On Classical Music and its Wonder to Me.

A8FFT0 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at the keyboard

I have loved music in general for as long as I can mostly remember.  Alternative rock music was one of my first interests, the Mathew Good band being my first favourite band.  From there I fell in love with hop hop through high school and eventually electronic music after high school.  I remember one day about 9 or so years ago I was relaxing in the comfort of my own domicile, indulging in the jolly green, when I stumbled on a performance by a Turkish pianist named Fazil Say on Youtube.  He performed a song named “Ah! vous dirai-je, maman”, a children’s song from 18th century France which Mozart popularized by making his “Twelve Variations on Ah! vous dirai-je, maman” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUSDpxZgy0I).  What Mozart did is he took the melody and made variations of it on the piano, having the same theme in each vacation but expressed in a different musical arrangement.  I took the time to really listen… since one of the effects of marijuana on the bodily system is heightened sense perception, this including touch, taste, smell and pertinently, hearing.  I sat there amazed as this pianist dealt out some of the most beautiful and complex piano melodies I had ever heard.

I never liked classical music before.  I would cringe as my mother put it on the stereo in the car all to get under my skin, for she was not a huge fan of it herself, mostly listening to Yanni and contemporary latin music.  This time it was different.  After I listened a few more times to the entire piece, I became very interested in hearing more.  This did not end.  To tell a long story short, I indulged in a 2 year long classical music binge… involving listening to classical music most of my music listening time, specifically Mozart and later on, Beethoven.  I spent months listening to all of Mozart’s compositions, from piano sonatas, to piano concertos, to piano works with two hands, piano works with two pianos, violin sonatas, violin concertos, operas, etcetera.

I basically fell in love with Mozart’s music, as it touched me emotionally like no other music had done before or has actually done since.  I would marvel at the complex and harmonious melodies which Wolfgang had composed.  One of the more interesting peculiarities which occurred during my times listening to this genre of music was that there were times when I could predict what was going to happen next… and it would happen.  Let me elaborate.  Throw on a piece by Mozart and you are met with a barrage of musical notes which come together to make a harmonious whole.  When I listened to a composition I had not heard before (for he had over 600 works he composed in his life… it took some time to go through most of them) there would be parts where I could anticipate what was going to happen next in the piece… not because it happened already, like a chorus in your average song, but because it “felt” like the “right” thing to come after a particular musical passage.  Lo and behold, many times the melody which I created in my imagination would show up in the piece I was listening to.  This made me ponder.  I eventually stumbled on some quotes by Mozart concerning his composition process which incited thought:

Whence and how these ideas come I know not nor can I force them…. Nor do I hear in my imagination the parts successively, but I hear them gleich alles zusammen [at the same time all together].

and

What a delight this is! All this inventing, this producing, takes place in a pleasing, lively dream.

According to what Wolfgang himself said about the way his ideas came together, it is as if he “discovered” the compositions rather than make them up himself.  One gets the feeling that perhaps certain minds are apt to receive certain ideas which may not come to other minds as attuned to such subject matters.  Another genius which comes to mind and which also had a similar creational experience is Nikola Tesla:

My brain is only a receiver, in the Universe there is a core from which we obtain knowledge, strength and inspiration. I have not penetrated into the secrets of this core, but I know that it exists.

and

Be alone, that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born.

Both of these men of genius admitted that they felt there was a store of knowledge which was beyond the reach of some people and which was only accessible in certain states of mind, of course after extensive preoccupation with the subject matter.  I put forth these quotes on their creative processes because if, for example, Mozart’s compositions were discovered by him rather than created, the peculiar idea that I could anticipate certain passages in his works seems to me like being able to perceive what was there all along, if only for a moment.

There is one last bit which makes all this very interesting to me.  Forward about 9 years in the future after I first started listening to Mozart and having feelings of being able to anticipate what was coming next in certain compositions.  This summer, I read a book called “The Antipodes of the Mind” by Benny Shanon.  Benny is a cognitive psychologist at the University of Jerusalem.  The book is about his years of research on the hallucinogenic and therapeutic Amazonian brew most commonly known as Ayahuasca.  This brew is taken in ceremonial settings and makes the participant have visions which are of a revelatory nature concerning their own characters and the world around them.  People are often cured from addictions, deep depressions and many other emotional ailments much faster than traditional psychoanalytic therapy could usually manage.

Many have reported on their heightened artistic abilities while on this plant hallucinogen, stating that their creative senses have been improved and they had been able to come up with the most wonderful of works while intoxicated with the brew.  Benny himself tells the tale of how he sat down on his piano while under the intoxication of Ayahuasca and started playing what was to him, the most wonderful, exquisite improvisations he had ever played.  There is one part in the book (among many) which gave me what I call an “AHA” moment… I mean to say, a moment that was related, if not an almost exact replication of certain things I myself have experienced not just while on Ayahuasca (I have done it in the Amazon 4 times) but also in my regular life:

“Often, Ayahuasca also induces a sense of heightened understanding.  Once, in a private session I directed, a Mozart concerto was played.  It was clear to me that I understood what Mozart was doing in the composition, what he wished to convey, how he decided to do it.  I understood the harmonies, the developments and the modulations, the acrobatics performed with the line of composition, and their resolutions.  Indeed, often I felt I could anticipate what the composer was saying. In the same session there was also a person present with practically no knowledge of classical music and who had never heard that Mozart piece before.  This person’s experience was very much the same as mine.  This phenomenon at hand seems to be analogous to that normally experienced in language.  Listening to a person speaking or a lecturer delivering a talk, an involved interlocutor or member of an audience can assimilate the line of presentation or reasoning so as to be able, in real time, to predict what the speaker or lecturer is about to say.  The first time I experienced such a mode of understanding with music was with Ayahuasca”.

I write these thoughts together to not only speak of my admiration for classical music, specifically Mozart’s, but to also illustrate the peculiar feeling of anticipation I would oftentimes feel when listening to it as well as the idea that some music and inventions in general may be perceived rather than created.  I had such feelings with classical music long before I had heard of the phenomenon mentioned in the last quote from professor Shanon.  To me classical music, with Mozart in particular, is amongst the loftiest conceptions of music the human race has brought forth in recent memory.

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