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'No Other Love' (Etude in E Op 10 No 3 major)

AUDIOFILE - Val A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

When my wife was pregnant with our only child Michelle, we took the advice of some friends to play classical music whenever and wherever possible to help in the development of the baby’s mental faculties. Even at such a fragile state, it is said that a baby can already hear sounds. We thought we had nothing to lose so my wife and I slept every night, and traveled to work and back, to the music of Mozart, Chopin, Bach and company. We even set the bar a little bit higher by adding personal jazz favorites to this day-and-night repertoire.

At age two-and-a-half, Michelle was eager and capable to enter nursery school. She could read and write small and capital letters, identify colors and shapes, and do simple addition. At age three, she was already trying to write in longhand, and was enjoying math and reading classes at a Kumon school some 45 kilometers away from where we live.

A consistent advanced honor student in Kumon, Michelle was always ranked either first or second in her class from nursery to elementary and high school. She turned 15 in November 2008, and will be a college freshman this June. She took the college entrance tests of UP Diliman, De La Salle Taft and the Ateneo, and qualified for the quota course and campus of her choice in all three universities. The icing on the cake for us, her proud parents, was her inclusion in the Ateneo de Manila’s Directors’ List (a distinction awarded to the top two percent of thousands of ACET applicants, who have also distinguished themselves in academics and co-curricular activities).

Did playing classical music while she was developing inside her mom’s tummy help? I cannot say for certain. What I do know is that Michelle enjoys listening to music that has been made long before she was born. It’s understandable that I cannot take her away fully from the kind of music churned out by the Jonas Brothers, Rihanna and Miley Cyrus. But for me it’s reassuring enough to know that she enjoys classical music too. She proudly told me that this was the only in-flight music she listened to during one of our foreign trips.

I’m relating this in an answer to the email of 18-year-old Canadian Cathy Shaw: “Why is it that classical music is so different from what you describe it to be (when I) actually listen to it? I was so enamored by one of your columns that I bought a classical CD you recommended. I just could not immerse myself into the music when I played it. Do I lack the mental level to enjoy classical music? Is there a way to actually enjoy it?”

Let me cite the case of a friend who came from a family of classical musicians. You would think he would imbibe his home atmosphere, but he became totally enamored by the music of Guns n’ Roses and Nirvana. It was only recently that he added Josh Groban and Andrea Bocelli to his music collection. I may be wrong, but I guess one’s music preference evolves or grows over time; as our knowledge of the world and life expands, we get to know ourselves better and our focus on career and life gets clearer. Some call it sophistication; for me, it’s simply maturity. The exception occurs when one consciously makes an effort to enjoy a particular genre, or if one is genetically drawn to say, classical music, even when his peers are banging their heads to the music of Metallica.

Education, too, has a lot to do with it. I just recently learned that music has been stricken off the curriculum of the country’s public schools. In private schools, music has been merged with physical education. No wonder, then, that some mistake Vivaldi for an Italian restaurant and adagio for a Japanese dish.

In answer to Cathy’s query: Yes, it is possible to develop a taste for classical music. It’s just like expanding your taste buds to enjoy different kinds of food, starting with something easier on the tongue. Before being intimidated by concertos, sonatas and overtures, listen to classical music that has been made into pop. The melody of the 1950’s song No Other Love for instance is actually from Frederic Chopin’s Etude in E Major. Do you know a lot of music played as the background in most cartoons is classical cuts? What about Waltz Of The Flowers, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker Suite? These classical pieces are easy on the ears and can serve as your door to the wonderful music of the noble periods of the Baroque, Classical and Romantic.

It also pays to know the composers behind these classics. A glimpse of how they lived, loved and made music is always an interesting read. For instance, Antonio Vivaldi was the Baroque period’s “Red Priest” in reference to his hair color. Legend has it that he was relieved of his priestly duties because of conduct unbecoming. It was said that one Sunday, while celebrating Mass, he unexpectedly left churchgoers on their own to jot down a musical idea. Ludwig van Beethoven at first concealed his hearing disability so as not to alarm his patrons. Even as he had become completely deaf, he continued to create his greatest works: brilliant sonatas for piano (my favorite, The Storm, opus 31) and the second and the third symphonies, The Eroica.

Again, as I often say here, music appreciation is subjective. Not enjoying classical music doesn’t make a person dumb. Don’t collect classical LPs or CDs for the wrong reasons. They are meant to be heard, enjoyed and appreciated and not to be bragged about. Never feel sorry if you can’t get into the groove of a particular genre. There’s just no other love that can warm your heart more than the music you fully understand and treasure the most.

* * *

For comments or questions, please e-mail me at [email protected] or at [email protected]. You can also visit www.wiredstate.com or http://bikini-bottom.proboards80.com/index.cgi for quick answers to your audio concerns.

ANTONIO VIVALDI

CANADIAN CATHY SHAW

CLASSICAL

CLASSICAL AND ROMANTIC

DE LA SALLE TAFT AND THE ATENEO

DO I

E MAJOR

MICHELLE

MUSIC

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