Classical music matters at Duke
At some point in our lives, many of us have been enthralled by the beautiful storytelling of Taylor Swift’s new albums or felt connected to the flashy, upbeat BTS music playing on the radio. Today’s singers and songwriters take advantage of modern music technology to capture and convey their feelings. Every element – the lyrics, the beats, the dynamics and even the music videos – contributes to the essence of this song.
However, we are unlikely to find a place for a piece like Brahms Symphony No.3 on Spotify’s curated playlist of today’s Top Hits.
I tried to keep my ears open when listening to different genres of music for distinctive settings and forms of musical expression. Just as we are concerned with the standard of living, we might also want to be concerned with the level of listening. Public appreciation for classical music should not deteriorate.
Certainly, I know few who doubt the ability of art – and, in particular, of classical music – to influence a moment or even an era. Even though classical music doesn’t usually make the Billboard Top 100, it introduces a unique discussion of historical contexts, proving that its independence from current music technology doesn’t take away from its value. And there’s so much more than that – it offers an emotional, harmonic and rhythmic range that no other music can match, from Bach’s sanctity to Mahler’s sarcasm. It is quite simply a treasure that deserves to be supported.
Earlier last month, the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra performed Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony at multiple locations in Raleigh and Cary. This piece was the revolutionary cornerstone. The underlying melody upon which Beethoven wove his elaborate tapestry of ideas was still perceptible beneath the surface. Listen to it! You can really feel the composer’s manifestation of the Enlightenment spirit, advocating free thought within rational boundaries. We see an artist’s political pursuit of an ideal society and his assertion of freedom.
Beethoven’s symphonies are often associated with freedom. During the French Revolution, the third symphony is dedicated to a heroic leader. During World War II, the opening notes of the fifth were tied to the morse code short-short-short-long for “V” (as in victory). In 1989, Leonard Bernstein led the Ninth near the fallen Berlin Wall. Listening to a great work like this allows us to understand the full picture of history instead of the one-dimensional view through historical texts.
Next month, the Duke Symphony Orchestra will perform Brahms’ Symphony No. 3. True to the satisfaction he finds in multiple purely Platonic pursuits in his life, Brahms has always pursued the essence of music from the pure instrumentality of Beethoven. This is in stark contrast to his contemporary Wagner, whose musical dramas are composed of elements from Shakespeare’s plays, Schopenhauer’s philosophy and Hitler’s ideology.
There are also many opportunities to listen to organ and chamber music at Duke. As part of Professor Harry Davidson’s music seminar (Composers of Influence), we have the chance to hear the university organist, Dr Robert Parkins, play a few pieces. Some people think the pipe organ is only suitable for playing hymns or “old” music, but in fact the repertoire covers most musical genres – from Bach’s whimsical fugues to Max Reger’s historicist modernism and more. by jazz-inspired pieces. You will be amazed at the HUGE variety of sounds the pipe organ is capable of producing!
The Danish String Quartet, which has been widely recognized as one of the greatest quartets in the world, also came to town the weekend of November 5. It was a packed house in the Baldwin Auditorium for this amazing band – and certainly one of the finest live shows. most Mozart quartet in E flat major that I have ever heard!
The only problem is that over eighty percent of the audience were seniors instead of Duke students.
If we continue to receive stereotypical musical codes that are emptied of their richest treasures, we will be the losers. I’m not saying that everyone should become a classical music enthusiast. But I still encourage you to go see Duke Performances, come to Baldwin Auditorium and Duke Chapel, and put your student discount to good use (only $10 to listen to guest artists).
Even though classical music, to some extent, seems to be dying publicly in the modern world, it still vibrates with life and remains capable of changing lives. We shouldn’t be embarrassed to embrace this belief. The way we listen is a reflection of the way we live, regardless of the size of their audience or if they have a prime time awards show. With our ears and our imagination, classical music gives us the tremendous ability to understand the strengths and limitations of human conditions.
Sophie Ju is a freshman from Trinity. His column usually runs on alternate Mondays.
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