|© Andy Dean - Fotolia.com|
You remember that show way back when that was hosted by Bill Cosby called, "Kids Say the Darndest Things?" Well, in the past few months my seven-year old daughter and I have been living in our very own episode in which the central theme is classical music.
It started a few months ago in the car when I asked my daughter if she wanted me to turn on some music. She replied in the affirmative so I slipped in a CD of Rachmaninoff piano concertos - a little light listening. The minute it came on I saw the oh-so-familiar eye-roll and heard its faithful side-kick, the sigh. Looking back at her I said, "What? Did you want to hear something else?" Not wanting to ruffle feathers she didn't say much but by this point I was determined to figure out what was up with this disdain so I persisted in my questioning. "What don't you like about this? It's so incredible! Just listen." I proceeded to describe to her what I heard in the music, coming up with some sort of fantastical tale that involved fairies and mermaids (a necessity in a 7-year old girl's stories) and looked back to see her reaction. Nothing. No sign of interest, only another one of those sighs.
A few weekends ago we found ourselves in a similar scenario. On the way to church on a Sunday morning I again decided to listen to some music in the car - classical, of course and this time a recording of one of my own recitals. The minute the music started (Rachmaninoff again), she said, "Mommy, why do you like this classical stuff so much?" I gave her my answer and ended by asking her again, "What don't you like about it?" Her response turned on a humongous lightbulb that's been burned out for my entire life. She said, "Mommy, the thing about classical music is that, well, it just makes me feel stuff I don't want to feel all the time. It's just too much, especially this early in the morning."
I've heard this before. Many times before. Her words instantly transported me back to when I worked in a resort in Switzerland for several months. I played piano in a restaurant and accompanied four singers that had also traveled there from San Francisco. On my first night at work, the maitre d' of the restaurant, an intimidating, serious fellow, came up to me and said, "We've received a complaint from a customer - they want no more of this sad music. They want happy music." Prior to this experience I had very little experience playing anything other than classical music and in my mind, classical music was happy. But I realized after a bit of reflecting that it was happy to me because I grew up with it, I liked it, and I connected with it. Listening to the music from an outsider's perspective, it occurred to me that it could be perceived as something quite the opposite of heart-warming and perhaps overly emotional instead. They craved Strauss waltzes, Scott Joplin rags, Sousa marches, jazz standards, anything peppy and upbeat that got their foot tapping. They wanted music that took them out of their emotions and away from the drama of their lives into a simpler, happier place.
For me, that happier place involves drama and an intense connection with the range of emotions that I can feel but for others, like my daughter, it can simply be too much. As I find myself performing more and more for people that didn't grow up steeped in classical music, I'm realizing that making sure there's plenty of lighter emotional fare on my musical menu tends to produce more comfortable, satisfied audiences. Does that mean I leave out some of the meat and potatoes of the classical repertoire when I perform? Nope, I don't do that because that would mean keeping a large part of myself hidden. But I also make sure that I include some pieces that are easier on the emotions and less likely to elicit one of my daughter's sighs.
Ah, those sighs...I could use less of them since I know we'll get plenty in the years to come. Perhaps I'll avoid Rachmaninoff the next time we're in the car together. His music can be a little "too much," especially early in the morning.