Sunday, February 8, 2009
Why bother with Classical Music?
Does classical music mean anything at all? Does it matter?
Of course, you may say, it matters. It matters that Beethoven wrote his last string quartets, it matters that Mozart wrote his ‘Requiem’, it matters that Bach wrote his ‘Art of Fugue’.
But let me rephrase – Does classical music matter in the larger scheme of things?
“What scheme?” you ask.
So let me elaborate.
Does it matter to a parent who loses his child to drugs that Schubert’s ‘Unfinished Symphony’ is a ‘complete’ masterpiece in itself? Does it matter to a community grieving over a senseless act of terrorism, that Shostakovich penned his brilliant ‘Festive Overture’ in a matter of minutes while chatting to a friend and smoking? Does it matter to a war-ravaged village that Handel composed his ‘Messiah’ when he was blind and broke? Does it matter to a terminally-ill patient that Mahler left unnumbered his actual ninth symphony because no composer since Beethoven had successfully completed more than nine symphonies before dying? Does it matter to a country plundered by its ruthless dictator that Stravinsky’s ballet music ‘The Rite of Spring’ provoked a riot at its first performance because it was so far ahead of its time? Does it matter to investors, who see their life savings wiped out in a stock market crash, that that the fourteen-year-old Mozart first heard the ‘Miserere’ by Allegri on a visit to Rome, and wrote it down entirely from memory soon after hearing it (which the church at that time forbade anybody to transcribe)?
The larger scheme of things! The big picture! In that context, is music a ‘must-have’ or a ‘good-to-have’? When the most basic needs are in peril or unmet, what good is music?