Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Musical irony

I had a long conversation with an old lady on Sunday about playing the piano. She took it up on retirement, but had to stop lessons when her husband got ill. Nevertheless, she achieved Grade 4 and since he died she's been playing again and loves it.

"Oh, no," she said, "I won't give up my piano. I love to go and play it. I love classical music - don't you?"

Now, I like to think that I have a broad appreciation of music. And yes, part of that is liking classical music. I love it's soothing tones and clever cadences; I love the way it can take me away from where I am to the middle of a battle or a love scene or a desert island; I love the fact that it doesn't finish in less than four minutes, as a general rule, but can sustain attention for long periods of time.

Yet, when put on the spot, all I could think was: I choose to listen to Radio 2. I choose the pop songs of my teenage years. I choose fun and upbeat, something with regular time-checks in order that I get the children to school before the bell.

I don't choose classical music.

Then, yesterday, at teatime I was listening to Radio 4 and my ten year old boy decided it wasn't for him. (It wasn't really, at that point, for me either: I just couldn't be bothered to cross to the other side of the room and switch channels.)

"Radio 3," he said, "is that classical music?"

"Yes," I reply.

"Urgghhh!" he exclaims. "I hate classical music. What about Radio 1? Is that pop music?"

"Erm... yes," I reply, and quick as a flash he has changed it over.

So tea was accompanied by a dull, thumping base and a whiny synthesiser overtones. That description makes it sound a lot worse than it was (I am, actually, physically capable of walking over and switching the radio off!) but I didn't spot much of a melody. It was a slight shock to realise that shortly I am going to lose my children to this tuneless beat.

Yet what surprised me most was my son's dismissal of classical music - or, more accurately, my immediate defense of the same type of music I had struggled to appreciate two days earlier.

"You shouldn't dismiss classical music, boy. Classical music is great. It has a lot of feeling and emotion, and great tunes and..." I stumbled through.

Am I a music hypocrite? Or just someone with wide and varied tastes? Or (and this is most likely) someone who likes different things at different times in different circumstances?

And how am I going to teach my son to appreciate classical music?

Time to dig out the Tchaikovsky CDs and go to a couple of concerts, I think!

3 comments:

Mark said...

I have a love; hate relationship with classical music too - largely I think through ignorance on my part. But there is so much music out there; Jazz,,blues, country. My teenage children's appreciation of music grew by learning instruments - sure they like pop music but they also appreciate much more because they play - they even think my banjo is pretty cool!

Catharine Withenay said...

I'm hoping that my children will learn through their musical instruments as well. I also think that, given I listen to a variety of music, they are likely to take in something by osmosis. That's the plan, anyway!

helloitsgemma said...

I think you do learn by osmosis. My parents never listened to classic music, but I love what they love; Doris Day, Frank Sinatra and Glen Miller. It just reminds me of them and home.

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