Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What place does classical music have in my life?

This seems to be the nagging question that won't stop following me or leave me alone...

Classical music is inherently anachronistic ... for a while I hated that anacrhonism and wanted nothing to do with it ... It's not my world. Since then I've grown a bit and am able to appreciate this world where the focus is all about following an out-dated ettiquete where, even in live performance, the sounds are overwhelmingly more important than the visual. I'm able to accept that the genius of this music lies in subtleties that are probably actually just imagined/created by the observer/listener/writer rather than intended by the creator. ... Another way to put it: That rock is beautiful and I could probably find a million different ways to describe its beauties and magic ... at the end of the day it's just a rock. I'm willing to accept that going to see classical concerts & listening to classical music is an important part of my musical education - there is always something to learn ... often a lot to learn & it's nice to have a venue where you can just observe and be completely academic about the experience. I think it's crucially important for music students too. That's not what this post is about.

In a way, I guess I should have titled this post "What place does learning and performing Classical Music have in my life". I can answer the second part easily ... as long as I can get a gig and network and meet people and learn from playing it, performing classical music always has a place in my life. It's part of a freelancer's life in the same way the doing recording sessions or musical theater pits or whatever else is.

The first part of the question however is what I can't seem to figure out. By classical standards I have achieved a very low level of study. I know very little of the classical standard repertoire - I've only ever learned 3 bach suites to completion and have not even fully learned 2 concertos. There is a part of me that really loves working on this material. Especially everytime I watch Steven Isserlis or Jacqueline DuPre. I also know that practicing it makes me a better cellist & it is a path to technical development (not the only one). But at the same time I need to focus on something in life. It is hard to play all the music I do and do classical music on top of that. So I wonder, is classical music the thread that lies beneath all of this ... do I keep it going for the sake of socializing myself? For the sake of technical and musical development? Because I love it? If so, how much time do I devote to it. What do I do with it.

Yesterday 3/21, I participated in Bach in the Subways Day in honor of Bach's 326th Birthday (maybe we could do this for modern composers as well??). It was a real treat, especially because I felt stressed out and tired and exhausted all day. In my spare moments throughout the day, I practiced to try and get these pieces back under my fingers ... I don't even remember when the last time I played Bach was. I know that the maybe hour of practicing and the hour and a half of performing I did worked wonders for my Left & Right Hand technique. But more importantly, it inspired me to become better and to practice more. It also really cheered me up. The real treat though was when Eric Edberg came along ... playing in the subways gets a bit lonely sometimes - particularly in the spot I was in, so it was great to have some company & then to go around and get to watch and meet Dale Henderson (who is the originator of Bach in the Subways) & Lindsey Horner (a Jazz Bassist with a very different take on Bach - much more focused on improvisation). I wish I had had a chance to see the earlier performances as well, but I was teaching.

When I first started playing the cello, I fell in love with classical music. I loved listening to Yo-Yo Ma & Rostropovich & the Bach Suites & the Haydn Concerto & The Swan, etc. I loved playing them. My first teacher was one of those people who basically only did classical music (and some freelancing, but basically just classical). He really inspired me and made me love it though. I kept feeding that attachment as I went through college (I mean how do you go through music school without doing that??)

As a result, I've always got this tug of war inside between doing classical and doing everything else. I'm disinterested in classical, but at the same time I love playing it ...

So the question is... what place does classical music have in my life?

I wonder if I'll ever find the answer.

4 comments:

elysiajoy said...

Have you checked out Jon Silpayamanant's blog? He posts a lot about the future of western classical music (along with non-western music) which you might enjoy. http://silpayamanant.wordpress.com

b said...

nice post. as a cellist who 'quit' between the ages of 12 and 16 to play electric guitar 24 hours a day, and then returned to the cello for college, i often wonder about the same things. nice blog too! mine's at rockthecello.wordpress.com

paul said...

Your post resonates with me. Having grown up on pop music of the 60s and 70s I gravitated toward jazz and now have performed as a percussionist for decades. Now the cello pops up into my life and, as an adult beginner, I am reconsidering all my biases toward and against 'classical' music in a new light. Thanks for the posts and I look forward to reading more.

Mike Lunapiena said...

Hey I just wanted to say thanks to you guys for your responses ...

Elysia - I didn't realize Jon had a blog ... I do know him though ... I'm honestly, kind of uninterested in the future of western classical music ... it's not my world...



B - Good to hear from you - I'll add the blog to my list of stuff to read on a daily basis ...

Paul - Glad you found the post enjoyable - I'm definitely not a jazz guy (my loss!)

I think I some level of talent for writing & improvising original music ... I think that should take precedent over being just another classical cellist ... I feel in some ways that it is what I'm destined to do ...

So I guess my answer now to the question of "What place should learning/studying classical music have in my life" is: To the extent it is necessary or interesting as fuel for creating my own music.

Thanks for stopping by!