Happy New Year everyone.  I’m currently cleaning out my inbox at the moment, and that led to me discovering this old meme, which I got from the one and only cafedave.  Here are the rules of the meme:

  • Link to the person who ‘tagged’ you
  • Post the rules on your blog
  • List 6 random facts about yourself
  • Tag 6 people at the end of your post
  • Let each person know they have been tagged by commenting on their blog
  • Let the tagger know the entry is posted on your blog
That’s the official rules.  But, for my own part I think enough damage to society has been done by peer pressure, so I’m going to skip the part about tagging 6 other people.  (Unless the Meme Police show up on my doorstep, in which case I’ll reconsider.)
1.  Up until age 16, I was not a huge watcher of films.  It was more something I did for light entertainment.  But when I was 16, in November 1994, a 70mm copy of a film named Gettysburg came to the Hoyts Regent cinema in Brisbane.  The film was so long, that I went in to an 11.30 am session and exited the cinema at 4.10 pm that afternoon.  (Don’t ask me what I did for lunch.  Maybe I had an early lunch.)  But during that 4 1/2 hours, my life changed.  From then on, I have always been on the search for films that challenge my thinking, that stir my emotions, films that resonate for hours afterwards and definitely films that have great soundtracks.  After an extensive period of movie-watching since, I can say that actually, that rarely happens.  As a result, Gettysburg has gone on to become my favourite movie and my benchmark of what a brilliant piece of filmmaking should look like.  Once it came out on video (and they made me wait nearly a year to rent it and nearly three to buy it), I used to watch it religiously every year – a tradition which I mostly kept up until I had children.  Now 4 1/2 hours is hard to come by, but it’s sacrilege to watch Gettysburg over two nights.
2. I bought the soundtrack to the film Immortal Beloved, where Gary Oldman played Beethoven, back in the mid-90s somewhere and found out that if I played the excerpt from the 9th Symphony on the stereo and closed my eyes and listened to it, I would literally get cold shivers all the way down my spine.  Thus began my Relentless Pursuit of Cold Shivers.
3. I used to be a huge fan of The Three Investigators as a kid, but they seem now to be all sadly out of print.  What is it with the things of my youth?  Does no one else care?  (No, I know there are Three Investigator fansites out there, but that still doesn’t bring the books back.)
4. My secret hobby at the moment is trying to work out a way of objectively measuring why most people don’t like classical music and then changing their mind.  Maybe there is no way of doing this, but I’d like to think there is.
5. I’ve always thought about learning German, but I have yet to wrangle my time to a level where I can devote time to learning it properly.
6. I always struggle in life with trying to do too much, and thus find it hard to focus on the things that are most important.  All of which is a good reason to finish this post and then move on.
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3 thoughts on “Random Facts Meme

  1. Some interesting little anecdotes there, Matt. You have mentioned Gettysburg a few times throughout your blog. Maybe I should track it down and have a look. And I wondered where the “Relentless Pursuit of Cold Shivers” came from – and you couldn’t get too many more worthy inpirations for cold shivers than the Beethoven 9th. It is such a fantastic piece of music. The cold shivers for me come during the opening minute of the first movement, and then many, many times after that. And no matter how many times I see it performed live, I still get the cold shivers at the moment when the choir stands up (which, incidentally, also always happens for me whenever I see Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony performed – a piece of music, by the way, around which there are apparently endless arguments as to when the choir should actually stand).

    Your idea of measuring why people tend to not like classical music sounds interesting, too. I suspect it has something to do with how music is marketed and, consequently, with the perceptions people have of it before they actually get to know it – something which you would, of course, know a great deal more about than I would, given your line of work. I think there have been some tremendous efforts done in the past few years to market classical in a more exciting way – but, even so, I reckon it’s going to take quite a while to undo the damage of all those years and years of classical music being presented as something staid and stodgy.

    And good luck with learning German. I learned German at school and still love it as a language. Have you studied any other languages yet? I really think everyone should, if they possibly can, learn another language. They can be such fascinating things!

  2. Ahh, the Mahler Resurrection Symphony. That’s my vote for all time best cold shivers and would currently be my all-time favourite piece of music. (But I’m swinging back towards Beethoven as my favourite composer.)

