Photo by Wikimedia Commons
Caravaggio's The Lute Player
A few weeks ago I outlined some binge listening plans. I’ve completed two of them. The first was all 32 of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas. The second was a survey of Baroque music.
The Beethoven took about 11.5 hours while the Baroque tour I put together for myself was about 14.5 hours. I’m holding off on The Ring Cycle, for now.
I must admit that the slow movement of every Beethoven sonata is now a personal favorite. We all know the Moonlight Sonata slow movement and the slow movement from The Pathetique Sonata but what about the others?
If you’re short on time, just try out the slow movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 4. This sonata was written in 1796 which makes it early Beethoven but when it comes to the slow movements, there is no early, middle, or late Beethoven. It’s just Beethoven, at his finest, every time.
For the Baroque tour, I divided the 150-year-long era into three. That’s pretty standard practice apparently. I listened to three composers from each of the Early, Middle, and Late Baroque.
My Early Baroque composers were Giovanni Gabrieli, Claudio Monteverdi, and Heinrich Schütz. The Middle Baroque was represented by Henry Purcell, Arcangelo Corelli, and Alessandro Scarlatti. Wrapping it all up in the Late Baroque were Antonio Vivaldi, George Frideric Handel, and Johann Sebastian Bach.
I accidentally neglected the entire French Baroque but no need to worry as I’m going to do more Baroque in May—and probably June, July, and August. I think I have a Baroque addiction.
How did I manage to plow through 14.5 hours of music? I listened to the music passively for the most part. I listened in the car, I listened while I was on walks, and while I was writing emails but every now and then I stopped everything and focused on just the music. My idea was to immerse myself non-stop in Baroque Music.
By the end of the week, I felt like a king—like the absolute monarch of my personal realm. Baroque music has a sense of graceful occasion which I found to be rather intoxicating. Hence my May, June, July and August plans.
I think listening passively might have helped the music seep into my mindset more effectively than active focused listening. When I listened with focus I found myself evaluating the musicianship of the artists, the quality of the recording, the tempos, the phrasing and any number of other elements that put my mind onto something other than the actual music.
I highly recommend giving it a try. Use this link to see the entire challenge.