Open Talks, Uncategorized

Music Outside of Caste

One question keeps ringing in my ears, a simple one possible to be answered only by you, dear friends : what feelings,words, emotions do you associate with classical music? Tell me honestly. And now I will tell you why I need to know.

As a performing classical musician,  I’ve often wondered – is the lack of our listeners a problem of the post-iron age, or that of parenting, or its’ larger unit- society, or is it insensitivity all around that’s killing us, or maybe – wait! Let’s  for a moment stop putting the blame on everyone (this illness of the intelligentsia) and acknowledge (I’m addressing fellow musicians now)-apart from all that, it’s our own fault.

How many of us have actually stepped out of the merry-go-round of recitals, competitions, and business-making to look around and ask – for whom do I play, and why do millions prefer heavy metal over the Beethoven sonata which I practice for hours, days, and eventually, years? And why do I play Beethoven – perhaps to win that competition, which, were it non-existent, or that recital, were it non-paying  – I wouldn’t care for him either? And to relax, what music do I listen to, what books do I read, what thoughts engage my head, if any? Is it a habit, or is it life? Put simply – would I still play every day, were it a wholly non-profit affair? Were I a musician on the Titanic? (And those who say yes in answer to these, truly are.)

Personally, as an aside, I believe in something else. I believe in dividing classical music from profits. It’s possible to have a job you love (in the humanities, especially) which leaves you lots of time for professional music-making, practicing and performing. It’s proven by myself and quite a few successful musicians in the world. Though that’s for the non- business-music-makers. In case you were wondering, there is always a way out.

It looks like Hollywood soundtracks, those subconscious mass-propogandists, have given us two excuses for putting classical music on the screen. One is a backdrop for psychopaths.  The other is caste affairs. Sometimes, as these two occasionally go together, you’ll see them in a brilliant two -in- one director’s touch. Oh, I’ve forgotten occasional food commercials – especially pasta. You know- Italian pasta presumably goes down best with Rossini (perhaps because he was a good cook).


A small digression: real-life dialogue between a friend of mine- a teacher, and her 13 year-old student(who, like most teenagers, listens to nothing but pop and rap).

(Student comes in. Hears classical music playing)

Student:(after some time) What music is that?

Teacher: That’s Chopin, it’s classical music.

Student: Classical? Hey, no, classical’s boring! But this isn’t! Really, what music is that?!

End of quote.

I always thought that if we had Mozart as part of our life, we wouldn’t want to listen to something that repeats “I want you baby” 20 times in a row. And it has nothing to do with psychopaths or caste. Why do most prefer easy-to-swallow alternatives? Perhaps because like any Art, classical doesn’t reflect life. As a poet said- Art reflects death more than life. It reflects that veil, and the attempt to lift it, come near it, or break through it desperately. (depending on who you listen to – Bach,Mozart, Brahms, or Shostakovich). Philosophers have long said that we should always keep the fact of our mortality in mind. But in this respect Art comes much closer to accomplishing it than can philosophy. Because instead of teaching us it shows us. Instead of  taking desperate measures to prove,  it says –  take a look.

Surely, with all our pleasure-infused mass media, who would want to take a look a bit beyond  life? I want you baby is understandable, everyday, cliché. It follows you everywhere – on the bus, in the car, in a movie. It adapts to any situation. And a Mozart concerto? It doesn’t adapt to you – it adapts your life to itself.It forces you to take a look sideways and beyond that bus, car, or movie, into a different reality. Because few actually need that, it feels like almost no one needs poetry, music, literature with all their thought-provoking weight.  Yet what we’re missing is that in the end, life itself forces us to do just that – think of what shall come next. And no one can escape it.

In fact, life is much more merciless at tearing that veil than Art.

But sometimes it seems that just no one is listening to either.

Let’s forget  those left behind or ahead, people forsaken out of wisdom or foolishness, our very problems and despairs. Let’s listen, for one moment together.


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