Thursday, March 08, 2007

Music Appreciation 101

I received a free CD of classical music in the mail this week with an offer to sign up for regular shipments of additional CDs. I immediately toss any kind of offer like this in the trash, but the free CD was worth keeping since it was basically a greatest hits collection of Mozart. I listened to it on the way to work this morning and enjoyed it thoroughly. Especially one of the pieces. It's an old friend of mine.

Back in my Mary Hardin-Baylor days everyone was required to take 3 hours of fine arts. It was an easy choice for me and I embarked on a semester of Music Appreciation. We met in an upstairs classroom of the old Presser Fine Arts building. It was an evening class that began at 6PM. And it was springtime. Perfect atmosphere for the appreciation of classical compositions.

My old friends Beethoven and Chopin were well represented. And, in my early years, Daddy had purchased a 12-record collection of the greatest classical pieces performed by the Longines Symphonette which had included many of the pieces we were to study. There were some surprises, like Stravinsky. At the time I thought Rite of Spring was bizarre, but I've come to appreciate it over the years. It may be that many of those in the class were suffering through the semester because it was a requirement, but I was at home with Bach, Brahms, and the other old boys and enjoyed my rare departure from the no-nonsense business department.

One evening stands out in my mind and it was brought back to me this morning as the first notes of Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G Minor began to play. For some reason I had missed learning any Mozart pieces during my years of piano lessons. I was familiar with some of his work by virtue of the Longines Symphonette and wide study of the works of Bugs Bunny, but I had never before encountered Symphony No. 40.

It was a perfect spring evening and the windows of the classroom had been opened wide. The trees outside the windows held birds who provided interesting harmonic complement to the music playing inside. I have no memory of what specific element of composition was supposed to be represented by Symphony No. 40, but I can remember when I first heard that first bar of music.

I was struck dumb by the beauty of the thing. Perhaps it was the setting. To be wrapped in the arms of a gentle spring breeze and to be exposed to a particularly beautiful piece of music was something I was unprepared for that evening. I found myself almost moved to tears without warning. I've never listened to that piece since and felt quite the same intense emotional reaction, but it always fills me with contentment.

That Texas spring evening I knew music appreciation in its purest sense.


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