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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (March 10, 1998)
IN APPRECIATION OF ...
Story by Barb Churchill Illustration by Matt Haney
Classical music. The words often conjure
up fear, loathing, repression and misunder
standing, rather than hopeful contemplation.
Tyler White, assistant professor of music
and director of orchestral activities at the
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, understands
this as well as anyone.
“Classical music is a journey through the
mind and heart,” White said. “This is what
great music is.”
But many non-musicians completely fail to
understand die purpose or significance of clas
To begin with, “classical music” is a mis
nomer. Western art music, serious music, or
symphonic music would be a closer descrip
tion, as “classical music” to a musician means
only one style period - that of music written
between 1750 and 1800.
However, most non-musicians aren’t that
picky. So “classical music” it will be.
But it’s not for the timid.
White said many novice listeners misunder
stand and even fear listening to classical music,
because they “don’t get it.”
However, there’s no need to become a musi
cian to enjoy and appreciate classical music, he
White’s advice to the novice listener?
“All you need to do is to concentrate on the
ideas and the emotions, because specific
sounds are intended to evoke emotions,” he
said. “Then, all you have to do is look at your
progression of emotional responses.”
But this act can be difficult if the piece is
For example, White pointed to the famous
opening of Ludwig van Beethoven’s
“Symphony No. 5.” The dah-dah-dah-DUM,
dah-dah-dah-DUM has what White calls “cul
tural baggage,” because it has been so widely
heard it is now almost “too familiar.”
It is almost impossible to separate the actu
al music from the cultural baggage, he said,
which makes it much more difficult for
Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5” to be taken as a
powerful end. Each separate event along the
way relates to the end, White said.
Another big concept for the uninitiated is
concert etiquette, how a listener is expected to
act while listening to a classical music concert.
Unlike many jazz or popular music con
certs, audiences are expected to sit politely and
wait for the end of a piece to respond positively
or negatively. People unfamiliar with classical
music think the atmosphere is “stuffy” inside
the concert hall, and may actu
JUST BECAUSE people aren't standing alIy ieei repressed trom
cmMDTkir yUAADTKir expressing their response to
UP STOMPING AND WHOOPING IN themusic. And, if one judges
serious (classical) music by
THE MIDDLE OF THE CONCERT the same standards as jazz or
, , pop, it’s understandable why
DOESN'T MEAN THAT THERE ISN'T one might feel this way.
POWERFUL COMMUNICATION Understandable, but
tt wrong, White said.
GOING ON. u People need to realize seri
- TYLER WHITE ous music is an experience
- AS § X SANT PROFESSOR OF MUSIC akin to listening to a great ora
tor or a great comedian, rather
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piece of music
Another thing that
from popular and
But classical music has both emotional and
musical closure to it, because every piece has a
uitui iioivmiig ivjcux ui |j\jy uiuoiv, uv oaiu.
“You don’t want to miss a minute of what
these people are saying, because it is so impor
tant,” White said. “You can’t wait to see what
happens. Classical music is the same way.”
There is a different way of listening to clas
sical music, he said, and a wholly different
“Just because people aren’t standing up
stomping and whooping in the middle of the
concert doesn’t mean that there isn’t powerful
communication going on - and that doesn’t
mean it’s stuffy or repressive.
“At the end of the piece, go ahead and stand
and cheer,” White said, smiling. “I’ve never
known a classical performer who was offended
at people who liked his or her performance.”
People are exposed to more classical music
than they think, if they count commercial snip
pets. For instance, United Airways uses George
Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” for its slogan.
“This is a good example of taking a piece
that’s structured in a particular way, ripping the
melodies out of their context,” White said, “and
making the background popular music.”
He contrasted appreciating classical music
with jazz, and found some differences.
“When you listen to a jazz piece, you’re lis
tening to a familiar theme with variations by
the soloist. You’re paying attention to what the
player is doing differently, and that is where the
joy comes from. The same structure is repeated
over and over,” White said.
“In many forms of classical music, the
musical structure of the entire piece moves and
changes as you go through the piece. Listening
and responding to these changes is where the
joy comes from in classical music.”
And, for those who have friends in the
School of Music, White also recommended
going to classical concerts in which their
friends are performing.
“The sense of a personal connection
between yourself and the music is much greater
when you’re friends with someone on stage.”
" !'" - MEMORABLE WORKS :T.
There are many, many representative classical recordings to choose from when
looking for music to understand and appreciate.
However, to give the uninitiated a head start, I have listed a few of my favorites
and why I like them, in no particular order:
1) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, “Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra or
Symphony No. 40”
me Planner L,oncerio is an excellent
later work by Mozart that prominently
high energy in spots and is an \
excellent representative sample |
of Mozart’s genius. “Symphony I
No. 40” was prominently fea- \
tured on the “Hooked on
Classics” recordings. Despite
this, “Symphony No. 40” is foil of
grace and wit and wears well with
2) Joseph Haydn, “Symphony No.
