Enjoy It While You Can

December 4th, 2009

By Brian Bagent

ChristmasMusicNo politics.  No philosophy.  No religion.  No moralizing.

Dear Readers,

Pour yourself a glass of Merlot, turn on The Nutcracker Suite, sit down, and just listen.  You don’t have to watch it live, or even see a video of it.  And if you don’t have a CD of it, you can listen to it through playlist.com.  Just create an account (it’s free) and start searching for it.

I swear, if anything aches you, this will heal it.  It is Christmas Time, after all, and it is traditional.  But even apart from that, it is fine music.  Turn the lights off, turn the volume up, and just soak it in.  I know, I know, it’s classical music.  Well, really, it was written during the romantic era, but enough of the pedantics.

If you have a chance to see it live, spend the money and go see it.

Some others you might enjoy:  Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” (it’s an…opera); Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” especially the Overture; Mozart’s “Rondo in D” and “Turkish Rondo;” Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” (also an opera);  “The Blue Danube Waltz” by Johann Strauss; Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, 4th Movement, called “The Ode to Joy” (you’ve probably heard it in church called “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”).

Go to a symphonic concert, preferably a concert that’s going to be heavy on strings.  If you don’t know anything at all about classical or romance era music, tell them you don’t when you talk to them.  They love teaching about these things.  There is little on planet earth that is more moving than the lead violinist playing a solo, and it doesn’t really matter what it is that he/she is playing.  You may have a few CDs or old vinyls, but it isn’t the same thing as hearing it live, not by a very, very long shot.

Music should cleanse the soul.  Most of what passes for music these days falls woefully short.

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17 Responses to “Enjoy It While You Can”

  1. larry |

    I agree

  2. Lisa |

    We listen to The Nutcracker Suite throughout the season as well as other classical selections and traditional carols. I listen to classical on the radio when I drive. The other day I was searching for a station with traditional carols and my 12 year old daughter, a violist said, ” Mom, please don’t change the channel, I prefer to listen to this.” I write this while at this moment the county where we live is considering cutting the strings program in the elementary schools. It would be a shame because aside from the music knowledge and skill, studying music and playing an instrument enhances a person’s ability to process information in other areas in or out of school.

  3. Cristla |

    Lisa- We are having the same problems at my son’s school. They have considered dropping the orchestrt because there is not what the district feels enough interest. I have helped launch a petition to keep it in our elementary middle and high schools. We are a fairly large district so hopefully it will help on the local front anyway. My son will be 12 in a few days. Our family also listens to the Nutcracker Suite throughout the year. I have 2 that have been in the band 2 1 in the orchestra and 2 that play the guitar. The one in the orchestra has a better grasp on everything so i agree fully with your last statement

  4. Brian |

    Cristla, that’s a tough sell. I hope it works out.

    I think the biggest help would be a field trip for the youngsters to the Houston Symphony, making the principal and a couple other administrators cover as chaperones. If they are like most people, they’ve never been to a concert put on by professional musicians, and they just do not know what it is that they are missing.

    All it takes is just one time, especially hearing the violin solo, and they’ll figure out a way to keep the orchestra program.

    If you have the money, you might even consider inviting some administrators to go with you to an evening concert. Houston Symphony’s season has just started. I believe that there are about 12 more concerts before the season is over, and they are doing some fantastic concerts. Check them out here: Houston Symphony 2009/2010 season.

    They are dong some of the giants in classical/romance this season: Mozart, Beethoven, Berlioz (considered the father of modern symphonic music), Handel, Stravinski, and Holst.

  5. Brian |

    Strike part of that: there are 12 different productions that they are putting on for the rest of the season, but about 36 concerts within those different productions. They are doing each one of the remaining productions for three nights each.

  6. Cristla |

    Brian-Thanks for the suggestion and website. This past week myself and the rest of the PTA went before city council and our school board to address the issue. We formed PTA charter this year because the school that my youngest son attends did not have one. We have been able to accomplish quite a bit so far. Today we were able to get Houston performers scheduled to play for our cultural arts program. We invited the school board as well as other staff and faculty in the district. We are hoping that will inspire them. People tease my son about being in the orchestra so he has stated several times that he wanted to quit… he doesn’t of course and he gets better each day. I am very proud of him.

  7. Brian |

    The question with kids invariably comes to “how long do I have to practice?” The only useful answer is “you have to practice until you want to practice.” They won’t get it at first, but it will dawn on them one day, probably on the day when they realize that they don’t have to practice anymore, but cannot wait for their alone-time with their instrument.

  8. Tom |

    Brian and Cristla, I’m afraid the future is bleak for serious music in public schools, unless parents can muster some kind of politically correct argument to support it.

  9. Cristla |

    Tom–That is what my community is doing we have a petition and we have spoken with our school board. We have also written to our congressman as of yesterday. I am a single parent so my kids are my priority. I will go or do whatever it takes to keep music in schools here. I am in the PTA at the kids schools and work for our district so I will do my part hopefully other parents will as well.

  10. Lisa |

    We have a similar petition where we live. Let’s hope our efforts make a difference. Kids who are engaged in orchestra or band are generally excelling beyond their peers across the board in school.

  11. Brianna |

    It makes you work hard to master a skill. That’s pretty much the same thing you have to do to learn any other skill. And whether they continue with the instrument or not, if they get past a certain level they will always love music afterward… that’s always a good thing.

  12. Cristla |

    Lisa I totally agree one of my boys never played an instrument and i have watched him struggle but the others have had an easy time with all classes as well as any after school program or sports. I am a firm believer that music helps even outside of school.

  13. Tom |

    Brianna, I think you’re exactly right. Many people say that learning things that are useless in their daily lives is a waste of time. However, education in areas such as higher math, astronomy, biology, music, literature, history, geography, foreign languages, etc. expands the horizons of your mind, improves your ability to think and conceptualize, and enhances your ability to think about and understand the world. Sadly, our public schools are abandoning traditional education in favor of politically correct subjects and slanted views of established facts.

  14. Cristla |

    Our children today are taught to pass the TAKS test. It is not about education anymore, I think it is time to forget that test and get back to teaching our children history, math, science, english.

  15. Brianna |

    Not even that Tom (though you’re right, it does that too). It also teaches you things like, if you want to be good, you have to work hard. You have to practice, you have to do things over and over again even when you don’t want to, you have to be critical of yourself and pay attention to what you’re doing. And yes, before you ask, I play an instrument (flute). Don’t have much time for it anymore, but I got quite good before I was done.

    You’re also right about our schools abandoning traditional education. If you want to know why… well, personally, I think a lot of blame falls on the guy who said this:

    “The mere absorption of facts and truths is so exclusively an individual affair that it tends very naturally to pass into selfishness. There is no obvious social motive for the acquirement of mere learning, there is no clear social gain in success thereat.” – John Dewey

  16. Brian Bagent |

    Brianna, ya gotta love Dewey. This is where his brand of “selflessness” gets us.

    Social gain? How about the gain of living as rational humans as opposed to sadistic savages?

    “There are only two means by which men can deal with one another: guns or logic. Force or persuasion. Those who know that they cannot win by means of logic, have always resorted to guns.” — Ayn Rand

    Violence is the ultimate result of Dewey’s “…no clear social gain in success thereat.”

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