    With the classical music, you’re probably on to something with the marketing, but the problem is that marketing responds to what people think classical music is to start with. So if you’re a classical music fan, the marketing usually works quite well, and I think most of the classical music companies in Australia do a phenomenal job with their brochures and marketing materials in making their stuff look attractive – to the classical music-loving audience.

    The problem is when you come to people that don’t like classical music to start with. What’s going on with them? Why would they hear the Mahler Resurrection Symphony and think it’s boring? Why would they not like Beethoven?

    I think there’s two broad issues here – I haven’t confirmed this, but I’m hoping to research it further this year:

    1) There’s a cultural barrier. In the 60s, a generation grew up that threw off the shackles of their parents. They said no to their parents’ religion, no to their parents’ sexual values, no to their parents’ clothes, and, most importantly for this discussion, no to their parents’ music. Since then, even though the same revolutionary drive may not be as strong, it is just assumed that each generation of teenagers will carve out for themselves their own culture – so everyone grows up with “their” music, which distinguishes them from everyone else. And when you hit a certain age, rather than exploring outwards with music, you start returning to those things that were familiar from your youth.

    So people from the 80s go back to their Kylie Minogue and John Farnham, people from the 70s go back to their ABBA tributes and Led Zeppelin records, and I don’t want to think about what people from the 90s will go back to.

    These age-specific cultural troughs which we get stuck in are immensely difficult to get out of. So what that means is that for many people, they don’t like classical music for cultural reasons rather than musical reasons. In other words, they didn’t listen to all different types of music and decide that they preferred 80s rock to classical music for various musical reasons. They don’t like classical music because it was uncool for their them or their peers to listen to it when they were growing up, it was considered “boring” and for old folks and so now, even when they’re older and could perhaps think a bit more rationally about it, they’re unlikely to shake their initial conviction. And it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. So if they now listen to classical music, they *will* find it boring, because they have been culturally conditioned to think it is.

    So overcoming that hurdle is the first major step to actually getting people to have a listen to the music in the first place.

    2) Then we have the second problem – the knowledge barrier. Assuming you can get someone to sit down and give classical music a chance, the classical world can make it rather difficult to get into without going the path of getting a music degree. For instance, to *really* understand what’s going on in classical music, I believe you need some knowledge of the styles and structures of the pieces.

    But to get this necessary background, most books, liner notes and concert guides require you to have an inordinate amount of prior knowledge to make sense of them. This is simply not a sensible assumption to make in the 21st century.

    So I think if we can get some way of overcoming the cultural barrier and at the same time, helping people overcome their knowledge barrier by teaching them more about music in an easy way (not a torturous musicological degree route) then we’ll get somewhere.

  3. Some very interesting insights there Matt – and I think I bsically agree with you. Certainly the cultural influence seems to make a lot of sense. But of course culture is such a complex thing, with so many facets to it – there’s the generational issues that you point out, there’s issues about socio-economic situations in which people live (so, for example, I suspect you are much more likely to find more people – even young people – listening to classical music in the more “affluent” suburbs than, say, the more working-cass suburbs) and there are the broader social issues that shape the whole attitudes of a society to the arts. For example, it would be interesting, in your research, to compare the attitudes of young people to classical music in, say, Europe, to what we find here. Sol, it seems to me that classical music, in different cotexts, can have different attributes associated with it – and these attributes include “old and boring”, “elitist”, “foreign”, “removed” and, as you point out too, “difficult to understand”.

    Then I rekcon there’s the other issue of the ways in which people listen to music. Some music you really have to just sit down and listen to; other music you tend to have blaring away in the background while you do other things. I think generally classical music falls more into the first category than into the second and popular music generally falls into the second category rather than the first. Of course they are just generalisations. But then the other dynamic in this is that (again generally speaking) modern lifestyles are moving in a direction where people seem to have less and less time to just sit down and absorb music – and so, in that sense, popular music is, I would think, going to become more and more aligned with the sorts of things people look to their music to do. The irony in this, of course, is that the one thing we *need* to do more now than ever before is slow down and take some time to reflect a bit more – and so precisely at a time when we need classical music the most, we are giving less attention to it.

    It really is a shame – because there are so many riches of experience that people are missing out on for reasons which, as you point out, have really nothing to do with the music itself, but more with the “aura” with which it has been imbued.

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