Music and the Everyday

Pride and Prejudice is still on my mind. I can’t get over just how perfect the BBC adaption is – so balanced, so funny, so perfectly sensible and at the same time it rings so true, and is so comforting. One thing I do like about it is the way music is shown to be so much a part of everyday life.

Most of the time, these days, to talk about music that is part of your everyday life is to talk about elevator music or the music that is the background to life, and not especially a part of it. And I think that is a shame. I’d rather have silence for most of the time and have music when I am in a state of being able to actually listen to it. I don’t like having music wash over me and mean nothing. I don’t like listening, but not ACTUALLY listening to music. Music is affecting, and i don’t like the idea of it being so constantly around and continually affecting me, or of the idea of it being so constantly around that I am numb to its effect. To be so glutted on music is an overload of the senses, and I know I would rather have a little that I appreciated, than to be so stuffed with it that I was sick of it, or indifferent to it.

I think it’s very easy to become indifferent to music. Sadly, I think a lot of classical musicians get fatigued from playing the same symphonies year after year, and so much of the same ideom. Beethoven only wrote 9 symphonies, and I bet any professional cellist knows them all half by heart. Of course we play them because they’re good music. It just might be nice if they were played a little less. The joy of a first discovery is immense. But familiarity can breed comfort – like coming back to an old friend, but familiarity when forced rarely makes for much liking. But that seems to be the lot of the professional orchestral musician.

In the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice music seems to be an integral part of life. You play music, get to know the music because you want to – it’s the life of an armature musician, and the life of chamber music. It’s less about performance and show than it is about playing with friends and for your self. Less about perfection than it is about taking what you can, with your limits of technique, from the beautiful notes. It’s playing, practicing, with no goal in mind. Music for music’s sake.

For most Classical music doesn’t really fit that everyday space anymore – that comfortable, everyday space. I think even for a lot of musicians it doesn’t fit that space. Pop music is in this sense perhaps a true part of life. I know that for me it is a constant when I drive – I find bits of meaning and liking in the top 40, and I only listen to it as much as I want to, and when I’m done, I turn it off.

Sometimes a pop song will come and I’ll like it, and it becomes a small obsession til I’ve listened to it x number of times and I’ve had my fill of it. Sometimes I find a piece of classical music that I need in that same way and listen to until I’ve taken it all in – Ravel’s string quartet, 2nd movement did that for me recently – but for the most part Classical music hasn’t been the thing that I most often crave. Maybe because I already take in a lot of it. I still wish for me it was more ordinary, more everyday.

If music is food for the soul, then I suppose Classical music is my Eucharist, and pop my non-holy bread. Both needed? Perhaps one more than the other. I do think of classical music like that though – somehow a purer thing, a more solemn thing, and it is more surrounded by ritual and tradition. Less easy to drag into the world. I really don’t know if Classical wants to come into the real world. A lot of performers seem to like keeping it as a museum piece. They seem to want to make it ancient, and irrelevant. I don’t know why my instinct is to want it to grow.