Treasure trove. When I took up partner dancing in the early 1990s I stopped listening to classical music. My obsession with partner dancing strained our relationship. Becoming a DJ put the quietus to it. I'm grateful the pandemic forced me back, made me rediscover the music of my youth. I've discovered a lot more. It's been a rich time for new discoveries in music.
Dad. My dad got me listening to classical music in the 50s. I remember staring at the turntable, entranced by its dustiness. Maybe he was afraid to clean it? I first heard Grand Canyon Suite and Scheherazade on his hi-fi; I would beg for the donkey song, or the snaky violin. But then stereo came along and he got all new stuff. He kept the one huge speaker, big enough for me to climb on. With stereo came Reader's Digest classical music collections in boxed sets: Beethoven's Symphonies, Music of the World's Greatest Composers, and a collection of classical piano music.
Broadening horizons. I listened all kinds of music as I grew up. Elvis, American Bandstand, the Top 40 from WOWO, Henry Mancini, blues, British folk rock, psychedelic rock, Dire Straits, Talking Heads. But I always came back to classical music, expanding my listening into Bach on one end (John Renbourne led me to E. Power Biggs), the Russian Romantics on the other. Plus I played in marching band, pep band, blues band. I jammed with cool jazz dudes and my big crush Diane.
The wisdom of melody. The classical music I love dries up around 1900. I find very little that interests me in the Twentieth Century. Even Rachmaninoff tapers off disappointingly. There are isolated jewels. Quite a few in Debussy and Satie. Rodrigo's Aranjuez, Piazzolla's Oblivion, Vaughn Williams's Tallis, Barber's Adagio. Melody is music's wisdom. Without melody it's not music to me, just a mental game. Tone rows? Gimme a break. Melody please.
Max Richter. But Max Richter has drowned me in delight. For the first time, a classical composer whose work I love is right here with me, making music out of the world I live in. His music is sad, like the state of the world, and profoundly healing. The real value of art is letting me see the world for what it is in a way that makes me a little more grateful to be here. The world is not the way any of us think it should be, and it never will be; it's just the way it is, mixed up and contradictory. A truly gifted artist like Max helps me love the world the way it is, and grasp more deeply that this is the only world there is, the only one I'll ever have a chance to love. I have to love this one or give up on loving.
Dylan. Max isn't the only one. Much hay has been made both ways about our troubadour Nobel laureate The committee done right. But composers are almost never the best performers. Max hires the best to show his work off, people like Mari Samuelsen. Here's master performer Sarah Jarosz performing one of Dylan's masterpieces, Simple Twist of Fate.