Christian Long

Benjamin Zander: Music and Passion

In TED Talks on April 12, 2010 at 9:55 am

Reflection by ALEX C.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Benjamin Zander:  Music and Passion

Part 1:

Why is classical music dying?

Benjamin Zander presents an extraordinarily inspiring presentation and an experiment. Although an old man his energy and sense of humor is not to be underestimated. As you watch the presentation you will laugh at Mr. Zander’s quirky jokes and/or cry with sadness as you listen to his Chopin piece. His presentation brings us back to the lost culture of classical. Only three percent of people in the world listen to classical music and enjoy it. Mr. Zander’s goal is to bring it back to everybody. Through his experiment Mr. Zander helps us find the emotion hidden beneath classical music that has been lost over the decades.

He begins by reminding us of what a seven, eight, nine, ten, and eleven year old would sound like. Which I remember so well from my own experience. He said that each student played with impulses, starting at two increasing to eight and then the impulses vanished. He demonstrates how over the years, a musician becomes more and more emotionally involved with their music. Which begs the question, if as kids, we were exposed to classical music everyday would we have learned to appreciate classical music? If we were exposed to classical music everyday would classical music be thriving? Anyways, when Mr. Zander explained how the eleven year old plays the piano, he kept worming around on his bench until he looked as if he was in an awkward position. He called this One-Buttock playing. The music had pushed him into the funny position. He was emotionally connected to the music that he moved as if the music flowed through him. This image of Mr. Zander, in his awkward position, shows that there IS emotion and passion in classical music, and proves that all of us can feel this passion an emotion for the dying classical music.

Mr. Zander began his Chopin piece only to stop himself after about thirty seconds. He said that everyone had probably thought how beautiful the music sounded, but then random thoughts would slip into their mind, or you might fall asleep. After he explains how our minds prance off he says something very peculiar. He says that it was he who made it so boring and tiring. He was using impulses on every note, lulling your mind to sleep. He then said he would restart the song, but before he does he told everyone to think of a tragedy, of a loved one that may have recently died. He began his piece and the emotion, that had lacked during the first performance, exploded out. He played with one-buttock playing so beautifully that some of the audience members looked as if they would cry. When he finished he started running around like a sixteen year old that had been given the keys to their first car. He was clapping and the audience was clapping. He said that he had done the same experiment with twelve year old kids. He was clapping and the kids were clapping. He then asked why was he clapping and the kids responded, “We were listening.” Twelve year old kids can appreciate classical music, why can’t we?

In the comments below the video a young man, maybe 16, said, “I just fell in love with classical music! Mr. Zander brilliantly showed the beauty of this art.”

At the end of his speech Mr. Zander said that when he was forty five he realized that as a conductor he doesn’t say anything. He pondered this for a little while and realized that his job as the conductor was to give power to others. His job was to awaken possibility in other people. He knows if he is awakening possibility by seeing shining eyes. If he doesn’t see shining eyes then he asks himself, “Who am I being that my player’s eyes are not shining?”

I know that my eyes were shining when I finished the video, did/will yours?

Part 2:

In the twenty-first century the “in” music can generally be related to rock, rap, and country, that is to say they are the bigger groups. But why? What is the difference between all those styles of music?

Why is classical music not cool?

I play the violin and I am decent. I am proud that I can play, but I always feel that I am a ‘nerd’. At talent shows I have seen people play classical songs and then halfway through the songs people will people will begin to groan. I know whenever I play for my friends I get the most nervous that I can get, but yet I can play in front of a thousand people at church and not feel nervous.

Why am I insecure in front of my friends and why is it not ‘cool’ that I play a classical instrument?

I will admit there is a difference, many people can listen to a song and determine what genre of music it falls under, but what utterly separates genres of music, and why is classical the least listened? If we trace back our history to many centuries ago pop, rap, country and every other genre did not exist, at least to my knowledge, but what did exist was classical music. Many nobles would ask for famous composers to come and play for them or even commission them to write pieces. You would think our history would steer us into listening to the music that is centuries old, but maybe our new era is looking for a change.

The differences between classical, rock, rap, and country are very minimal. The way singers of a specific genre sing is the only difference between the four. The lyrics and messages that the singers/composers convey through their music are very similar, just sung or played in another style. In every genre there is a sad song, a fun song, etc.

Classical does stand out from the other three genres in my opinion. Classical music doesn’t have words, but this shouldn’t’t matter. In techno there are songs without lyrics, but everyone likes dancing to techno songs. Classical music feels smoother, but then there are songs that are just as smooth and comforting, like 100 Years by Five For Fighting.

Something I think that is ironic is that in most songs classical instruments are used. If you listen to Avril Lavigne many of her songs have strings in the background, but many people don’t listen to the background music, just the words. Maybe that is why classical music is dying, people now like to listen to lyrics and the music in the background is just an added bonus.

Maybe classical is more sophisticated than other genres. Other genres tell you what their story/meaning is in the lyrics, but in classical music you have to feel the song and everyone has their own feeling of a song. In this day and age people have been getting lazier, I know that i can be lazy at sometimes.

Do we discriminate music? In a way I’m sure we all do. I know it doesn’t pop up in our heads as we walk down the street, but sometimes when you see somebody you will automatically assume what kind of music that person listens to. Now I don’t mean to offend anybody, but if I were to see an Chinese man (I am Asian) walking down the street I would assume that he listens to classical music. If I see an African American with sagging pants I would assume he listens to rap. Many of times we separate music into certain races. But why? Why are music genre’s associated with certain people? Is it because they have a different character from other people? Surely it is not that they are from another. If I were to see someone on a skateboard I would assume that they listen to punk rock. Do people mold themselves? If I like to skate do I listen to punk rock? If I am African American do I listen to rap? I know that this does not happen with everybody, but to a majority it does.

What do you think?

There are so many ways to view music and how it affects our lives. There are so many styles, but why are certain genres dying. Why are there so many genres? In the end all genre’s fit into one category. They all fit into the category of music.

I hope you watch Benjamin Zander’s presentation. I’m hope you will find a new respect for classical music, I know I did.

  1. Hey Alex,

    I just wanted to thank you for your incredibly eloquent and moving response to Ben Zander’s video. As someone who passionately loves classical music (and indeed has had the great pleasure of working closely with Ben), I find it thrilling that you love this music too.

    You get it dead right when you say:

    “The lyrics and messages that the singers/composers convey through their music are very similar, just sung or played in another style.”

    If we have emotions then we understand this music! It’s about YOU.

    Keep spreading your passion and keep loving music – it will sustain and nourish you for the rest of your life. Oh and don’t worry about what others think – hold your head high and play your music loud – if anyone is going to show people that this music is relevant, it’s people like you.

    All the best!


  2. […] would like this video to be a sort of follow up to my previous blog about Benjamin Zander’s talk music and passion. Also note that my opinion on this music can be completely different from what you think because […]

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