My Problem with Classical Music

As you may already be aware, I used to dance ballet. On and off between the ages of 8 and 18 I was enrolled in ballet classes three quarters of the year.

One of the awesome side effects of this was that I was exposed to a lot of fantastic classical music. Most of the time I paid exactly no attention to which composer or piece we were dancing to, instead choosing to fill my brain with whatever it was I filling my brain with at the time. But through the repetition of rehearsals I know every nuance of more music than I even knew was stored in my brain space. Until recently.

Lately I’ve decided it’s a great idea to enrich my brain with some classical composers, and I’ve started with Beethoven, Mozart, and Tschaikovsky. All composers with whom I’m somewhat familiar, and who I know I enjoy.

The other night as I was looking for music to listen to as I cleaned the cafe after closing time, I chanced upon a sound file under the Unknown Artists entitled simply “Beethoven, showcase music.”

The piece was one we learned for Central Oregon Dance Showcase a number of years ago. Apparently at the time I was too busy putting scenes for acting class in my brain to remember exactly which piece of Beethoven’s music it was, hence the file name, but since I’ve mostly forgotten the choreography I put the music on, loudly, filling the cafe with dulcet sounds of piano and cello. I expected and intended to find a new appreciation for the music since it now isn’t intrinsically tied to movement.

As the piece played, bits of choreography flashed through my brain and body. A sense of urgency filled me for a few bars. A very distinct thought popped out at another sound– “Breathe.”

One section left me breathless because I remembered how challenging the choreography was for me. Another portion had me feeling impatient, and I remembered I was supposed to be offstage.

I found it difficult to appreciate the music for what it was because I had such strong associations, both emotional and of the movement.

And that makes me sad.

Fortunately, I’ve consciously sought out other pieces I’ve danced to and have not experienced such strong associations. I think they’re particularly strong with the Mystery Beethoven piece because, for one, it was the longest piece of choreography I’ve ever learned. Also, we re-rehearsed and performed it at least twice over the course of six months, and the choreography is very informed by the music.

So even though one of Beethoven’s 7-minute pieces for cello (or viola?) and piano is ruined for me, I’m pleased at my surprisingly large bank of recognition when it comes to classical music– because even though I can’t name the piece or the composer, I can tell you for sure that I recognize it!


  1. Ahhh, I really love Classical music, especially Vivaldi. I wish I could learn it for the guitar.

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