how to listen to music if you don’t know your Beethoven from your Bach

by richibi

Music, 1895 - Gustav Klimt



            Gustav Klimt





how to listen to music if you don’t know your

Beethoven from your Bach


the first thing to do, I would suggest, is to stop

and listen, spend the time with the work you’re

listening to, it’s no different than spending half

an hour with a friend

but you have to be there, listen, as you would

with a friend, no cell phones


the next thing I suggest is to compare, put your

work up against a different composer, a

different interpretation, a different version of

the piece you have on hand

I learned this as I learned to tell one artwork

from another, while I turned European art

museums into personal art history classes,

spending hours comparing one painting

with another, doing so chronologically,

century after century, imbibing thereby the

history of Western art


it’s not necessary to know who you might

even be listening to, just listen, hear,

later the names will come


here’s some Mozart, here’s some Prokofiev,

for instance, you’ll tell the difference

instinctively, forget about the composers,

just surrender to the magic

here’s a poem which says more or less

the same thing


How to Read a Poem: Beginner’s Manual

   First, forget everything you have learned,

  that poetry is difficult,

  that it cannot be appreciated by the likes of you,

  with your high school equivalency diploma,

  your steel-tipped boots,

  or your white-collar misunderstandings.


  Do not assume meanings hidden from you:

  the best poems mean what they say and say it.


  To read poetry requires only courage

  enough to leap from the edge

  and trust.


  Treat a poem like dirt,

  humus rich and heavy from the garden.

  Later it will become the fat tomatoes

  and golden squash piled high upon your kitchen table.


  Poetry demands surrender,

  language saying what is true,

  doing holy things to the ordinary.


  Read just one poem a day.

  Someday a book of poems may open in your hands

  like a daffodil offering its cup

  to the sun.


  When you can name five poets

  without including Bob Dylan,

  when you exceed your quota

  and don’t even notice,

  close this manual.



  You can now read poetry.


                    Pamela Spiro Wagner


music is also like that


R ! chard