A year or so ago, I took my daughter to a saxophone recital at the University of Iowa that was being put on by a friend of mine who is getting her Doctorate in Saxophone Performance. As we drove to the University, I told Hannah to bring her notepad and pencil, that she had brought along for the ride, and challenged her to listen to the music and write down whatever story, words, or pictures that she thought the music was telling her about. I was so pleased to see what may have seemed boring to a young child come alive with life and meaning.
Today my two oldest children Hannah and Zach were with me in the van and we tuned the radio to a classical music station in the area. As we were listening I asked them to do the same thing, to listen to the music and imagine stories that might go along with it. I thought it was fascinating to see them react to the various emotions within the oboe concerto we were listening too. After a bit I asked them what they were thinking of. My daughter said something dreamy about dancing and human interaction of some sort (for some reason I can’t remember the specifics). I then turned my attention to my son and asked him what story the music was telling him and he emphatically and sincerely replied, “it was telling the story of when Sponge Bob made his first Crabby Patty.” Of course I wanted to burst out laughing, but restrained myself and just smiled at both of the children’s powerful imagination.
My point of sharing these stories is to encourage you to appreciate the spectrum of emotions that can be so powerfully and uniquely captured in classical music. I am not saying this to “diss” any other style of music (because I spend a lot of time enjoying many styles of music); however, it is amazing to me how the classical genre holds so much power within one composition to explore such grand extremes in the emotional spectrum. Just look at some of the best movie sound tracks. The contextually focused compositions, which are often orchestral, wonderfully capture the gentleness of a first kiss and the terror of galactic war. In the flurry of popular music, don’t forget to occasionally stop and appreciate the inspiring music within the classical genre. If you’ve always been one of those who finds this kind of music boring, try turning it up on a good sound system, closing your eyes, and see what stories your imagination can bring to life.