This piece is interesting mainly
because the musicians get up and leave
during the last movement until only a pah:
of violinists are left to finish the piece. It is
foil of humor, extremely fun to listen to
and an excellent representative sample of
Haydn’s symphonic writing.
3) Luawig van ueetnoven,
“Symphony No. 7”
This is perhaps Beethoven’s finest sym
phony, which isn’t faint praise considering
Beethoven’s better-known “Symphony No. * 5
3 (Eroica)” and the ubiquitous “Symphony
No. 5.” The reason this is more interesting than
Beethoven’s 3rd or 5th symphonies is because of the
changes in energy from movement to movement.
Beethoven is a master of orchestration and he uses dynamic
changes with great flair and skill.
4) Maurice Ravel, “Bolero”
This is quite simply the most romantic, sensuous classical music
ever written. “Bolero” was picked as the theme music for the
Dudley Moore/Bo Derek film, “10,” which proves Hollywood pro- .J
ducers do indeed have brains and hearts. ’i£
5) Sergei Prokofiev, “Lieutenant Kije Suite” Jr
Who says you need to be a popular composer to be revolu
tionary? Prokofiev’s “Lieutenant Kije Suite” set the world
afire with its tale of Russian Army brutality and the futility of ujjfl
war. The music is both stirring and disturbing and uses the jh
comparatively new instrument of the tenor saxophone to MM
good advantage. M
6) Aaron Copland, “Appalachian Spring or i|B
Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra”
“Appalachian Spring” uses American folk music to f f fl
good advantage, while showcasing Copland’s orchestral | ■
abilities to their best advantage. The “Clarinet Concerto”
is famous because Copland uses American jazz rhythms
and idioms and because it was written for clarinet virtu
oso Benny Goodman. :^M
7) Antonin Dvorak, “Symphony #5 (New World
Dvorak was taken with American folk music while visit
ing the United States. This symphony commemorates the pio- fj |
neering spirit of 19th century America better than a postcard. (
8) Gioachino Rossini,
“William Tell Overture”
i- This is one of the few pieces
most of you have heard, as it is the open
ing theme for the television show “The Lone
Ranger.” This is programmatic music at its best.
9) Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, “Marche
Slave” or “1812 Overture”
“1812 Overture” is one of the most popular
works of classical music ever composed, as it
uses multiple percussion, extremely loud dynam
ics and passionate, lyrical themes to proclaim the
United States’ victory over Great Britain in the )
War of 1812. “Marche Slave” is another revolu- j
[ tionary piece (similar to Prokofiev’s “Lieutenant
Kije Suite), which depicts a slave marching to the •
gallows for some minor infraction.
The best way to appreciate classical music is to
listen to it. But some books and Web sites can help
clarify any confusion.
There are some books essential to the apprecia
tion of classical music, for die musician and the non
musician alike. 1
Donald Jay Grout and CTaudeV. Palisca’s “A History of Western ,•>
. Music” is a good start. SomeWh&tfike'Stephen Hawking’s “A'Brief
■ History of rTime” in concept, this book examines the various musical
style periods and explains hov^ music grew from rising one instru
ment/one voice to using several instruments, and from one type of
melodic concept to many. It can be slow-going and frustrating at times
(much like “A Brief History of Time”), but it will help you understand
compositional differences, orchestral challenges and other various con
cerns and problems.
“The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians,” edited by
Stanley Sadie, explains various stylistic periods as well as many musi
cians of note. There are brief biographies of many important classical
music figures, such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van
Beethoven, Joseph Haydn, Johann Sebastian Bach, Peter Tchaikovsky
and Aaron Copland, just to name a few.
Ted Libbey’s “The NPR Guide to Building a Classical CD
Collection,” as well as Ivan March, Edward Greenfield and Robert
Layton’s “The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs and Cassettes? and
“The Penguin Guide to Bargain Compact Discs and Cassettes” carfhelp
nonmusicians understand what they need to listen for in order to pick
understandable, enjoyable classical music. Another guide along this
same line is Jim Svejda’s “The Record Shelf Guide to the Classical
Josiah Fisk’s “Composers on Music” discusses eight centuries of
music from the perspective of the composers. This is a fascinating jour
ney into the minds of many famous composers.
Several good Web sites are available to whet your curiosity regarding
The Juilliard Bookstore Web site, http://www.bookstore.juilliard.edu,
is a good place to start. This site contains all sorts of fascinating classi
cal music books, articles and paraphernalia.
Online biographies are also available. Some of the best ones are for
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, http .//home, hkstar. comhtslw/mozart. html;
Ludwig van Beethoven, http://classicalmus.com/composers/beethoven.html;
and Joseph Haydn, http://classicalmus. com/composers/haydn. html. ,
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