I remember when the sound of classical music seemed far out of reach. I had entered into my 40s and never listened ever to classical music.
I had heard it on the radio, of course, but never actually listened. I had confined my musical interests to rock music without any motivation to listen to any other kind of music.
I recall in the late 1980s going to an auction in nearby Kingsbridge, a few miles south of Totnes, Devon, UK. I bid and succeeded in taking home a collection of around 20 classical music long playing records at a cost of £7.00. I listened to one or two albums but still could not find any enthusiasm, let alone passion, for classical music.
Bach, Mozart and Beethoven passed me by. I stayed with the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan.
The LPs gathered dust.
Some months later, I had an idea. I would play classical music for 15 minutes at the start of the 45 minute first sitting meditation around 6.30 am on retreats. A meditation on listening. A Dharma teacher has the privilege of making such decisions. I sat cross legged in the front of the meditators in the hall and listened with the Sangha as fully as possible to excerpts from from classical music.
The meditations on listening gradually bore fruit. Within a couple of retreats, the music brought an inner response of enjoyment and appreciation. Certain movements in classical music triggered an emotional delight. I used classical music and similar genres of music to start the day for meditators on retreats for several years.
Torbay Symphony Orchestra regularly offers an evening concert in Totnes either in St. John’s Church or in the hall at KEVICS School. This weekend the orchestra offered a weekend on the evolution of music.
Orchestra conductor and long-standing friend, Richard Gonski explained to us the way music has developed. Fascinating. He then invited the orchestra to show the integration of sections of the orchestra with other sections. His words enhanced our appreciation of the selected music for the evening. Richard reminded us of the constant development of fresh sounds in classical music continuing into the 21st century.
Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6
I had a reminder last night of my early days of listening. Last night, the orchestra played Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6. This symphony triggered my first awakening of love and appreciation for classical music.
Beethoven loved spending time outdoors among the hills, trees and rivers. Out of these experiences, he composed the Pastoral Symphony.
The first movement reveals the joy of spending time in nature. The next movement reveals Beethoven’s time besides a brook with the music representing water, the sounds of birds, such as the nightingale and the cuckoo.
The happy flow continues into the last three movements until the orchestra generates the sound of a summer storm approaching with the first drops of rain, then thunder and flashes of lightning.
The storm reaches its end as we listen to the flute. This masterpiece reveals the countryside through music.
Sometimes we need a key, an open doorway to enter into a new world. The Pastoral Symphony served as the key for myself and developed into a passion for classical music.
Yesterday evening, we also listened to J.S. Bach Ricecar a 6 Voci; C.P.E. Bach, Sinfonia in D and Mozart Piano Concerto No 27 with piano soloist Veronika Flook.
The Gods of Music speak to a deep place within us. May we have ears to hear.
It is never too late.