If You Like Music
By David Prentiss
If you like music, there is no reason in the world for you not to like classical music, and there are several reasons why you might end up liking it a lot. So if you consider yourself a person who likes music and enjoys discovering something new, you should keep reading. And even if you already know that classical music isn’t your thing, you should keep reading because maybe, just maybe, you’re wrong. Let me explain.
Classical music is like all other types of music when it comes to what makes music, music: it has melody, harmony and rhythm just like rock ‘n roll, jazz, country and world music does. And like all other music, it can’t help but wrap itself around our emotions. But there are some obvious differences, too. Classical music songs tend to be longer, and the melodies often have more combinations or variations of notes in them, and are not repeated as frequently, so it can take longer before we really become familiar with them (i.e., be able to sing along or hum them). Some classical music also has harmonies in them that we aren’t as use to hearing as what we come across in other types of music. And while classical music has rhythm all through it, the rhythm isn’t usually expressed with a continuous drumbeat like most other types of music.
Interestingly enough, these differences have a good news/bad news aspect to them. The bad news is that because of the way classical music uses melody, harmony and rhythm, it is actually a bit of a challenge for our brains (at first) to process the music. (With new research technologies, scientists have been able to learn a great deal in recent years about how our brains process music.) The good news is that I said “at first,” - once we listen to a piece of classical music a few times, our brain starts to get comfortable with it and can process it just as well as it does other types of music. And then there is a really, really good news aspect to all this: once our brain gets to that comfort level with classical music, the sensory pleasure and emotional impact that it has on us is immense. Think of the intensity of Carlos Santana’s guitar solo in Europa (the live version, of course), the joy of Bruce Springsteen’s Rosalita, or the depth of feeling in Yesterday by The Beatles. Once classical music becomes one of the types of music that you like, it will take you to all those places, and maybe even to places beyond.
Now, some people claim that you can’t like classical music unless you understand it and you can’t understand it unless you study it and you can’t study it unless … whatever. People who say such things are mistaking a part of something for the whole. There are aspects of classical music that can be studied in great depth and for those who are so inclined, I am sure that the rewards are great. But classical music is music and what a composer of classical music or any other type of music is saying in his or her music is simply this, “has this ever happened to you? Haven’t you experienced this same tone, insight, shock, anxiety, release? And when you react to (“like”) a piece of music, you are simply replying to the composer, yes.”
I think that the reason Leonard Bernstein, the man who wrote those words, could compose symphonies and West Side Story is because he understood the essence of music. That essence is quite simple: music is meant to please us and move us. All good music does that. Including classical music.
So, now that you are willing to give classical music a try, what should you do? I recommend listening to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. You know how it starts (or you’ll recognize it immediately once you hear it, I guarantee it). Listen to all four movements (i.e., songs) of the symphony a couple of times each. What Beethoven does with melody, harmony and rhythm is amazing. Listen, enjoy and let the music take you someplace. I know it will.
David Prentiss is the President and CEO of the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra.
Welcome to the NBSO!
The New Bedford Symphony Orchestra is dedicated to the proposition that classical music can enrich and transform lives. That is why we are very pleased to offer you exciting, moving and beautiful music. It is also why we remain committed to expanding the educational programs we offer to children in our region. Last year more than 30,000 children benefited from our music programs, and this year we will reach even more. And finally, it is why we continue to build strong relationships with other music and cultural organizations in our region. We believe collaboration makes all organizations, and our community, stronger.
Whether you’ve been to every NBSO concert ever performed or you’re considering coming for the first time, we invite you to join our community of music!
If you are a first-time concertgoer…
Classical music concerts are often considered to be rather formal and a bit intimidating to those who have not yet experienced a live performance. But if you like music, any kind of music, there’s a really good chance that you’ll like classical music, too. The NBSO is not your great-great-grandfather’s symphony orchestra!
- What should I wear? We think you’ll find our concerts to be pretty laid back and friendly. You can dress as formally or informally as you’d like; some concertgoers choose to wear elegant evening attire, while others arrive in their favorite jeans!
- Where do I sit? Don’t worry about memorizing the seating chart of the theater as our gracious ushers will greet you and guide you to your seat. Should you arrive late, our ushers are there to assist you on the proper time to enter the theater, and they can also guide you to the exit should you need to leave other than during intermission. We encourage you to avail yourself of their service.
- Will I like the music? You’ll probably be surprised how familiar some of the music will be. Even if you’re not regularly listening to classical music, you hear it every day on television—in commercials, movies, even cartoons! If you want to become more familiar with an upcoming concert program, you can also attend the free pre-concert lectures, which are held at 6:45pm at the Z the day of the concert. Music Director Dr. David MacKenzie will give a brief overview of the music you’ll hear. And you can sign up for our Classical Coffee video series, which airs weekday mornings the week of the concert.
- When do I applaud? Most of the pieces of music played at our concerts are made up of three or four “movements” (parts). A concerto, for example, usually has three movements, the first one being fast, the second one slow, and the third one fast. Most symphonies have four movements. You can know in advance how many movements a piece of music has by looking in the concert program book. In between each movement the orchestra usually pauses a few moments to get ready to play the next movement. In the United States a tradition developed in the 19th century for the audience to remain quiet in between movements, waiting until all the movements were done to applaud. Now, sometimes a movement is so exciting and full of energy that the audience can’t wait for the end of the entire piece, so they go right ahead and applaud at the end of the movement. It’s really okay to do it either way. People should express themselves as they see fit. One thing you may notice, however, especially if the movement is slow or ends quietly, is that refraining from applauding adds to your enjoyment of the music’s beauty and emotional feeling. So, a good rule of thumb for anyone new to a classical music concert is to wait until all the movements are finished before applauding, but if everyone around you starts to applaud, you should join in!
There are a few simple guidelines for a live symphony performance that we do ask concertgoers to remember: please silence your cell phone, and don’t get up during the performance (unless, of course, it is an emergency). You may find the attached article, How to Enjoy a Live Concert, informative as well!
We are always thrilled to have new guests join us. We are certain you’ll find the concert experience enjoyable. Downtown New Bedford is a great place to spend an evening. There are many wonderful restaurants and watering holes within walking distance of the Zeiterion Theatre, and plenty of free parking is available both on the street and in the adjacent Zeiterion garage. If you have any question, please don’t hesitate to contact Conee Sousa in our office at 508-999-6276 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Conee’s relatively new to classical music, too, and will have some great insights to share with you.
Remember, you deserve a symphony in your life!
If you are a returning concertgoer…
We hope that you have thoroughly enjoyed your previous NBSO concert experiences, and we know that you will be delighted with our upcoming performance schedule. We value your opinions, so please feel free to share them with us by calling the NBSO office at 508-999-6276 or emailing your comments to email@example.com. We’d love to hear what you think about this season or seasons past, and any helpful advice you may have for us or new concertgoers!
The power of classical music is a wonderful thing. Thank you for being a part of it and for helping the NBSO be a vital force in our community.