I have always been a firm believer that classical music has the ability to elicit powerful reactions beyond the notes we hear from the concert stage. Sure, we might hear a piece with a catchy tune, and we will be humming along all day, but I think classical music can do much more for us as a community.
The other day in a faculty meeting, we were discussing why should one study the arts today, and a fellow colleague (and I loosely paraphrase) said rather eloquently and succinctly: the arts bring us closer to humanity. That statement resonated with me because I believe that the arts can connect us with our raw human emotions, such as compassion and empathy, where we might not as easily achieve with other activities. Of course, I can go on and on about the benefits of studying and experiencing the arts, but that is for another post. Today, I want to focus on the humanistic side.
As I mentioned recently, I have developed a new recital program, Odyssey of Dissent, where I explore the idea of protest in classical music. While I was in the planning stages of this program, I thought it was amazing how each composer's message of protest was personal and unique through his or her respective work. One of the pieces that I will be playing in this program, Liszt/Busoni's virtuosic arrangement of Mozart's operatic masterpiece, The Marriage of Figaro, delivers a wonderful message of equality, freedom, and human dignity. But here is where we see Mozart's brilliance: the composer chose to voice his resistance against feudalism and ruling monarchs (during a sensitive time in the years leading up to the French Revolution) in a light and comical way in his work. Even though Mozart's opera was composed in 1786, I think we can still appreciate and apply some of the moralistic and ethical lessons today in our daily lives.
And that is one of my main inspirations behind this project: to make the music, whether it is old or new, relevant to us. How can we learn from the composers' experiences? This project aims to celebrate a diverse range of music from Chopin's Polonaise Fantasy to Joan Tower's Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman, a piece that pays tribute to innovative women. Check out the full program here.
But what pleasantly surprised me the most as I was revisiting some of these significant historical moments was that the music offered unique insights––things that you wouldn't necessary learn from a textbook. And for me, Odyssey of Dissent not only fuels my desire for constant learning, but more importantly, it reminds me that classical music must not be forgotten, especially today in a time where we need it to unify us.
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