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San Domenico School News & Events

Music, Brother, and Sister

As seen in the Winter 2019-20 issue of School Ties

Jennifer Grimes


Consider this a challenge: go out and listen to classical music. Attend a concert and listen to the talented musicians in SD’s Virtuoso Program, of which we are proud members. Try to pay attention to the style and emotion that the music conveys; see if you can imagine the story that the music tells.

In classical music, creativity is fabricated from strong feelings and is presented through one’s ability to share such feelings with an audience. When practicing, we perfect our fingerings and our notes to fit what we read on a page. At the end of the day, that’s all it is—the notes on a page. So, how can creativity be expressed in music? Eugene Chukhlov, an accomplished music instructor at San Domenico, believes that the creative aspects of music are conveyed through onstage performance. When you are free to bend the music into your own personal interpretations, you can make it yours; you can tell an entire story. Eugene describes the feeling as one of total freedom. On stage, you are the king of the world; you can do whatever you want, and nobody can stop you.
Implementing creativity, though, is no easy task and is often overlooked. A dedicated musician may spend hours grinding away at a piece, carefully fine-tuning intonation and technique. There is certainly no point in arguing the essentiality of a solid foundation, but what is the value of a computer-equivalent performance? The musicality of classical music is instead found in what is done with the music. For example, if the composer writes allegro agitato (lively and agitated), it is up to the musician to ensure that the music fits the intended emotion. Perhaps they will utilize a narrow vibrato to produce an agitated, focused tone. It is the musician’s job to experiment with style, and to find their way of illustrating the music in a creative way.

In order to understand classical music, the listener must embrace a creative mindset. Unlike songs that have obvious meaning in their lyrics, classical music’s themes are embedded into the notes themselves. There are no words to guide the listener. Instead, they must allow the music to tell the story. In Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet,” the plot is illustrated by utilizing powerful emotions: the composition is comprised of beautiful melodies, wrapped in immense, unsettling tragedy, and eventually culminating in a tragic death. It is a tale told by emotion rather than language. The music takes the listener on a journey where they feel the story, something unique only to classical music.    
Classical music is intimidating, even for professional musicians. Its complexity and abstractness is difficult to comprehend, resulting in a smaller following. When first exposed to this style, many find difficulty in appreciating it. This is comparable to reading works such as the plays of William Shakespeare. Appearing convoluted and tedious, new styles can be difficult to follow, but as one’s exposure increases, so does the depth of their understanding, allowing them to discover a new world of truly unique beauty. Classical music is hard to grasp at first, but becomes an essential part of one’s life when fully understood.