False Assumptions

by matchequeda

Before this course, I assumed music to be like this:

1. All instrumental music dominated by the “traditional” symphony instruments was “classical” music, and therefore was stylistically the same.

2. All of this “classical” music was terribly boring and, while rich in historical value, would always feel foreign to me.

Through this course, I have found that my understanding of music was quite off-base. Defining the word “classical” more clearly has helped me to understand that it is an umbrella, not a grouping: a catch-all for music rooted in the western tradition, not a way of describing it. Understanding the notion of genre in the music we have studied, while challenging for me, has allowed me to better understand what I am listening to. Genre truly has an impact on our perceptions of music, and understanding genre is fundamental to understanding where music fits within our tradition and how people saw an older piece when it was prominent.

Further, I have found that I was viewing instrumental music with far too wide of a lens. Not only is there a great variance from era to era that I really hadn’t noticed (i.e. Baroque vs. Romantic), but there is a tremendous difference between the works of individual composers.

Most importantly, however, was finding that my 2nd assumption – the “everything will always feel like nothing to me” assumption – was not true. I must admit that music by certain composers is still very cold to me. However, the music of many of the composers that we have listened to – Haydn in particular – has been extremely engaging and even fun for me to get to know. My favorite piece that I have heard, Symphony #88 Mvt. III, is now one that I seek rather than one that I dread the chore of having to get to know. While Cantata No. 4 and Bach in general remain a chore for me, the exposure to Bach, Haydn, and all of the composers we have listened to has been a meaningful and culturing experience, challenging my orientation towards music that seems unrelatable to me.