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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000153.txt from 2000/07

Subj: [kl] A review
Date: Tue, 4 Jul 2000 08:37:13 -0400

I have some thoughts about Annette Morreau's article about the Nigel Kennedy
concert, but first I'd like to address her quotation from cellist Emanuel

>"It has been my observation that the first step in
>teaching people to appreciate good music is to
>over power them completely by sheer majesty.
>You cannot acquire a love of music by listening
>to simple pieces at first and gradually working up
>to more complex ones."

My first impulse is simply to agree with Feuermann. But on second thought,
has anyone proved that what he says is true? It's a terribly broad
generalization. In order to support it, a researcher would have to begin
playing music for infants shown never to have heard any music previously,
including in the womb. I don't think that exposure to one type of music
blocks receptivity to other types of music. In fact, it seems to me that
most people *do* acquire a love of music gradually, often haphazardly, with
many false starts and detours along the way.

It seems to me that Feuermann doesn't give enough weight to the powerful
roles of curiosity and adaptability in the development of musical (or other)
taste. If we hear lowbrow music, ineptly played, and we *enjoy* it, that
doesn't mean we're ruined for life. Tastes change. We've seen examples
right here on this list of adults discovering previously unfamiliar types of
music and introducing each other to these discoveries (in the threads on
klezmer, for instance).

First impressions, despite their power, don't irrevocably shape later
development. I've already bored the list once this year with my earliest
musical memory. I won't regurgitate the story (it's in the archives, here:

<A HREF@-----.</A>

if anyone's interested). Suffice that it wasn't exactly Mozart. That first
experience seems to have had little influence on my later *musical*
preferences, although it may have helped introduce me to the concepts of
affection and humor!

The most vivid of my other earliest musical memories involves one of those
"over power them completely by sheer majesty" experiences -- a major flop,
alas! Whether or not a great composition works as an introduction to
classical music depends so much on the listener's age, and on the
circumstances. I was about two years old. I didn't know my aunt and uncle
well, because I lived in California and they lived in New York City. We'd
all met up in the middle for a family reunion, at my grandparents' farm in
Oklahoma. My Aunt Mary (coloratura soprano) and Uncle Bill (organ and piano)
were both successful, professional musicians, and both impressed me
tremendously, years later. But that day, I'd picked up my family's eager
anticipation of hearing Aunt Mary's latest recital program, without realizing
that their idea of singing was nothing like my idea. For a toddler, the
sudden explosion of a coloratura soprano's full voice at such close range was
indeed overpowering -- so much so that my gentle aunt and uncle transformed
into child-devouring monsters before my eyes! I began screaming in terror!
As my aunt broke off singing to the tune of muffled laughter among the
guests, my mother picked me up and lugged me, still bawling helplessly, out
of the room.

I think I might not have reacted so violently to Aunt Mary's splendid,
ringing voice, and to the transformation of her face from tranquility to
frightening intensity (complete with wide-open, bright red mouth full of
glittering white *teeth*), if I'd heard it from a few feet farther away, or
if she'd started out half-voice with music of lower energy. For me, the
mildly bawdy and completely peurile "Eddystone Light," that I remember
hearing as a baby, made a more beguiling introduction to vocal music than
Aunt Mary did. Yet this bad prologue hardly finished the story. Before the
end of grade school, I'd become an opera fan, despite this inauspicious

A person's introducton to classical (or any other) music is not a one-shot,
"now or never" proposition. The first time I heard free jazz, I hated it.
It sounded like noise. Now I love it. The first time I watched a live
performance of mariachi music, I loved it. It looked and sounded exciting.
I couldn't get enough of it when I lived for awhile with my father's family,
who had emigrated to Mexico and opened a resort hotel there. Stateside
classical piano and clarinet experience notwithstanding, I hung around in the
hotel lounge on mariachi nights and listened and listened. Then I changed my
mind and suddenly mariachi music sounded like such crap to me that I laughed
at it. Laughing at it was fashionable in my high school, so I felt smugly
self-satisfied with my educated, reformed, worldly-wise attitude. Yet,
today, I no longer think that all mariachi music sounds the same. Some of it
sounds like an intricate, fascinating fusion of many histories, many
cultures. I've reached the point of respecting the tradition enough to think
that someday I might come full circle and become a fan of mariachi music
again. Music exists as more than a mere series of worthy or unworthy events.
Music is part of life and life goes on.


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