How to Listen to Classical Music: General Ideas

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when taken as a whole classical music

often seems to be moving towards

irrelevance its audience seems to be

mostly middle-aged middle class white

and these are problems that are

definitely widely known across the

industry there are constant new

initiatives and ideas to try to

rebalance this situation spreading

classical music to new audiences and

some of these are hugely successful in

fact statistically classical music has

more listeners than ever due simply to

the fact that music is now so widely

available on platforms like YouTube

Spotify and radio however when compared

economically with pop music or other

genres classical pales into

insignificance to some people this means

that classical music must be irrelevant

and because of this funding is cut to

arts education and so so much of the

younger generation never even get to

give classical a fighting chance before

dismissing it I think the problem is

that many people aren't taught how to

listen well anymore in my experience

classical is simply a closed door to a

lot of people and because they don't

know how to understand or follow it they

think that it's just boring or

out-of-date and so they just don't care

what I want to do with this channel is

make videos which introduce you to some

of the greatest works of classical music

in a way that really gets down to what

makes each piece such a powerful work of

art and through watching these videos I

hope you'll learn more about music and

you'll discover some of the greatest

musical works in history but in these

videos here I want to focus generally on

how to listen well to classical music I

want to give you some ideas that you can

hopefully apply to a broad spectrum of

classical music to enhance the way you

approach and listen to it

first we'll go through some general

ideas about classical and later on we'll

think more about how music is expressive

and how we can listen to and understand

classical music on an emotional level so

imagine watching a Shakespeare play if

you're new to Shakespeare unfamiliar

with the language and you haven't been

educated about his works a small number

of people would get it naturally and

good for them but many people will

probably be bored and lost of course

that doesn't mean that Shakespeare is

bad or irrelevant or not worth anything

in your life it just means you haven't

learned to understand it yet it's the

same with classical when you're new to

it it's a bit of a foreign language and

I think it helps immensely to have some

guidance starting out of course many say

there's no right way to listen to music


it affects you in whatever way it does

or they say I don't want to understand

it I just want to feel it as it comes

naturally I see where they're coming

from but when it comes to classical as a

new listener I disagree completely the

question I would ask is if you had to

sit through a 40-minute Beethoven

symphony would you be able to follow it

closely would you be able to keep track

of its musical argument from beginning

to end

constantly follow its emotional

trajectory or would you get bored

quickly with your mind drift on to other

things and what about an hour of

Tchaikovsky two hours of Marla and

that's not supposed to scare you but

when you learn to listen in a different

way you begin to unlock these musical

masterpieces and you start to find that

within these masterpieces are incredible

moments of beauty emotional intensity

power and in some cases some of the

greatest works of artistic creation at

its best classical music can stir the

most powerful and diverse emotions up

within you and that's why I think it's

so important to learn how to listen well

so we can expand our emotional

understanding expand our self

understanding become more intimately

connected with humanity so here are some

initial thoughts to get you started and

in the next video we'll look closer at

how classical music expresses itself

first off and perhaps most importantly

when listening to classical you need to

listen actively not passively in most

cases you can't just let it wash over

you it needs paying attention to just as

when you're reading a good novel and I

think this can be a big deterrent for

many people and that's why pop music

caters to the shortest attention spans

with three-minute songs and repetitive

chord sequences and beats but take it

from me your attention span will quickly

develop the more you practice listening

actively and when you start doing this

you start unlocking these emotional

outpourings that just don't have time to

unfold in pop music

second if possible listen to music live

this music was written to be performed

live and there's something special about

watching people breathing life into the

music it's also worth noting that

different performers and different

groups have their own sounds or styles

so there's a lot of diversity when it

comes to performers you can listen to

the same piece done by five different

performers and each performance will be

fresh in a unique kind of way

also a performance can really make or

break a piece you might be on the edge

of your seat for one performance of

Beethoven's fifth but be bored to tears

by a different performance but there's

also something just

about seeing something live especially

when the performers a world class or

when there's a real high risk-taking

energy in the room if you can't listen

live then choose a world-class recording

again with Spotify there are so many to

choose from and it can be so satisfying

to discover the perfect recording for

your tastes you may begin to discover

your favorite performers favorite

orchestras and maybe even your favorite

recording eras in any case there is a

massive Bank of recordings out there

importantly listen at a good volume and

on good speakers or headphones if

possible classical music isn't supposed

to lull you gently to sleep or relax you

most of my favorite pieces do the

opposite they're fiercely dramatic take

this apocalyptic statement from Marla

you just can't appreciate that on low

volume or on a phone speaker I'm not

saying you need to blast it out of your

car though by all means feel free

classical is a rich and hugely diverse

art form not a relaxant or a sleeping

pill thirdly at no point do I want to

denounce pop music or popular genres at

all in fact I think that listening to

classical is a different kind of

experience from listening to pop some

people say that the genres are blurred

and that might be true in a small number

of cases but on the whole I think it's

best if they're approached differently

if I listen to classical in the same way

I do pop I find it boring and old if I

listen to pop in the same way I do to

classical I find it empty so for now

let's just say that classical music

needs a different approach from popular

genres fourthly you might find that with

certain pieces composers or styles you

may need to listen many times or to

several of their works before it begins

to click it might not hit you the first

time you listen to it and that's okay

for example I have to listen to a lot of

JS Bach before it all fell into place

and he's considered one of the greatest

composers of all time I just didn't get

it at first and now I think I do I think

this is simply because you're becoming

familiar with a new style and gradually

your ear gets used to how that style

works once you are familiar with that

new style genius and emotional

expression begin to emerge from it


concert halls can sometimes seem a bit

imposing old fashioned or exclusive in

their rituals and this can put some

people off I think it's interesting that

classical music is being played in more

and more new spaces it's great to

experiment with this and to try and find

new ways of revitalizing the scene but

most often you'll hear classical in the

concert hall first it's important to

realize that tickets for classical

concerts can be incredibly cheap

sometimes as cheap as five or six pounds

for young people compare that with a pop

concert or a sports match secondly there

really is no need to dress up for say a

Night at the Opera although some people

do like to make an occasion out of it

just wear what you feel comfortable

wearing out thirdly I think the reason a

concert hall can seem a bit like a

ritual is because in a kind of way it is

whereas we go to pop concerts to dance

and have a great time a lot of people go

to classical concerts to listen

carefully and connect directly with the

music in a very personal spiritual way

as I said earlier it's just a different

way of listening

I also think that keeping the silence is

out of respect for the rest of the

audience do you want to enjoy this

connection with the music and the so do

they so out of respect for that we avoid

talking or doing something that will

distract others while the music plays I

think all of these concert hall

conventions have risen out of respect

respect for the audience for the

performers and most importantly for the

music so those are my general ideas next

we're going to look at how we can

actually follow grasp on to and feel

musics expression and then later on I'll

make a video on how to follow a musical

argument thanks for watching