Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Expanding your musical horizons: Enjoying orchestral music

Connor GuyIf you truly appreciate orchestral music, and you know that you’re not lying to yourself when you say this, stop reading; this column isn’t for you. If you think having “Moonlight Sonata” on your iPod but never listening to it is appreciating orchestral music, this column is for you. This is a column in defense of orchestral music, what some call “classical music.”

I make this distinction because these terms are often grossly confused. Classical music refers to music from the classical period, which was from about 1750 to 1820. Actual classical music is really not that interesting. This is a huge generalization, of course, but I really think that there is better music out there. Orchestral music refers to any music that is written for an orchestra, whether it was written yesterday or hundreds of years ago.Photo by Glory Bushey

I really think that it is within everyone’s power to fully enjoy and appreciate orchestral music. It’s not just something for snooty elitists and orchestra nerds.

No, it’s not quite as titillating as pop music. It doesn’t appeal to the lowest common denominator because it doesn’t have to make the top 40. It doesn’t get in your face and connect to you crudely like those enticing, pulsing beats that you see in pop music.

No, it’s much more subtle than that. But that doesn’t by any means mean that it’s less enjoyable. It’s just not immediately accessible. It’s not about “going dumb” (not that there’s anything wrong with that); it requires attention, patience, even work.

I know that no one wants to work when they listen to music, but it really isn’t that difficult. It’s a different experience, but it’s just as engaging and exciting. This music is really about pure emotions expressed in musical form and is not hindered by trying to immediately appeal to as many people as possible.

Here at Whitman there’s absolutely no excuse not to try it; we have a music library (located in the Music Building) that has almost everything there is. It’s free and open most of the time.

Often, people think of orchestral music as boring. These people have clearly never listened to good orchestral music, and if they have, they probably weren’t paying attention. These people think that Mozart himself defines what they call “classical music.”

I hate most of the composers that many people think define the orchestral genre. With a few exceptions, Mozart is really bland and uninteresting. Bach too. Haydn is dull. There are those out there who love these guys, but their music is really not very interesting.

If you’re trying out orchestral music for the first time, check out the following (these are some of my favorites, and I think that they’re particularly exhilarating and accessible):

-Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade
-Mahler’s 5th Symphony
-Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony
-Anything by George Gershwin, but particularly An American in Paris
-Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain
-Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, particularly the Infernal Dance
-Wagner’s overtures to both The Flying Dutchman and The Valkyrie

Listen to any of those. Listen well. Don’t just press play and then zone out; I guarantee you’ll think it’s boring if you do that. But if you actually listen actively and pay attention, chances are you’ll enjoy them.

If you like those, keep going. The world of orchestral music is so vast and varied that it really would be a shame to leave it undiscovered as so many people do. Explore the music library. Learn about the composers and find some of their other works. Take a music history class if you really love it.

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