Why I Listen To Classical Music

I forget often that I love classical music. It’s a funny thing to forget, because I’m a classical musician. At times, I’ll go for months not singing, barely listening to classical music. Lately I’ve been really into various sub-genres of metal, with the aid of The Metal Archives. Stuff your mother didn’t let you listen to in middle school because she thought that they would turn you into a devil-worshipping goth kid, which in turn would cause your grades to slide and then you wouldn’t get a full ride to her alma mater. I also have really been into video game soundtracks. The kind of stuff that you (you know who you are) blast into your ears, and it breaks your heart and tears it into two pieces of your childhood nostalgia, but you pretend to be listening to some hardcore techno music when you’re standing next to someone at the crosswalk.

None of that really means anything to you, but to me, it’s just another aspect of music that I love. I can’t separate it from classical music most of the time, and I consume it with just as much soul.

That is, until I go to a live classical performance.

There is literally nothing that makes me cry so immediately, and so unexpectedly. I’m the type of person who has a hard time crying when they’re supposed to. Funerals? Documentaries? Probably not gonna lay the tears down. Opera though, that shit will have me balling like your favorite aunt’s baby cousin.

Not to say that I’m an apathetic person, because if you know me at all, you know that enthusiasm is my middle name. What I mean is that it gives me permission to feel.

Let me try to explain.

When I listen to music, sometimes I’ll have a flash of a memory. Sometimes it’s clear, and I can verbally articulate the exact memory, almost as if I was reading a diary entry with a date and time stamp in the corner. Other times (most of the times) it’s more like a dream. The actual memory is stripped away, and leaves remnants: color, smell, taste, touch. The memory becomes more than a factual retelling, it becomes a fleshed out, time-traveling experience. Sometimes it’s a line of a song. Sometimes it’s a simple chord change. Maybe it’s just a single note. That sensory experience associated with the memory is like living with music touching every pore of my skin, and filling every atom of my organism.

I have nothing left of myself but to feel, and music gives me the tools to experience life and emotions without any restrictions or excuses. Like a best friend or lover, Music says, “It’s OK. Just let it out. It’s OK.”

The Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana is perpetually associated with the scene from Rurouni Kenshin right at the beginning of the Kyoto Arc when the fireflies are lighting up the river in a tearful farewell. Although it could be childish nostalgia, this song also reminds me of everything I felt as a 13-year-old growing up in Northern Michigan, with few things to distract me in a small town. I have a reverence for this song, and it never fails to see me through.

The Brahms Requiem (Ein Deutsches Requiem), although I can’t recall a specific memory, I associate with rolling hills and trees while riding a train somewhere in Europe. The roof of the train is red, and it’s warm enough to poke my head out. The smell of fresh, unaltered grass is soothing, and mixes with the fresh air, and soft strings, to lull me to sleep. The music is slow, but the train makes the landscape speed by me, as if to tell me, “You may think things are slow right now, but your ride will be over very soon.”

How every individual person experiences music is different. I believe that unequivocally. No person’s experience of music–or life, for that matter–is the same. This might sound like gibberish to you. That’s fine.

Maybe though, you feel the same way I do about classical music. It’s not something you can just go shouting off the top of the Berlin radio tower, so you keep it inside, bit by bit. It’s normal, easier, and is exactly what we do with emotions in modern society. If you say how you’re really feeling, you’re deemed as crazy, high-maintenance , or high-strung. Well, I think that’s wrong. It’s OK for you to cry, and it’s OK for you to feel whatever you want, because you’re a human being, and capable of so much love, hate, sadness, and everything in between.

This is what I love about classical music. It doesn’t try to be cool. It’s simply human.