Western classical music has always made me uncomfortable. Maybe because I learnt the Indian equivalent, which is a lot of hard work, and a lot of rules which you need to learn before you can break them. Or maybe its because I feel I'm still just scraping the surface of the rock and pop and blues and jazz and soul which has been filling my head and flowing out of my ears and mouth and eyes for years now. I also needed to get used to the idea that I wouldn't get to hear the original composers play their own compositions, something which is considered very important in other forms of popular music. Even a great cover version derives its greatness from the way it improves on the original. How was I supposed to listen to only covers?
Finally, there was the issue of being cheated musically, something which I take very seriously, and try to avoid rather obsessively. How would I know whether the Schumann tune I'm hearing is actually bad or being played badly? I'm not talking about out of tune violins, but what about a passable workmanlike peformance versus an inspired rendition of the same? How do you know? Rock music is basically an endless series of variations on a small handful of musical themes, jazz is a more complex manifestation of thematic variations - but both have one common truth. It all depends on the player, the band, the singer. Not so in this case.
But then I think back to the time I first heard something really heavy (Deep Purple, Between Hell and High Water). At the time, I really thought that was as loud as it was going to get. But then there was a lot of Zepplin, a lot of punk, the Velvets, Sonic Youth, and recently the grunge bands, and now I feel confident enough to claim that if I do not like a loud band its not because they are loud. I also think of the time I was starting out as a jazz listener, grappling with the prominence of the bass, the brushstrokes instead of a solid backbeat, the saxes resisting the melody till the point of frustration (mine, not the musician's). When I think of these experiences, Canon in D Major by Pachelbel doesn't seem scary at all. These tunes are all around us. They turn up in ad jingles, in hotel elevators, and in Performance Management courses. They nag at us with violins, and glockenspiels, and woodwinds. They make offices bearable, like yesterday when I blasted Bolero For Orchestra, complete with sinuous theme and crashing finale, disturbed the peace, and felt like a rock 'n roll rebel in a classical context.
What I'm trying to say is bring it on. I'm ready.
*(Charlie Chaplain conducting the Abe Lyman orchestra)