I think we can all agree that Spring is finally here. People are beginning to go outside again, windows are open, trees are budding and birds are singing. When I started thinking of something “Springy” to write about, Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, filled with hope and nostalgia and bird songs, felt all kinds of right.
Here at Canon Fodder, one of the most common reasons we hear that people don’t like classical music is that they don’t know anything about it, and therefore that they won’t understand it. The truth is, though, that even people who consider themselves newbies know more about classical music than they realize. For one thing, classical works are much more present in people’s everyday lives than they might think. From movie and television soundtracks to commercials to even many pop songs, you have probably been exposed to more of the “great works” than the average person who was alive when they were written.
Much of pop music today relies on the same concepts of harmony and composition that were established over hundreds of years of classical music1. So when we talk about some fancy-schmancy classical music concept like counterpoint, it’s important to remember that you probably know more about it already than you think, and you have definitely already heard it. I’m going to give you the basics of counterpoint so you can impress your friends and co-workers at happy hour, and show you how it’s still being used today — come for the Renaissance, stay for Bob’s Burgers!
So in the middle of January, I had a tough case of the winter blues, and I asked my facebook friends to help me crowdsource a playlist of “comfort food in musical form” and boy did they deliver. When all was said and done, I ended up with 17 hours worth of beautiful, thoughtful, and hugely varied selections.
This is post intended for newbies but please don’t ever feel like you’re dumb for not knowing instruments. It’s something I’ve heard people say before and I am here to tell you that identifying instruments by sight and sound is both something so simple children can do it and also something I still occasionally screw up (sometimes oboes sound like clarinets man, it happens).
GOOD FOR: when you feel sad because love is so beautiful but will you ever find it?!?!, generally crying your eyes out
The relationship between Robert and Clara Schumann is the most beautiful, bonkers, and heartbreaking love story in classical music. It has everything: Star-crossed lovers! A scandalous legal battle! Incredible musical works inspired by and dedicated to each other! Syphilis! And one of the most tragic endings you’ll hear this side of Shakespeare. It’s my favorite coupling in all of music, so just give up now, Taylor Swift!
Ah Valentine’s Day. A day that sets fear and bitterness into the hearts of some and joy and love into others. Well, worry not, because no matter what kind of Valentine’s Day you have planned we have some music to get you into (or out of) the spirit.
IDEAL FOR: When you need some Joy, or when you’re looking for some next level acapella group music.
The first time I heard Partita for 8 voices was shortly after it had won the pulitzer. I put it on casually in the background while I fiddled around on the internet but it only took about a minute and a half before I closed my browser and sat stunned. I got to the end, sat blinking at my computer and pressed play again. See below for live footage of the moment
Here’s a handy little guide to using this blog! We started this blog because we both love classical music and want to share it with the world. And we mean the whole world, from classical musicians to metal-heads to top 40 devotees and everything in-between.
The classical music “canon” is simply massive and even the professional musicians we know are constantly discovering new music, or realize they’ve gotten into a listening rut. For everyone else, it can be baffling how to even get started listening to classical music. People have asked us what piece they should listen to to get started…which is about the same as someone asking “Hey I’ve never read a book, which one should I read to know if I like reading books?”
Here’s what we propose. We’ll give you a musical walk through in layman’s terms (and layman’s gifs) for a wide variety of classical works and topics. Much of the classical music canon was intended for non-musicians to listen to, and widely speaking, people are people are people– from the 16th century to the 21st. We’ll let you in on musical jokes that aren’t as obvious in our society today (but most of the jokes hold up pretty well) and any other pertinent information. Anything that’s fodder for the classical music canon is fair game for us, so suggestions are more than welcome!
We do our very best to try and link any musical terms/lingo we don’t directly explain to easy-to-understand explanations and examples so click around!
Classical music has huge variations, so as you’re going through, take note of what you like and what doesn’t quite click. We tag all our posts with the composer, general musical era, and other pertinent classifications, so follow those rabbit holes and see if there’s anything else hiding in those tags you might love.
You can read the post and then follow our link to listen, or listen while you read, or whatever else makes you feel good. Head over to our article on how we like to listen to classical music (coming soon!) for more ways to make classical music listening awesome.