ.”

  2. Very difficult to approach this discussion without sounding like a sycophant – perhaps the discussion has several different layers? One discussion regarding classical music could be the modern industry around music itself; theatre and concert industry and how it has mimicked the pop industry instead of creating its own world. The distribution system; Spotify and iTunes are horribly unqualified for disseminating and inviting listeners and users to the special requirements of the classical music, more like panopticon than caleidoscopes. The educational system has failed to recognize the power inherent in training, studying, relating to and using classical music in everyday life – perhaps because of the elitist requirements of the music (elitist = you can’t quickly learn how to play either the music or the instruments, you need to invest time for very little financial or social media gain).

    To my mind it is a bit like comparing a well written book by a master writer compared to a provocative op-ed by a celebrity gossiping and slandering with badly written prose. Or the well know film-conundrum. When talking to your partner what movie to watch, you always decide to see a rom-com if you are going to see it today, but you talk about watching some Sukorov movie if in the future.

    Our generation and our machines function much better with (compatible with) easily reproducable actions and products, and that doesn’t include classical music, except for a few catchy tunes and cultural memes (like fat singers and Wagner myths).

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