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how music saves us (geniuses pt. I)

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art by Nelya Shenklyarska
Classical music. What pictures does that word stir inside you? Do you think of orchestras sawing away at their cellos? Or maybe dramatic overtures in the background of movies, the intense clamour of a dozen instruments working in tandem? If you can't picture much, then let me try again: do you enjoy it?

When I think of classical music, I think of none of these things. I'm not the biggest fan of most classical music—Mozart, Vivaldi, Beethoven, Bach. Their work is genius, but I'm removed from it. I never really feel anything besides a kind of calculated, scholarly appreciation.

But I can't feel this way about Chopin. He's a Polish composer who wrote Romantic music, and also my favourite composer in history ('classical' can mean from the Classical era or simply the genre). His music's the kind to bring weary soldiers to rest and war-torn countries to peace. Why? Because it's truly universal. We don't need to pick it apart to understand it.

Maybe you feel this way about any artist you love. But when it comes to Romantic composers, Chopin is much more personal with his music than any other, more so than Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saƫns, or Rachmaninoff. He doesn't show off his technical prowess. He understands that playing at your fastest doesn't always mean playing at your best. His music is bittersweet, soothing when you least expect it, and holds all the charge of a coming storm without ever actually coming to thunder and lightning.

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art by Nelya Shenklyarska
Chopin actually reminds me of this quote: “I know you will laugh at me, but I really can’t exhibit it. I have put too much of myself into it.” It's by Basil Hallward, the fictional artist behind Dorian Gray's portrait. I always took this to mean that artists can't help but show their true selves through their work. Van Gogh's 'Starry Night' is not the night sky, of course, but rather the night sky that he saw and felt. In this way, art reveals more about the artist than the object they're painting.

This is how I try to understand Chopin: his Mazurkas inspired by his Polish background, his pieces that better suited for salons rather than concert halls. Someone who I believe defined Romantic music as a genre of nuanced expression—melody shifts here, decorative grace notes there. A genius in his own right.

And when my life started to move around me and not with me, his music would push life's pause button every once in a while and let a tired young teen appreciate living time and time again.

Before I go, some recommendations:

1. Waltz Op. Posthumous in A Minor—a sweet and sad waltz, which I always thought sounded like hope
2. Nocturne Op. 48 No. 1—a ballade, almost, of heaviness, then temporary ease, then resurfacing of uncontrollable grief. Also my favourite piece.
3. Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2—written when Chopin was twenty years old, this is a well-known nocturne. Quiet, dreamlike, piano poetry.
4. Mazurka Op. 17 No. 2—mazurkas are Polish dances that sound like a waltz but with an emphasis on the second or third beat. Like something out of a music box.
5. Etude Op. 25 No. 11—it's called 'The Winter Wind'. You'll know why when you hear it.
6. Ballade Op. 23 No. 1—heavy, dark, complex, and apparently, Chopin's personal favourite.

jo

6 comments:

  1. I feel the same about classical music! The intricacies amaze me (I've had to analyse a few of Bach's pieces and they are incredible), but I don't feel it. I never perform it well, because I can't get into it, if you know what I mean.

    And this is the perfect description of Chopin's music: [it] holds all the charge of a coming storm without ever actually coming to thunder and lightning. Thanks for the reccomendations - I will check them out, because I've enjoyed what I've heard of his music so far.

    And by the way, you have the most unique and thought-provoking posts of all the blogs I read. It's good - I find it refreshing. :)

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  2. I don't know much about classical music, as it's not a genre I get into easily, but the way you describe Chopin, infused with the ballerina paintings just transported me and it was a lovely trip. ^.^

    xoxo Abigail Lennah | ups & downs

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    1. P.S. Just to let you know, I also shouted you out for my fifth blogiversary, which you can see here. ^.^

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  3. When I think about classical music I think about going to classical concerts with my high school friends. I had no idea what was going on, but I liked it. I always miss lyrics though. I don't know why, but I need a story to follow and my mind wanders off when there's just music, not matter how beautiful that music is.

    x Envy
    Lost in Translation

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  4. This is super late, but I've only just now returned to Blogger (for like, the third time), and hadn't seen this post back December.

    Interesting how many people I've found that feel a direct connection to Chopin's music. I'm a huge listener of classical music, and it is pretty much all I listen to when I'm alone. I however, have never known the bittersweet connection that other's have; yes, it is beautiful, but it was never a tune that I had in my head for days, one that I felt I needed to play myself on the piano, one that I could listen to for days on end.

    I think my heart is tied to Vivaldi's "Spring," Beethoven's many symphonies (a simplified version of "Ode to Joy" was the first classical piece I ever learned to play on the piano), or the simple beauty in Roberto Cacciapaglia's "Endless Time (he is a modern classical composer, and one of my favorites; you should really check him out). Perhaps the problem is that I haven't listened to enough of Chopin to really, truly love it. Hopefully, one day, I will feel what you feel.

    Come back to the blog Jo! We miss you!

    Aliah | Indigo Ink

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  5. Envy11:59 pm, December 10, 2017
    When I think about classical music I think about going to classical concerts with my high school friends. I had no idea what was going on, but I liked it. I always miss lyrics though. I don't know why, but I need a story to follow and my mind wanders off when there's just music, not matter how beautiful that music is. https://topacademictutors.com/write-my-essay/

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