Debating how to talk about classical music

Posted on: January 28, 2010

In a post on Wednesday (1/27) at her blog in the Washington Post, Anne Midgette writes about an ongoing discussion with her readers about the form and content of classical music. “I said that ‘Chopin wrote this at 24’ was less telling, to me, than a statement from the pianist about how the music made her feel, or her relationship to it. After I wrote it, I was made aware that some people feel that ‘Chopin wrote this at 24’ is indeed more useful information than ideas of how the musician feels about the piece. My concern is that we tend to distance ourselves from the work by buttressing it in a carapace of facts that don’t actually affect our direct reaction to it. … You have two extremes in classical music: on the one hand, the elaborate program note filled with facts and information about the piece, and on the other hand the blunted reaction of the listener after the fact: ‘it sounds pretty.’ … I think that one way toward a more intelligent and involved appraisal is through a connection with the pieces, and that one way to develop that connection is to talk about what the pieces mean to people who have spent a lot of time with them: the content, if you will.”

Posted January 28, 2010