Monday, 8 August 2011

The joy of appreciating classical music

Many of my friends who have attended a Western Classical music concert will have healthy sense of curiosity. They have hundreds of questions that range from "How do I understand the music?", "How do the performers play in sync with one another?", "Is it necessary to have a conductor?", "What are those foreign words on the programme booklet about?" and etc.

I wonder if you also have had similar questions in your mind before? Such questions are very normal when one appreciates the fact that very often during a Western classical music concert, there is possibly just enough time allocated to enjoy the performance itself. There is often no time set aside to educate the audience on how to enjoy the music. To bridge this gap, it was very apt that the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay organizes Understanding Western Classical Music by Leslie Tan, cellist of Singapore's international string ensemble, the T'ang Quartet.

Understanding Western Classical Music was held on 7 Aug 2011 (Sun) at the Recital Studio. It was a sold-out event! It is one of the series of Bitesize which is "a series of talks and workshops that introduces various aspects of the arts to the general public". As its title suggests, Understanding Western Classical Music aims to inform its participants on the various approaches to understanding Western classical music.

Leslie Tan highlighted a very important point throughout the workshop. The personal responses and interpretation of the listener are also keys to appreciating classical music. The experiences of listening to a same piece of classical music can vary from listeners to listeners, and that is the great joy of listening to classical music.

In an engaging way, Leslie shared various approaches of how one can better appreciate Western classical music. In addition, he has satisfied the curious minds by answering the many common questions that people will ask when listening to a piece of Western classical music.

Leslie illustrated what the common Italian musical terms meant using explanations that were very easy to relate to. In addition, together with three other promising musicians, Leslie aptly demonstrated how one can enhance his/her listening experiences when listening to a piece of Western classical music. He also spoke about melody versus counter-melody, the functions of musical keys, and a lot more. I could observe that even a young girl could stay meaningful engaged throughout the two hours duration of the workshop. I myself have enjoyed the entire two hours of workshop learning more about classical music.

I shall not attempt to share too much of the details of the contents of the workshop here since I hope that the positive responses of audience will possibly result in similar workshops by Leslie to be organised in the near future. If you are interested to learn more about the Education and Outreach programmes by the T'ang Quartet, you can please visit:

Learning about how to appreciate classical music can enhance the listener's listening experiences. The consoling truth is that well-written classical music speaks to people at the soul level. The listener will naturally respond to a piece of music whether or not they 'know' how to listen to it.

Of course, if one would like to listen with a more informed ear, attending workshops such as the above-mentioned will be helpful. For those who love to read, I strongly recommend that you could read Aaron Copland's What to Listen for in Music.

Many thanks to the T'ang Quartet for the generous invitation to Understanding Western Classical Music. Special thanks to Belinda Tan for the heads up.

The T'ang Quartet's website is: