As the semester draws to a close (today is the last day of classes for us), I thought I’d repost an end-of-semester entry from my old blog site, originally posted in May 2005:
I had the great privilege of attending a fantastic concert at Clowes Hall here at Butler University. The program was Stravinski’s Symphony of Psalms and Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No.1, ‘A Sea Symphony’. Although illustrating different sorts of music composed in the 20th century, they both share my overlapping interests in religion/spirituality and music.
I also had the unhappy experience of witnessing a few female students, presumably from JCFA, deciding to simply go, get programs and then leave. Then they could meet the requirement that they prove their attendance at such an event, without having to actually attend.
I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to listen to Vaughan Williams, but a lot of this is a matter of taste. I should also cut the students some slack – it is exam time, after all. Nevertheless, it is important to realize that exposing oneself to different kinds of music is the same sort of horizon-expanding experience as learning about other cultures. In fact, in one sense, learning to appreciate music that is ‘not your cup of tea’ IS learning about other cultures.
When asked why they don’t go to more of these sorts of concerts, I suspect that many students would say ‘Because classical music sucks’. Yet this statement is patently untrue, just as it would be to say that ‘Popular music sucks’. Surely no one in the history of the human race could dismiss all music, old or new, ‘high’ or ‘low’. Sure, there are concerts and performers that “suck”, but they are rare enough and one can quickly learn to avoid them. But when heavy metal fans say ‘Rap sucks’ or R&B; fans say ‘Rock sucks’, this is not what is meant. Really all that is being said is “I don’t particularly like this kind of music”, just saying it in a less polite way.
And so, students, as this semester ends, my advice to you is to go out there and expose yourselves…to music, art, culture, of all sorts. You won’t like all of it, but I can say with reasonable certainty that even your exposure to and greater understanding of stuff you still don’t listen to for pleasure will benefit you in the long run.
So here’s one for you to try. It won’t take long. The Lark Ascending (actually, just part of it) by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Give it a try. Push play.