DF Lewis on classical music

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Des's Classical Music extravaganza
of links, lilts and lost life

by  DF Lewis

If eyes are window of the soul, then ears are gateways to something even more intangible and life regaining. If the term hadn't been pinched, I think I'd call it soul music, the type of sounds to which I love to listen, in active and inactive moments of creativity. I hope, if you have not already seen the light, this sound-picture may provoke you to explore further the world that I have had much joy in inhabiting for a good thirty odd years.

Walter Pater said “All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music.” But when I was in my teens I did not possess the artistic yearnings that have beset me since. My life was in a limbo, edging towards a middle-of-the-road precipice, soon to be lost forever in meaningfulness and staid achievement. The first record I bought was POETRY IN MOTION by Johnny Tillotson, and I loved (and still do) sixties pop music. I read books, but mainly Enid Blyton, then Biggles and some safe classics. Then, serendipitously and inexplicably, I heard THE RITE OF SPRING by Igor Stravinsky. Mind-blowing, frightening, staccato, abstract, I met a sea change with no flippers and very little experience even in floating, let alone swimming (despite being brought up in a seaside resort!). I then discovered the novels of Charles Dickens (and he had walking coffins in TALE OF TWO CITIES and death by spontaneous combustion in BLEAK HOUSE, just as examples!) – where was I? My well-meaning parents who hung on for dear life to the tassels of ordinary working-class things lost me to some extraordinary drug-without-a-drug called music and literature (only to regain me later as I thankfully regained them).

Taking the music thread (it only meets up with the literature thread at some more fortuitous cross-sections later), I travelled back from Stravinsky and found Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven etc. Having once laughed at a string quartet performance at junior school, along with all my peers, I now saw Chamber Music for what it was: real life conversations in a language one knew the meaning of but couldn't quite reconcile with logical thought, except through brainstorming. The late string quartets of Beethoven were so complex and so damn 'mad', I couldn't believe I wasn't dreaming. Hung about like cobwebs with nuggets for my testing tongue to flash out and nibble. Then, Wagner's operas. Philip Glass's Minimalism. Satie's surrealistic piano pieces. Atonal hells and harmonious heavens. Strange avant garde pieces for cello and electronics. Cage's silence. I could go on forever choosing names and titles in a similar random fashion. Sometimes, music, literature and visuals gloriously and decadently come together in a sudden spout, as happened with me in the film DEATH IN VENICE (ie Gustav Mahler, Thomas Mann and Visconti). I can only do so much to convey the enthusiasms I feel. It is the stripping bare of intentional clutter to reveal beneath the sense of wonder from half-remembered dreams of a lost life. Pretentious is not the word, more the child-like act of pretending in earnest and for real.

Equally, this subject is not served well by producing neat hyperlinks. Like exploring the music itself, one has to trust to misalignments as well as serendipities for full reaping of the soundfests.

However: http://www.orchestranet.co.uk/ring.html is where you can set off randomly searching a webring of classical music sites, and this, to me, is the only way you can approach the internet.

Then there is: http://www.classical.net/ the home of the email discussion forum Musiclassical. And I belong to several such forums: C20M for 20th century music, chambermusic for …err, yes, Chamber Music and brit_contcom for British music (which is popular worldwide) and classicalcorner for a more general discussion.

Music associated with horror: http://www.scorelogue.com/horrorhistory.html
And with science fiction: http://www.avnet.co.uk/home/amaranth/Critic/SFmusic.htm

Unusual composers: http://www.search-beat.com/modern.htm
20th century: http://classicalmus.hispeed.com/twentieth.html
Great lists and lilts: http://www.classical.net/music/rep/lists/20th.html
General information: http:/www.musicweb.uk.net/
British Music: http://easyweb.easynet.co.uk/~snc/british.htm

Well, that's just a taster. What else can I say? Ah, yes, just to quote from a column I used to write for an well-known American horror magazine a few years ago, after which I received some wonderful letters saying how I had stirred them into following up my passion for classical music:-

“With due respect -- and I may be wrong here since I'm often wrong -- I imagine many of you enjoy popular rock music in its various forms ... which is fine, carrying, as such music often does, mind-stretching horror images, eeriness, nightmare, alternative religiosity (even quiet contemplation): especially when you're in the right frame of mind to bring ordinary music-listening towards your spiritual antennae.

Well, so far so good. But if you want more, if you want something different, why don't you try modern orchestral 'serious' music? I know a number of people denigrate what they call avant garde music -- saying it's a load of pretentious noise. Well, yes, some of it is. You're right. But there are some composers whose music I cannot live without. The secret, for me, is to listen to such pieces time and time again until they settle down, where the unpredictable sounds and apparently tuneless passages begin to match the rhythms of your self-induced waking dreams.

There was one piece of music that originally stirred me into the outlands of taste, turning me from the more 'normal' ways of my beloved parents who only ever listened to melodic music and watched television. As ever, I will not name names.

Vampires play the flute.”

Well I have now named the name of that piece of music for this site. It is Spring as I write this … and it's its own rite, I guess. A new one relived.

DF Lewis

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classical music links by DF Lewis: music websites