Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I have already begun to pay attention, if not literally to listen, to the concert I am going to hear this evening. It features a group about which I know nothing except that I have had some contact with its conductor. A piece will be premiered by a composer about whom I know nothing. So why will I go, despite the fact that it is very cold outside, that the event takes place in an inconvenient location, a venue I do not particularly enjoy?

Curiosity. What will the new music be like? What kind of vibes will the performers project? Will it grab me or leave me (literally) cold?

Curiosity is a good basis for listening to all music. Yesterday an almost-ten-year-old, expecting to like a piece by Beethoven--a piece of her own selection, found it uninteresting. A few years ago another child of the same age had pronounced the piece "boring." This led to a question: Would Beethoven intentionally have written a boring piece? My conclusion is a most definite yes. Beethoven and Clementi are two composers that wrote boring music, surely aware of what they were doing. They even used specific descriptive words--German (a la Tedesco), or Swiss--to signal parodies of what would have been for them the equivalent of hillbilly music.

The name Beethoven inspires all kinds of anticipatory emotions, sometimes satisfied, sometimes not. If not, how come? To ask the question requires an objectivity that seems to come more naturally to children than to adults.