There have been a lot of huge philosophical concepts resting heavily on my mind lately: What it means to have choice, the responsibility to protect others from harm, the obligation to not place a stumbling block before the blind, the meaning of hope, the exhortation not to judge others until you are in their place, what it really means to help, when it’s right to voice concern, when it’s not right to voice concern.
So, because my head needs a little respite from all this, I’m going to share with you some of my absolutely favorite music. It’s been a long time since I did a music post (okay, October, but it feels like longer), and since I don’t have the head space to do much else, here are some songs and some anecdotes from my musical history.
You’re Not Ready For This One
When I was but a wee lass (ten years old), I started playing the clarinet. When I was about twelve or thirteen, I started taking private lessons. One thing I kept asking my teacher to play was the Mozart clarinet concerto, which is possibly the most sublime piece written for clarinet. His response was that I wasn’t ready yet. Of course, being young, I chafed at this, purchased a copy of the music anyways and started working on it on my own. When I informed my teacher that I could “play” it, he responded,
“Yes, the notes are not hard. But you are not mature enough to play the music of it.”
Years later, when I would study the piece in college, I came to appreciate what he had been trying to tell me.
And this concept certainly crosses over into the realm of parenting, and even of just life in general. There are times when our kids (or ourselves) think we’re ready for some experience, but we’re not quite there yet. But we can’t see it until later. ‘Cause that’s how it is sometimes.
I can’t seem to not get philosophical. Ever. Anyways, here’s the second movement of Mozart’s clarinet concerto. It’s a slow movement, sandwiched between two fast movements, which is traditional in concertos from this time period (it was written in 1791, the last year of Mozart’s life).
Bombasticness at Band Camp!
I went to band camp. Somewhat disconcerting is the fact that I can’t remember if I went to band camp only in Iowa City, IA (Go Hawkeyes!), or also in Lawrence, KS. One would think that would be something easily recalled, but, no, it’s not. I even called my dad to see if he knew, but we decided that we kind of think it was only Iowa City, but, gosh, it was almost twenty years ago, so we’ll just leave it at that. UPDATE: My friend and fellow-bandcamp goer, Lisa, confirmed that we were indeed at KU. It is not a figment of my imagination. Phew!
What I *do* remember is playing the finale to Tchaikovsky’s fourth symphony. Mainly because it started with a cascade of notes that create a sweeping, exciting, spectacular effect. Right now, thinking of the opening in my head, I hear this: BAAAAAAAAAAH BAAAAAAAAAAH BAAH badeldadeldadeldadel dadeldadeldadeldadel Dadeldadel Dadeldadel Dadeldadel Da Da DAH DOP DOP.
There is a reason people make fun of band nerds. We go around singing stuff like that as if it’s completely normal.
The rest of the movement is full of the typical Tchaikovsky passing a musical theme around the different instruments. It’s a lot of fun, this movement. For the history buffs out there (anyone? anyone?), this was written around 1877-8. It’s in four movements, which is typical of the time. It incorporates a Russian folk tune, “In the Field Stood a Birch Tree.” That’s the one that sound like this: Da da da da Daaa Dada Daaaa Daaaa. Or this.
I used this article from Wikipedia for some of that information
Don’t Quit Those Piano Lessons Just Yet
Preceding my clarinet lessons were my piano lessons, which I started at seven. Like so many piano students, I never practiced. I would put it off, and put it off until maybe a day before the lesson (or, worst case, a couple hours before the lesson!!). This is the problem with having just enough talent to be able to wing it during a lesson and do a somewhat decent job. Not that I ever fooled my piano teacher for a minute. Despite the talking-to my piano teacher gave me about wasting my parent’s money with my lack of practicing, I continued with the lesson. I should say, my parents graciously allowed me to continue lessons despite my lack of motivation.
And thank heavens for that!
When I was a sophomore in college, I was exposed to Beethoven’s Late Piano Sonatas. These are the sonatas that he wrote mainly while deaf. Yes, he couldn’t hear and still was able to write amazingly complex and profound music. Some musicians even make a decent argument that his late sonatas are even better than his earlier works. They are certainly far more innovative and contemplative than their predecessors.
So, I was taking Form and Analysis and we studied Sonata No. 30, in E Major. I was just floored by this piece. Even though I hadn’t seriously played piano for at least a few years (and, one might say, ever, considering the lack of practicing), I got a book of Beethoven Sonatas and started working on this piece. I must have practiced it every day for at least six months, and after a piano major heard me practicing it, and made some comment about there was no way I could be playing that, I realized that I actually had some chops on piano, if I applied myself.
Look at that. Practicing really does work.
I went on to restart piano lessons and have enjoyed playing some serious piano music. There’s an incredible feeling to taking a challenging piece, working on it over a period of time, and seeing the result slowly come into focus. This is an experience that I think young people today are sorely missing. Yes, I have officially turned into a stodgy old lady, referring to the wayward ways of the “youth of today.” But seriously, many piano students I’ve had want to know when they can start playing things like Fur Elise. The real answer? Maybe five years. But if I told them that, I’m afraid they might give up. Also, I can usually find an easy version that will satisfy their desire somewhat. It’s a balance, teaching.
Now for the Beethoven. Remember, he couldn’t hear when he wrote this. Not a thing.
What are your favorites?
I was going to post a few more songs, but I’m already feeling a little worn out from reaching into the cobwebs of my memory. I hope you enjoyed these, and if you have any favorite songs that you would like to share, please leave a comment about your musical memories (and maybe even a link to a song or two – it doesn’t have to be classical music, either).