Chapter 1

How I Got Started

I am not a musician.  I cannot read a note of music.  Yet, I have learned to listen to and enjoy classical music on a limited teacher’s budget.

I am not usually a writer either.  At least, not about classical music.

Why, then, did I write this book?  Partially to help myself learn about classical music, especially American classical music.  Partially because the teacher in me knows I learn best by teaching others.  And I wrote this book for numerous other reasons, which will appear as you browse through it.

You do not need in-depth training in music nor knowledge of classical music nor a college education nor a lot of money to learn to listen to and enjoy classical music!

You do not need to invest any money other than in an inexpensive CD player, and maybe a radio, to be able to reap the benefits of relaxing to and entertaining yourself with classical music.  All of the more than three hundred and fifty music reviews done for this book were completed using a very inexpensive boom box (next to my computer) and CDs
or cassettes borrowed from public libraries.

Most important, keep in mind that you should not find yourself liking all kinds of classical music any more than you may like all kinds of foods, cars, popular music, sports, books, clothes, hair styles, or anything else.  It is okay, perfectly human and normal, to discriminate in terms of making conscious choices about what sounds good to you and what does not.

This book attempts to merely explore possibilities and show you some ways to learn about enjoying classical music in your everyday life.  How you actually go about doing so and whether or not you maintain an interest in classical music is left up to you.  I do hope your experiences from reading this book are good door openers to the world of classical music, especially works written by American composers.

If you think you currently do not listen to classical music, flip a few pages and look at Chapter 3 and some of the music reviews in Chapter 4, then browse the list of movies in Appendix B: Examples of Movies Music.  My guess is you already listen to classical music in commercials, television programs, movies, on the radio, or in church.  You just might not have been aware of how much classical music you actually listen to already.

Browse this book for suggestions and ideas.  Even go to your library or local bookstore and look at some of the books in Chapter 18, which is a review of books.  Tune your radio in to a local classical music broadcast from time to time and see what can be found there.

At some point, go to your public library, check out some of their classical music compact discs (CDs) and listen to them for a while, maybe no more than 10 or more minutes at any one time.  Try a recording and if you do not like it, stop and try another one of a different nature.  Be playful and patient and experiment with the suggestions provided in this book.  For example, I have learned on some of my bad days, cello music sounds like fingernails scratching on a chalk board and on my good days, it is one of the most divine and inspiring sounds I can listen to.

Pretty soon, you too can learn to indulge in the sensual pleasure of listening to classical music, which can be just as delightful as those moments when many of us like to gaze at clouds on a sunny day or watch a dramatic sunset or smell the fresh scent of a new blossom or listen to a gentle breeze blowing through some trees on a warm summer night. Use your imagination and think of some of the more simple, natural pleasures that make your life worth living and seek examples of classical music that do the same for you.

Many of us listen to radios, if nothing else, and do so for a variety of entertainment reasons.  Many of us listen to music on cassettes and CDs as well.  And, most of us who do so are not trained as musicians nor need to be to enjoy the pleasures we get from listening to music.  It is for this audience, those of us seeking a few moments of respite in the midst of our hectic lives, that I have written this book.

I grew up in a small, Midwestern farm town, between the late 1940s and the 1960s, with a great love for music passed on to me by both of my parents and my grandparents.  In those early days, I learned how music could sooth and heal my emotions and darkest hours as well as encourage and support my joys.  And, it certainly filled my childhood imagination and time, which seems to never end when one is young and restless.

Music has remained a critical part of my life ever since childhood, often turning to it not only for emotional needs, but also, often using it in the background to enhance creative and productive work.  I have learned to listen to classical music, whether doing housework, engaged in my passionate practice of photography, or as something to listen to while developing public policies, strategic business plans, social science research, or lesson plans and materials for teaching in more than 15 academic disciplines over the intervening decades since my childhood.

This book is written for my family members and countless millions of people like them.  My grandparents did not complete elementary school.  My father dropped out of high school to go to work during the Great Depression.  My mother graduated high school. Yet, all of them had a great love for music and a place in their lives for it.  And, they passed on a love for reading and learning on my own which helps immensely with undertakings such as learning about classical music and writing this book.

You do not need to be an intellectual, college educated, nor a musician, nor able to read music, nor educated in the complexities and subtleties of countless forms of music in order to listen to and enjoy classical music.  All you need is a little bit of curiosity, some patience, and a place for listening to and enjoying music in your life in order to learn about and reap the benefits of listening to classical music.

