On my mind, July 8: Are you listening?


I want to talk about a few pieces of music that have been life-changers for me. As I’ve mentioned in a few columns in the R-P, I studied music at the university, which gave me a running start into the world of classical music, meaning Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Mahler, Crumb, Mendelsohn, Stravinsky and the sorts.

One of the great things I came away with from these studies is how to “listen” to music. It’s incredible how many people don’t know how to do this; music is only a background kind of thing. School taught me one great lesson in the world of music and that is to shut down, close your eyes and let the music fully wash over you without distractions, dialogue and other garbage getting in the way. How many people do this? The sad answer is not many, I can tell you. I learned to knock off the distractions and dial myself into the music. I learned to settle into a Chopin etude, to blanket out the rest of the world and really hear Beethoven’s second movement to the Ninth Symphony. I mean really hear it out and stop the other chatter and stuff.

When was the last time you sat down and put on a piece of music — I don’t care if we’re talking country music, jazz, folk, hard rock or something from Japan or China or Brazil. Now and again someone will ask me about what kind of music I like and I tell them, “good music.” It can be country, folk, rock, Indian — it doesn’t matter where the hell it comes from, to me. I don’t want to narrow my options. I love Hawaiian music, Peruvian, Mexican, Chinese and Brazilian. Granted, not all of it. But there is an amazing wealth of incredible music out there and my whole point is this: be open to different music.

My travels to Mexico, like more than 40 times, has exposed me to an incredible array of music. Often, when I’ll hear a tune I like I’ll barge into a music store and, in my broken Spanish, beg for understanding of what I heard. Usually I will be able to purchase a new CD of that artist. Many times, I’m given the wrong information and I bought the wrong CD. But that’s OK. I am very lucky to learn the name of Julieta Venegas. We heard her music video in a restaurant while visiting Zacatecas, Mexico. She’s incredible. I learned of the music of Los Bukis while traveling on a Mexican bus. The voice of their lead singer, Marco Antonio, is off the charts. Incredible. Throw into the mix the incredible band, Los Temerarios, for their awesome vocals.

But for me, the grand frosting of the cake comes with the performance of the second movement, the slow movement (my weak spot) of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 (K.467) by Yeol Eum Son (found on Youtube.com). This piece is one of the most eerie and lovely parts of music I’ve heard. How can a person have written something so elegant, beautiful and sad all at once? Give it a listen. And remember to really listen. I mean listen; allow yourself the luxury to hear it. Notice the expression of the guest pianist and how much emotion she pours into the work. I find her performance outstanding.

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Tarmo Hannula can be reached at [email protected] or 761-7330.

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