‘I Hate Classical Music!!’
This is a statement I hear so often, but is it true?
I am very fortunate. I was brought up in a household where classical music was played. I have vague memories of the Brandenburg Concertos by Bach being played at home, on the old record player. One of our neighbours played the 1812 Overture so loudly, that even though he lived some doors away you felt the need to dodge the cannon fire.
At the first school I attended – just a small village school – our music teacher used to play us classical music each lesson. This was where I was introduced to Morning from The Peer Gynt Suite No 1 by Grieg. When I was a little older, and had a bit of pocket money, hearing this piece and wanting to explore the music a little more led me to by the full suite on audio cassette (I am that old!) and I discovered The Hall of The Mountain King (later used in an Alton Tower’s advert) and Anitra’s Dance, and this then led to me discovering the famous Grieg Piano Concerto No 1 (all the right note’s in the right order). By this time I was already learning the piano and so, again on audio cassette I bought the very first of my albums of music by Rachmaninov, his wonderful Piano Concerto No 2, and so began a love of all his music, so much so that Rachmaninov’s 2nd Symphony would be at the top of my list of favourite pieces of all time. I am an old romantic at heart!
One of my prize possessions is a vinyl LP my Nanny Dora bought me back in 1979/80 of classical music. I truly believed for years that the Barber of Seville was supposed to have a drum beat behind it! In A Classical Mood is still one of my favourite albums and demonstrates how classical music can be ‘popped’ up. There are places around the world where this approach to the classics is still very much loved and fills concert venues, and I think it was a lovely way for my Nan to encourage my growing love of classical music.
But………… I don’t think I really saw it as a love of classical music. I had a love of MUSIC.
What is classical music? How is it different to ‘popular’ music?
It uses the same melodic and rhythmic devices as pop/rock music. Some of the instrumentation may be different, but many a pop song uses classical instruments. The saxophone was being used in classical pieces before pop music as we know it was even thought of, and there are many hit records that use a string and piano accompaniment.
Do you like film music?
A lot of film music is basically modern classical music! The Theme from Star Wars, The Imperial March as Darth Vadar appears – classical music. The Theme from Harry Potter – classical music. Superman, Batman, Ironman, The Avengers – classical music. Pirates of the Caribbean – classical music. I could go on, as the list is endless!
In TV, any underscoring of a show is usually classical music, and a large number of TV themes are classical in origin. One of the most famous in recent years was Morse, but one of my favourites is the theme to Midsomer Murders. If you listen carefully the theme varies at the beginning of each episode based on what is happening in the story line, but the theme is always there, and this expansion of a musical idea can find its origins in classical music, and how a concerto or symphony is developed and expanded.
Adverts – I mentioned the Alton Towers ad, but how many more use classical music? A lot of people recognise the music from the old Felix the Cat advert. The piano piece that is played is The Entertainer by Scott Joplin. For many years the Stella Artois advert used music from La Forza Del Destino, an opera by Verdi. I can’t hear Danse des Mirlitons by Tchaikovsky without thinking of ‘Everyone’s a fruit and nut case’ from the Cadbury’s adverts. I wonder how many adverts you can remember that have used classical pieces as their basis. More than you think I’m sure.
Granted, some classical music can be a bit on the long side, but if you find it difficult to listen to a symphony that lasts for almost an hour (my favourite is a perfect example) start small. Explore one of the many compilation albums you can get, or an album of music used in adverts. Listen to a radio station like Classic FM or Scala radio, that play shortish classical pieces. Also, bear in mind that classical music isn’t just ‘popped’ up. Sometimes it happens the other way.
There are some great classical takes on some pop/rock classics. Queen have had their music turned into a wonderful symphony. Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana has been covered by Aston, a classical group of musicians who have created covers of all sorts of famous pop/rock songs. I think my absolute favourites though are Nothing Else Matters by Metallica and Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin played on acoustic guitar by Soren Madsen. Scala radio play quite a few of these type of pop/classical arrangements.