Try something new

I was just writing this morning in another venue about the rewards of learning to love music you hate. I believe any great work of art has to have aspects which get under our skin, which frustrate us, which piss us off. That’s part of the difference between entertainment and art- art gives pleasure (even more so than entertainment), but it also confuses us, annoys us, surprises us. That is part of how it digs its way inside you.

Anyway, the tragic side effect is that, depending on our individual backgrounds, all of us have works where we can’t get past the things that annoy us, even though they are strengths of the piece and not failings. I know it’s the nature of our times to just say that we’re all entitled to our opinions, and so on. The point is not that you have to like Messiaen or Bellini or Coltrane or Schoenberg or CPE Bach or whatever it is you hate, or everyone else will think you’re an idiot. You may well learn to love them, and we’ll still think you’re an idiot J

No, the point is that when one finally gets something new, it is one of those moments when your whole life gets better. Why are we so resistant to finding ways to understand and love art which initially confounds us? So- I’m proposing a great movement!

Why not designate February 2007 as World Learn-to-Love-Something-You-Hate Month. Try Something New Month?  Here’s the deal- partner up with someone you really respect but with whom you don’t always agree. Take turns. You each have the chance to guide each other to an epiphany- just try to be open minded and don’t be an ass. Pick things you really don’t like, but that probably do have some merit. If you only like classical music, see if you can swap with a jazzer or a world-music nut.

Can you persuade a friend to love Webern if the price is listening to Adams for a week? Do you know anyone who will spend a week listening to Wagner airchecks in exchange for you going to a Japanese drumming concert?

You can go to shows, you can send youtube links, you just argue. You may reach agreement only after consuming large amounts of alcohol late at night while watching a video for the 20th time, or you may never agree.

Maybe we should challenge everyone in the blogosphere to list four kinds of music, pieces or composers they hate and see who offers to help you get it?

Okay- I’m not usually Mr. Follow-through, but the idea is out there.

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at

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