Sunday, February 28, 2010

Everybody Loves Classical Music

There are many inspirational videos of the Ted Talks on You Tube.  One that is especially relevant to this blog was given by Benjamin Zander, Music Director of the Boston Philharmonic and faculty member at the New England Conservatory.  His talk, Classical Music with Shining Eyes, was given in February 2008 in Monterey, CA. 

The title of this posting is taken from that talk, in which he states, "Everybody loves classical music.  They just haven't found out about it yet."  With the confidence of a true leader, he proceeds to demonstrate this assertion to the audience of 1,600 attendees in a very touching way.

And during the ovation he received at the end of his performance, he leaped up from his piano bench and rushed to the front of the stage, applauding the audience.  He then explained that at a similar demonstration for 12 year old school children he applauded in a similar way.  And when asked, one of the children correctly explained why it was appropriate for him to be applauding them, by saying, " 'Cause we were listening! "

And therein lies the beauty of live musical performance, that one does not enjoy with even the best recorded performances on LP, CD, or DVD.  With live performance, the audience participates in the event, providing attention that can inspire the performers to new heights.  When we witness live performances, we should not consider our roles to be passive, but rather that we are helping to create that moment.  The Ted audience here created an example of an audience "listening, understanding, and being moved by a piece of Chopin," the Prelude in E-Minor (opus 28, no. 4).

Before playing the Chopin, Zander invited each person to participate in the performance, saying "Would you think of somebody who you adored, who is no longer there."  And so I thought of Marcia (RIP 1944-2009) and found myself moved at the end. 

Please watch the video and savor the joyful presentation.

My hope is that this blog will "awaken possibility" in the readers, just as Zander came to realize that it was his role "to make other people powerful" through his conducting.

Sometimes an Old Man Will Surprise You


February 11th I got home around 11 pm after a great time with the San Francisco Symphony at the Flint Center with my Chiro Friend.  It was the first symphony orchestra concert she had ever attended in her life (she's now 14 years out of college) and she seemed to enjoy it a lot.  In fact she asked to borrow my CD of The Planets by Gustav Holst, which is the best work we heard performed that evening.  Of course I was blown out as always after a concert and very happy to have introduced her to something new in her young life.

On to my nearly 94 year old Dad.  When I got home, he was reading in his rocker in his bedroom with the door open.  He stayed up because a lens had come dislodged from the frame of his glasses and I had promised to fix it when I got home tonight.  So I did that.  Then he asked me what concert I had attended, so I told him about that.

Somehow this led to him saying something about "that singer who plays the guitar and the harmonica at the same time."  I said, "You mean Bob Dylan?"  "Yeah, that's the one!"

A pause.  And then he said, "Hey, you know I read a book about him from your bookcase the other day.  It was really good!!  A big thick book, it was this thick," as he showed me his finger and thumb, spaced a couple of inches apart.

This came as an amazing announcement to me.  My father has never been a music lover.  Back in 1969 or so, I bought him Dylan's LP Highway 61 Revisited, but I doubt that it got played very many times.  He's just never been musically inclined.  So I asked him to show me the book he had read, thinking to myself, "Wow, I gotta see this!"

We went into my office and he marched right up and pointed at one of the hundreds of Dylan books in my Dylan bookcase, saying "This one."  He pulled out Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades Revisited by Clinton Heylin and handed it to me.  "That's the one.  It's a really good book.  First, it's written by a really good writer, Heylin is it?  He keeps you interested all the way through."

Still a little dumbfounded, I mumbled, almost more to myself, "So . . . you read this whole book?"  He says, "Yeah, the whole thing.  Well it only took me a day!  I'm a really fast reader."  
The large hardback book is 720 pages long, not counting the 60 pages of references in the back!

"Okay!" I said.  "Well if you liked that one, I'll tell you the next one you might want to read, if you want to read another one."  "Sure", he says, "which one would that be?"  "Well you could read the one Dylan wrote himself about his life."  "Yeah, okay, do you have that one?" he asked.  So I took him in the other room and grabbed the paperback edition of Volume One of Bob Dylan Chronicles and handed it to him, explaining that Bob was given a contract by Simon & Schuster to write three books about his life. 

Then I asked, "So what was it you liked about the one you read anyway?"

"Well he's a really interesting guy.  He writes all his own songs, right?  He's sung all over the world, I guess.  But I think his real genius is in his songwriting.  I mean a lot of people can sing songs.  But he writes them!"  Of course I told him that lots of people have sung tons of the songs he has written, but that Dylan's own version of those songs are usually the best.

 He paused and then looked right at me.  "You know what I really liked about the book was that by the end of the book I felt like I really knew him!"  And off he went to his bedroom with Bob's book in his hand.

And there I stood, taking it all in.  I went back in the office and looked at my bookshelves.  The ones with the Dylan books take up a total width of over fifteen feet.  And out of all those hundreds of books, he made a pretty darn good selection for finding out about Dylan's life.  If he had asked me, I probably wouldn't have handed him a 720 page book as a starting point, but like he said, he reads really fast.

Then as I thought about it more, I found it interesting that he didn't ask me if I could give him some Dylan music he could listen to.

Like I said, he's never been a music lover.  He's always been a book worm.

But we got to the same place about Dylan.  After listening to his music for decades, I too, feel like I really know him.

One time before a Dylan show I was talking to a fellow at his first Dylan show about Bob and his recent shows.  After a bit, the guy asked me, "So how come you call him Bob and not Dylan, or Bob Dylan?"  So I told him that when you get to know a person, you just start calling them by their first name, right?