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Mon, Oct. 21

Williams: What’s so classic about classical music?

I don’t understand why some people persist in liking classical music. I’m not one of them.

For purposes of simplicity, let’s define that classical music is described as “any serious art music as distinct from jazz, pop, or folk.” According to this dubious interpretation, country singer Toby Keith wasn’t serious when he recorded, “We’ll raise up our glasses against evil forces, Singing whiskey for my men, beer for my horses.” Or when Loudon Wainwright sang, “You got your dead skunk in the middle of the road.” I would suggest that Toby and Loudon were probably as earnest when they crooned their lyrics as were Johann, Wolfgang and Ludwig when they penned their little ditties in the 18th and 19th centuries.

I have another contention with what is called classical music. How can we be expected to remember the “classical classics” when they slink around behind names such as, “Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor,” “Piano Concerto No. 2,” “String Quartet No. 13 in B flat” and “Grosse Fuge”? I would suggest that stronger names are needed to create legacy compositions. Who’s going to remember that Brahms gave the world “Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major”? A better title would have been, “Toad’s First Date.” Now people would remember that tune.

Bruckner is credited with offering up “Symphony No. 9 in D minor.” Apparently, “Symphony No. 9” was only one of a series of melodic experiments, and the ninth one wasn’t any better than the first eight or he would have given it a real name. We’d probably all know Bruckner’s name if he’d called his ninth effort, “Rattle Your Booty,” for example. I’m just saying that a little marketing wouldn’t have done any harm.

A little side note here to Ludwig, the Beethoven guy. Didn’t you own a comb? No one in your neighborhood would lend you a hair brush? Did you have a mirror? Did you use it? A little dab of Brylcreem could have done wonders for you. You might have made a real name for yourself!

Another thing. You can’t just go to the theater to hear a classical piece of music. You have to know if you’ll hear chamber music, an opera, a cantata or an oratorio. You also should be aware that if a concerto is on the play bill, you’ll experience an orchestra with a soloist. If you don’t have any idea what you want to hear, you might try a fugue, which is described as “a musical form consisting of a theme repeated a fifth above or a fourth below its first statement.” Wait, what? And, of course, a sonata is a musical composition of three or four movements of contrasting forms. I think I’d rather go to a football game where there are only two contrasting forms to know: offense and defense.

According to “Wanda’s Guide to Propriety, Third Edition,” you’re not supposed to listen to classical music in your underwear drinking a beer. I’ve tried this subtle form of heresy only once, but the window shades were down and the lights were off. And I only made it to the third movement. Minimum classical music requirements are a white bow tie, black coat with tails, and a white pique vest over a white formal dress shirt. In other words, Chafe City! Women are advised to wear a long evening gown. Without feathers and sandals.

Finally, I’ve never heard a classical piece of work that sets my toes a tappin’ or fingers a snappin’. Even in my underwear.

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