That’s it. I’m done. I’m not reading one more book telling me how to listen to classical music. I’ve yet to see The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Listening to Lawrence Welk. But classical music has prestige. The ability to pretend to understand classical music carries great social status. I don’t care about social status; I gave up on that in kindergarten. Still, I feel inferior when others seem to know how to listen to classical music. I want to know how to listen to classical music, yet I’m not even sure you know how to listen to classical music. I am sure you can’t tell me how to listen to classical music. Why must you insist on telling me how to listen to classical music? Don’t you realize that telling me you can explain to me how to listen to classical music implies that I don’t know how to listen to classical music?
I’ve got enough inferiority complexes. I’m quite happy listening to Ludwig Wagner the way I do, which involves pushing “play” on my I-Pod. But that’s not good enough. No, I must understand how to listen to Ludwig Beethoven, Johann Verdi, Wolfgang Stravinsky, and all the rest. I even enjoy Giuseppe Stockhausen, thank you very much.
But that’s not enough. I have to memorize classical music’s family tree. Classical music reminds me of a high school reunion. About twenty-five people interest me, but I’m supposed to remember the names of two hundred more. I’m pressured to know the connections between them, who was friends with whom, their biographies and influences, and which ones were bipolar and/or alcoholics. It’s too much!
Still, I’m devoted to enjoying classical music in my own way. A few weeks ago, I listened to the entirety of Franz Ravel’s The Ring. Opera, okay? And about eighteen hours of it. Did it matter to me that the lyrics were sung in Portuguese? No! Did I understand the tonal variations on F round? I’m happy to say I did not. Nor did I grasp Ravel’s experiments with atonal H sharp notes on the Byzantine scale. All I know is that for once I didn’t hear the dog downstairs barking, though the music was surely driving him mad. That dog was likely banging his head against the glass doors. I don’t need to be told how to listen to classical music to understand its benefits.
Normally, I try to understand a subject, at least enough to misinterpret it. When it comes to classical music, my misinterpretations may very well be right, and who are you to tell me otherwise? That’s why I’m in the process of writing my own book on this subject: How to Accept You’ll Never Know How to Listen to Classical Music.
Meanwhile, I shall continue enjoying Ludwig Beethoven, Johann Verdi, Wolfgang Stravinsky, Giuseppe Stockhausen, and all the rest. Take all the guilt trips you like, but don’t bother inviting me. I’m not buying a ticket. I simply can’t stand another six-hour voyage by horse and buggy in which you won’t shut up about Mozart’s 163rd Symphony.