Last night, I had the privilege of taking some friends out to go see the Grand Rapids symphony. ($5 for students. Just sayin’).
I had never been to a professional symphony before. I, sadly, didn’t even know the difference between a symphony and an orchestra. My friends were nice and pleasant when I asked them, but I know they think I’m an idiot. It’s ok. I’ll get over it…But, really, for someone who professes to love music, and even has the gall to post music on his blog and pretend to say intelligent things, he really doesn’t know much.
I’m learning. And one thing I learned last night as I shifted between ecstasy and antsy-ness while sitting through a 50 minute Romantic piece was that we (a collective group hug; me included) have lost the attention span necessary to really hear beautiful music. Seriously, when is the last time you’ve listened to an entire album, even?
Close your eyes.
Take your favorite album (not filler/billboard music, but something with substance).
And let it move you.
If this is too hard, listen to an entire song. I heard a ringtone the other day. Mozart. Maybe. My ability to recognize classical compositions is limited, but the point stands: It was classical. I realized, as the recipient of the Mozart ruffled through her bag and answered the disruptive call, that such a use would have made Mozart weep.
“It’s ok,” we say to weeping Mozart, “she likes your song enough to download a 10 second clip of the best part on her phone. And that’s the tone announcing her boyfriend. (Her mom got the Imperial March). So, Mozart, keep your wig on. That’s flattering ’cause you’re like up there with T-Swift.”
I submit to you that no one even a generation ago dreamed of music being used this way. We complain about screamo (I don’t) and bad popular artists (I do). “It’s noise,” we say.
It’s ALL noise!
The way we fill our lives with bits and clips of commercially driven, interrupted music makes it all noise. I have a friend who, I swear, has never heard an entire song in his life. I catch two bars from a car zooming past. The strip mall is playing “Call Me, Maybe” again, but thankfully I duck into the Rite Aid before the chorus gets glued in my head. I come home and crank up the speakers to get that song out of my head then walk into the bathroom. We skip, rewind, pause, turn down, fiddle with the bass.
It’s no wonder we all have ADD nowadays! Sometimes there is music playing over music – a whole house of jostling, baffled air molecules. The only option then is to play yours louder because your music is undoubtedly superior to everyone else’s.
That’s a fact.
I don’t know much about other time periods, but I guarantee that when Mozart wrote music it was made to be listened to at the very least. People sat down, gave their ears, kept their prehistoric cellphones in their pockets, even dressed up! A piece was played in its entirety. 50 minutes, I learned, is enough to yawn a few times, but I’m crippled by my habits, which are everyone else’s habits.
I write this to call attention to the importance of music in our lives. We would not be having this conversation if it wasn’t. But the way we treat music needs reform perhaps. Maybe not always, but sometimes. I’m not saying all the time. But try taking a full album and focusing on it; sometimes musicians want people to hear their work. It’s about as hard for us as sitting down for an hour with a book. (That’s another subject; I won’t get into it).
Sitting there in the presence of these sweating artists who have dedicated their lives to the instrument in their hands, I realized how important it is to drop everything and listen – put music in the foreground every once in a while. There was something therapeutic about sitting on my hands and pouring all my attention into the sound waves in my head. Suddenly, it wasn’t just noise. The stresses of the day fell away, and I was genuinely awed by the beauty of it. It was, if I may say it, a worshipful time. And it stuck with me.
Try it out!