By Talia Honikman
Even junior high students can attest to the fact that our society’s taste in music has changed since childhood. It seems the majority of teenagers now prefer a form of electronic pop, and it’s rare to find a person who regularly listens to something other than that. But as a violinist, I’m more vexed by the media’s shunning of classical music.
Call me crazy (or nerdy), but I really love listening to Shostakovich quartets, Beethoven symphonies, and Haydn Concertos. Their complexity and depth just appeal to me. I have friends from my orchestra who are as crazy about this style of music as I am, and a lot of us could go on for days about things we love in the string serenades, concerto grossos (fondly referred to as “gross concertos”), or the tangos that we’re playing.
However, it seems like no one in my grade is interested in listening to music other than Omi, One Direction, and Taylor Swift. Admittedly, there are some really good songs being played on the radio today, but I feel that our society is so focused on the few artists that are popular right now that we listen to those songs over and over again. And in an effort to produce more music with catchier tunes, some of the intelligence in the lyrics get lost. The music begins to lose some of its meaning.
Just like anyone else, I have preferences within the various genres of music. I prefer classical music to mainstream pop, and eighties music to electronic. And of course, there is always a moment in any given day where I just need to blast the radio and rock out. If it’s just that any one person doesn’t like certain types of music, or if that music just irritates them, that’s a different matter than not willing to acknowledge music. I have learned to find good things to focus on in songs or pieces that I don’t like, and I pay attention to those little things. It has helped me to appreciate almost any music that comes on the radio.
Within the boundaries of pop music, even, there have been changes in the quality－not the overall quality, but the significance of the songs and their meanings.
“I think that there are some popular artists today that take care with their lyrics and want to spread a message, but there are definitely some artists that are just in that industry for the money,” says Hana Ulep, an eighth grade student and an avid listener of songs by the Beatles.
Classical music seems to be shunned because it is performed much less than it was even fifty years ago. One of the most stereotypical opinions I have ever heard is that this form of music is only for snobby adults. This is absolutely not true. I would argue that if you don’t like classical music, you haven’t been exposed to enough of it. There are so many different types; and if people were willing to look deeper, they would find that classical music is for almost everyone.
One of my favorite “bands” is actually a string quartet (composed of two violins, a viola, and a cello) called Brooklyn Rider. A lot of what they play can’t even be placed under the “classical music” category, because they are constantly playing with their sound. For true obsessors over classical music, or even general music-lovers, going to one of Brooklyn Rider’s performances is like going to a rock concert.
Then there are all of the songs by Dmitri Shostakovich. This Russian composer’s style is sometimes happy or melancholy (and definitely classical), like the pieces by J.S. Bach, Mozart, or Tchaikovsky, but more often the pieces written by Shostakovich are violent, screaming thunderstorms balled up into concertos or symphonies. These songs are incredibly hard to fit together, and at first glance, it sounds like a cacophony of random notes. But it’s not. It’s classical music, for sure, but it barely fits the mold. One of my all-time favorite things to listen to is his eighth string quartet. Shostakovich, at least for me, is like punk rock; deep and complex. And when you analyze it enough, it’s actually not just screaming. It’s a form of art.
Teenagers and adults who listen to music and are open to experimenting should absolutely check out these artists and the many others who form the structure of classical music. They are definitely worth it.