The rewards of listening to classical music

Posted on: January 5, 2021

“ In ‘How to Listen,’ the six-month weekly series that dived into so-called classical music … I found … that nearly everything I listened to resonated in ways I hadn’t anticipated,” writes Mark Swed in Thursday’s (12/31) Los Angeles Times. “John Cage’s call for us to hear everything around us in everything we hear was certainly helpful…. Many critics approached Cage’s silent piece, ‘4’33”,’ emblematic of the early days of the pandemic, when industrial noise and traffic diminished and ears perked up to the wonders of environmental sound…. The central tenet in Cage’s philosophy … is the essential need to pay attention. Listening really does matter. That message, moreover, was all around us. Black Lives Matter demanded we listen. Epidemiologists told us to listen to them…. Piece after piece sounded like it had been written to reflect the last six tumultuous months. I chose Machaut’s luminous ‘Messe Notre Dame’ … because it helped to show where our music came from. It hadn’t occurred to me that it was written … in the wake of the Black Death pandemic…. Listening is always in the present. [Composers] have relevant wisdom to impart if we are willing to, as Cage recommended, pay attention.”