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3 Tips for Art Music Appreciation

by | Jul 1, 2019 | Aggie Life, Culture, Spring/Summer 2019

Art music is different from the pop songs on the radio. Also known as classical music, it includes compositions in the same vein as Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” Mika Pelo, associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Music, recalled being enthralled by Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony and Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” as a child. “I was captivated in the world [of art music] and happy to revisit it over and over again.” Now, he introduces others to the genre. His tips for better appreciating art music:

1. Don’t make assumptions.

Pelo said he believes art music contains bountiful surprises. “The music we have that is old we have for a reason; it keeps telling us something about ourselves,” he said. “When I teach our music history course, students email saying, ‘I had no idea this world existed, and now it has changed my life.’”

2. Listen to different types of art music.

Modern artists like Hilary Hahn and Martha Argerich are ambassadors of art music, Pelo said. He suggested baroque music or romantic composers as an introduction to the art form.

3. Focus on the music.

Because of its intricacy, Pelo cautioned that listening to art music differs from listening to pop. “There may not be immediate gratification,” he said, “but when it comes, it beats everything else. You can listen to it thousands of times and still find something new in it.”