Last week, I had a long go around about classical music with some fine folks here. If you are interested, it shouldn’t be hard to find.
Several people made suggestions of things that I might give a listen. I went through our “three pages” of discussion and picked out some passages with suggestions to take with me to a music store. I was going to just print out the whole thing, until I realized that the first “page” would run to over thirty sheets of paper.
I took those printed out passages, and went to a music store in Wiesbaden that just opened a couple of months ago. I was going to go to a music store that I knew, but they seem to have gone tango uniform while I wasn’t looking. A fellow in a department store music department told me about the new place. Classical music only, brand new store.
The salesman there hunted up the first couple of selections, and then asked me what criteria their selection was based on. He then pulled a third CD from a rack and told me to try it after I’d heard the first two.
The CD he pulled is a compilation CD. Pieces by various composers, all mixed together. The CD bills itself as “the ultimate test of your speakers.” It has pieces by some of the composers that were suggested, and even a couple of the suggested pieces.
I’m sitting here now with that CD in the player, trying to decide whether to be tickled, pissed, happy, or slightly miffed. I love what is on this CD - for the most part, which is the best, really that I expect of any album. I’m happy because I like what I hear, and miffed that it has taken me so long to get to theses things. I’m tickled that my PC does so well playing a copy protected CD, and pissed at the producers for making it that way and myself for buying it despite the copy protection - although in all honesty I didn’t see the little notices on it until (when I tried playing it on the PC at work) windows popped up a little message that the new codecs were installed and that the computer would reboot as soon as I clicked “OK.” Too bloody late to stop it, and no way around a reboot - luckily I had just turned the damned thing back on after the lunch break. I’m also a little bent out of shape because I’m listening to it on my Linux system at home right now, and while it works well enough, it completely ignores on track that I like.
What I’m hearing on this CD is not what I’ve always heard when classical music is being discussed. These are pieces with primeval force. I’ve always associated classical music with more melodious things - and pardon me, I’m being honest, Muzak for rich people. The music I’m hearing now has certain things in common with that - instruments certainly, and probably a zillion things that I don’t have names for. It also has a commonality with other types of music - and things I do have names for. Rhythm, and volume (precisely controlled volume,) and - to my surprise - beat. It also has things that I’ve not heard elsewhere - there’s a deceptive simplicity and clarity to much of this that astonishes me.
What I’m poking around and trying to get to is this:
All my life I’ve had a certain impression of classical music that was built up of my (admittedly limited) exposure to it and its afficianados. This CD has blown that impression all to hell, pretty much the same way last week’s thread destroyed my impression of classical music fans.
For once in my life, english fails me and the best expression for what I feel for this music is a german expression:
Ich bin begeistert.
My wife is amused - I’ve played nothing but this CD all weekend long. Even while puting up sheetrock in the attic, the CD player has been right there with me. I can do some of my best listening when my hands are busy and my mind needs occupation.
So, you’ve read my ramblings, and you’re probably wondering what the point is. Its like this:
I once ate snails when I went out to dinner with a girlfriend. The restaurant we ate in closed a few months after that, and I’ve been afraid to eat snails again anywhere else. They were so good that I’ve been afraid that it was something special that that place did to make them that way - and I don’t want anything less tasty because I’m afraid that they’ll taste more like my preconceived notion of what a snail would taste like that what I know they can taste like.
Can you dopers help me find classical music to re-enforce my first positive experience with classical music so my liking for it doesn’t go the way of my liking for snails?
So that it doesn’t become a guessing game, I’d like to ask if the pieces I like are presentative of the complete works that they came from. In one case, it seems to me that it is not, so I’ll start with it, and then list the others that I like - and what I like about them.
Please remember, these are my opinions. I’m just voicing what I feel.
Strauss - Intro to “Thus Spake Zarthustra”
This piece was recommended particularly in the thread last week, and once I heard it I knew exactly where I’d heard it before. I love this one, and not because of the movie it was used in. It is the simplicity of it that gives it its power. It lives for me on its use of volume to convey a feeling. That single horn that strikes up out of the rumbling comes across to me as a something that has discovered that it can make a noise (representative of any ability, actually.) It rises in volume as its control of the new ability improves, and then it manipulates it, slowly and wonderingly, trying new things with it.
I listened to some of the rest of the work while I was at the music store, and it seems to me that the rest of the work drops that simplicity and becomes more melodious. I didn’t hear much in the rest of it that encouraged me.
Verdi - “Dies Irae” from “The Requiem Mass”
I’m pretty certain that what I’m hearing hasn’t much in common with what it is supposed to be about. The imagery doesn’t match at all with “the day of wrath.” The imagery that I get is of an ice skater. The stretches with the heavy, pounding bass sounds is the skater skating hard to build up momentum. The lighter stretches are of the skater doing spins and figures. For the life of me I don’t know why this comes to mind - I don’t watch figure skating at all.
Prokofiev - “Dance of the knights” from “Romeo and Juliette”
I hear something heavy and ponderous moving in synchrony with a much lighter and faster melody - it is quite easy to imagine armored men performing some kind of intricate march inspired dance. But to visualize that, I’ve first got to get rid of the feeling of BEING a submarine. The best I can figure is that there’s a WWII movie out there somewhere that I’ve seen that uses this piece while showing underwater shots of submarines. Regardless of the imagery, I enjoy it.
Wagner - “The ride of the Valkyries” from “The Valkyries”
At first, I only heard the riding. That is an impressive enough sound, but then I started picking up other things. The riders mounting up and riding off in smaller groups, and then joining together into a large group. The menace. The assurance of victory. The battle and the trampling of the insignificant enemy and the regrouping afterwards. Towards the end the victorious ride home, and finally the triumphant return. And, irritatingly, some instrument that sounds like nothing other than a bicycle bell warning people out of the way during the return. “Brrrrrnnng, brrrrnnng look out here come the Valkyries, don’t let them trample you.” It is still utterly fantastic. Do all arrangements have the bicycle bell in them?
Copland - “Fanfare for the Common Man”
This is again one of those that sound so simple and clear, but still communicate some astonishing imagery. It starts with a hammering evil that pounds everything flat. It relents, and an individual stands up straight - defiantly - and says “See me, hear me. I am, I shall be.” Another joins him, and another until there are bunch of them. The evil takes note, and comes back to hammer them all flat - and this time they they stand back up in defiant groups. Each time they get hammered down, and each time they come back - until the evil hammers at them and none go down - they stand united and hold off the evil. Then they become more and diverse, and the evil tries again but this time they don’t just chase it off. They beat it to the ground and make it change and join them, and all become greater.
So, there are a couple of more on here that I really like, and I see I’ve not said much about the mechanisms I see. The rest going to have to wait until tomorrow, though. It is 2 AM here, and I’ve got to go to work in the morning. I’ll pick this up again either at lunch time, or when I get home tomorrow night.