If you count yourself among such folks, then it is my hope you are able to read and enjoy this book.  At the same time, this is not a book of classical music for idiots or dummies.  Clearly, your interest in picking up this book and looking at it indicates you are not some kind of dummy or idiot.  In spite of book and compact disc labels to the contrary, no good educator would label somebody with curiosity and an interest in learning anything as a dummy or an idiot, other than to sell a book.

It is my opinion, as a teacher and human being, whatever idiots or dummies are, they would not consider the educated act of picking up a book to learn about anything, in spite of works titled for such people.  Then, you have to consider the fact that I am not much on folks judging others on the basis of what they do or do not know.  Life is too difficult and demanding to have to constantly play that ego-inflating game.

On the other hand, if you have high expectations about learning great details or opinions about classical music from an expert of some kind, it is my suggestion that you turn to some of the books listed in Chapter 18, which provides a review of books.  Music, for most of us, is meant to be a personal and pleasurable experience, not just some form of intellectual exercise or competition to see who knows the most or has the only correct opinion.

My introduction to classical music began almost four decades ago, when I began playing percussion instruments in school bands.  While I gave up music to play high school football and work part-time jobs, I continued to enjoy listening to rock, popular, jazz, folk, country & western, and rhythm & blues music during the intervening years.

Later, I learned to love to listen to soloists and chamber music groups on the streets of Manhattan.  Occasionally, I subscribed to classical concert series in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Portland, Oregon.  Still later, there were many wonderful outdoor classical music concerts I attended in Chicago, especially at Grant Park and the Ravinia Park Festival.  And, I often received the encouragement and guidance of friends, more learned about this subject than myself; many more friends that I can ever begin to acknowledge or list here.  However, to all of them, I am very grateful and do acknowledge that, albeit many years later, their efforts have started to pay off.  This is especially true in my enjoyment of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and other classical music groups in Dayton and nearby Cincinnati, Ohio.

During a deep, personal depression suffered in the mid-1990s, I developed a strong interest in classical music.  This was further inspired by listening to a public radio presentation with Don Campbell, who was discussing his latest book, The Mozart Effect.  I coupled my new found interest in classical music with over 40 years of experience with meditation, often using music.  All of this was strengthened by being in Jungian analysis (therapy, if you will) with an absolutely delightful woman who encourages and supports my efforts to change my life to become more wholesome and healthier than ever before.

It is in the pursuit of using music to help make my life and yours more enjoyable that I have developed and presented an analysis of popular classical music works based upon numerous published books on the subject by professional musicians, critics, and writers much more knowledgeable in the field of classical music than myself.  The approach I have taken in this book is primarily of being a psychology teacher who finds a great deal of pleasure in listening to classical music.

Although I did not immediately find Campbell’s book in local libraries and bookstores, I began collecting, as best I could afford on a tight budget, books from new and used bookstores and music from new and used music stores.  I also reviewed books and CDs and videos about classical music available in local, public libraries.

Often, I traded off a previously extensive book collection, acquired over several decades of professional work and personal reading, for used music books, CDs, and cassettes.  It is from this search for music on a limited income, to sooth and heal my emotions and despair, as well as to please my personal curiosity and trained interests as a researcher, that the document originated which grew into this book.

Browse each chapter and the appendices of this book like you would search a rummage sale or explore a buffet counter.  Sample some of the music suggested and described here.  Then, be bold and try using an old Oriental philosophy from the I Ching. Put the book away and play with what you have learned.

Be creative and imaginative like children and youth are.  Relax and sample different forms and compositions from different historical periods and by different composers.  What harm can spending a few minutes trying something new do?  The worst that can happen is you learn you do not like a particular piece of music!  It is no different from learning the food you sampled from the banquet table really does not taste as good as it looks.  Or, the bargain from the garage sale really is not one.  And, think about the notion that most of the things many of us learn to enjoy take a little bit of effort, including trial and error, in the beginning.

When you are ready to begin exploring, go to your public library and borrow several cassettes or CDs to bring home and listen to some evening when you need a break from your regular routine or are in the mood to try something new and exciting in your life.  lf you do not like what you hear, rest assured there are countless varieties of other recordings which may hold some pleasure in your listening to them.

Music can be used to soothe one’s nerves and heal one’s heart.  It can also form a great way to lean back and fantasize or indulge in pleasant day dreams while relaxing and getting away from the day to day hectic existence of what life going into the 21st century consists of.  Learn to explore and enjoy what is available from the world of classical music in the same manner all of us indulged in during childhood, when we first began exploring and learning about the world around us.

Go To Intro
                                                     Go To Chapter 2
                                                                                                              Go To Chapter 3
Website Builder