What Does Music Mean?
Now THAT’S a tough question. I suppose you could say the same piece of music can mean different things to different people, but that is a generic answer to a specific question.
Someone who was very good at explaining what music meant, in ways we all could relate to, was Leonard Bernstein. That point was driven home again when I can across an excerpt from one of his Young Peoples Concerts. He made the intangible tangible, expressing the emotions within Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony in a way the students in the audience could identify with.
The comment I hear most often, from both longtime classical music listeners and those who are either new or occasional listeners, is, “I don’t really know a lot about classical music, but…”
Leonard Bernstein could fill in the blanks in a unique way. He could boil music down to it’s essence and explain it in such a way as to make it relevant to those listening.
I bring this up as a way to introduce you to Listen, a publication which has a way of making composers, performers, and the music they write and play, relevant to our world. Watching Yuja Wang play a piano is a riveting event, but hearing her say, “My mom actually wanted me to be a dancer, but I’m not very flexible or disciplined — so I failed at that. But I loved music,” connects listener at a very human level. It was in Listen that I found a section they called The Listener. It’s a blog series by Ben Finane in which he writes about his first time listening to various pieces of music…Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Peter and the Wolf, and Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, to name a few. That is where I encountered Leonard Bernstein as he gave the children in the audience a way to hear Tchaikovsky on their own terms, in a way that made sense.
I encourage you to check out Listen magazine online. It has much to offer.
Read First Listen: Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony (Listen)