Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Wolfgang Ama-who cares?

I spent a good four years studying music, concentrating on music history and piano performance. Through it, I’ve listened to a lot of music from various composers and I need to make a statement to any pompous parent who is trying to get your child to listen to Mozart over (who’s the newest popular music start out there?). You’re going to find parts in parenthesis – they’re not actual figures, but little bits of information that are approximate enough to help you figure out when in time I’m talking about.

The term “Classical Music” is one of the most overused words in music. The actual classical era is from about 1750 (or about when J.S. Bach died) until 1800 (or right around the death of Mozart). I like to be a bit more accurate and say that the Classic era died in 1801 when Beethoven published his Op.31 n.2, Piano sonata in d minor, “The Tempest”.

As part of the classic era, Mozart composed within the style of the time and he did it exceptionally well. Three principle foundations of the classical style are form, clarity, and balance. His music was extremely structured and equally balanced from beginning to end. The clarity aspect is quite understood when you realize that a mistake in Mozart stands out like an orange cow.

Despite how exciting that description could sound (eyes rolling), music does begin to make a turning point after Beethoven goes in and says, “wtf, this isn’t music, this is notes on a paper.” and creates the romantic era.

Why are most Romantics forgotten when it comes to those “commonly known classical composers.” I’m talking about your Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, 3B’s of music people. THERE ARE NO ROMANTICS IN THERE! Yet, the most commonly recognized classical music is romantic. Why are we calling it classical?

I asked a few people at one point, “hum me a Mozart tune” – and 0/8 successfully hummed one – They might have hummed Beethoven instead. When I asked them to hum a Beethoven, I think only 1/8 didn’t. Everybody knows Fur Elise, Moonlight Sonata Mvt. 1, Mvt.1 of the Fifth, and the Ode to Joy. Top of my head: I can think of Night Music and the Rondo Alla Turca as popular Mozart tunes – though I know more, I honestly can’t recall the melodies, and dare I say, I’ve listened to more Mozart than Beethoven in my life.

Other classics that people don’t know who composed:

  • Funeral March in b flat minor – Frederic Chopin
  • Flight of the Bumblebee – Rimsky Korsakov
  • Prelude in e minor – Frederic Chopin
    • Yes, you know this. It was the piece that the woman played in the Notebook.
  • The Revolutionary Etude – Frederic Chopin
    • Once again, any gamer should know this. It’s called Kakumei in Dance Dance Revolution, was the background music in the final boss stage in King of Fighters XI and was in one of the Grand Theft Auto games.
    • Also, Andre Watts performed this (and performed it very well, actually) on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.
  • Adagio Cantabile from the Pathetique – Beethoven
    • Again, Youtube this – Guaranteed you know it.
  • Hungarian Dance No. 5 – Brahms
  • Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 – Liszt
    • Tom and Jerry did a very VERY famous skit with this piece.
  • Rhapsody in Blue – Gershwin
  • Toccata and Fugue in d minor – J.S. Bach
  • Clair de Lune – Debussy
  • Carmina Burana – Carl Orff
  • The Entertainer and Maple Leaf Rag – Scott Joplin
  • Nocturne in E flat – Frederic Chopin
    • If you listen to Muse, their last album featured this as the conclusion to the song “The United States of Eurasia".

These are a huge selection of time eras. Note about all of them – none of them are from the classical eras. Chopin and Liszt were Romantic. Beethoven is considered classic, but he really wasn’t about clarity, balance, and form at all. He changed all of the forms. Brahms was post-romantic / neo-classic, late 19th century. Bach is Baroque. Korsakov was post-romantic part of the Russian Five or Mighty Handful. Debussy was Impressionist. Gershwin was classical/jazz fusion of the 20th century. Joplin was ragtime. Orff was 20th century, died shortly before I was born.

So yes, now I’m being a technical ass indeed. Anyway, my point is this. I have a 9-year old piano student who is currently working on two pieces: Fur Elise and and Prelude N.1 from WTC1 (The Well-Tempered Clavier, book 1) by J.S. Bach. I gave him some Mozart at one point (Two early minuets, K.2 and K.6 I think) and he hated them when I played them. He loved the Bach and the Beethoven, and asked me to make him a CD with all of the music.

So I’m going to ask – Wolfgang Ama-who cares? Honestly now… Who does care? I don’t. If you want a kid to appreciate classical music over Hannah Montana, you need to expose them to it. Find out what they like. This might take time, but I’ve found a classical piece or a jazz piece for everybody. Want some jazz classics? The Tiger Rag by Art Tatum, Greensleeves done by John Coltrane, just about anything by Bix Biderbeck or Miles Davis… the list goes on.

So I advocate this advice: You cannot show somebody something with one example. If you want to show somebody something, you need to show them many examples. Boys tend to like Beethoven and Brahms. Girls tend to like Debussy and Chopin. Aspiring  musicians tend to love Bach, Rachmaninoff and Scriabin.

1 comment:

  1. Classical music has been referred to as such since the early 1800s.
    Accepted Classical Era is 1750-1825
    Brahms, though a neo-classicist, was a Romantic. He utilized all the tools of his era even though his stylistic choices were Classical.