How to Enjoy the Symphony

To the untrained ear, classical music may seem distant and hard to connect with. Often people think that to enjoy the symphony, you must have certain qualifications, experience, or knowledge. The truth is, however, that anyone can enjoy the symphony. All it takes is practice, exposure, and ultimately, a desire to connect. Below are some practical tips on how to enjoy the symphony and make the most out of your classical music experiences.

Familiarize yourself with the music. Renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman advises listening to the pieces beforehand and familiarizing yourself with the concertos before attending the symphony. By doing this, you will be able to recognize some of the pieces during the performance which will allow you to feel more comfortable. Additionally, you will be able to better focus on specific aspects of the music because you will have already heard the piece in its entirety (and won’t be too surprised by any of its movements). (Source).

Find an emotion. Benjamin Carlson, a writer for The Atlantic, suggests attributing a specific emotion to the concertos. He says to actually choose a word that describes the piece and the emotions you infer from it, whether it be loneliness, passion, or laughter. (Source).

Be choosy. As Carlson also points out, “The point is to make the music yours.” Take time to find out what you like and don’t like. All classical music is not the same, so be willing to listen to classical music from a variety of composers, styles, and periods. (Source).

Find music that has a libretto. If you’re like me, you love to hear not only the music itself, but the lyrics that often accompany music as well. While classical music certainly doesn’t need lyrics to be appreciated, it may help you connect with the music, especially if it is your first time hearing the piece. Many composers worked with librettists to create librettos, essentially “lyrics”, to accompany their classical works, and these librettos can add another layer of enjoyment and depth to a musical piece.

Be Patient. Like fine wine, a taste for classical music is acquired over time. “In my experience, it’s natural to expect the best pieces to take six or more listens to grasp,” Carlson writes. Be patient with both the music and yourself. Gradually expose yourself to new composers and styles, and understand that you won’t enjoy every piece you ever listen to. But with time, you may just find some you love, connect with, and want to listen to over and over again. Classical music has been around for hundreds of years, so you won’t be the first to wrestle with it, and you certainly won’t be the last.

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