Classical music vs solitude (Dialectics, no. 3)


Estimated reading time: 3 mins


A small office for research on the third floor, in the centre of a beautiful university campus. B is a new researcher, who is listening to an online classical music radio station at the moment. A is his mentor (only slightly older) who is routinely checking up on him, as our dialogue begins…


A: You’re listening to the Chopin concertos.

B: Only when I work, to keep me relaxed and focused. This station is mostly relaxing afternoon music. But I hear you like classical, right?

A: Let me tell you something. When I was a teenager, I used to listen exclusively to pop, rock and even heavy metal. I followed the charts and knew them inside out. No one at my school possessed this depth of knowledge I had for the latest singles. Until classical music entered my life. Or, to be precise, until I let it enter my life.

B: What happened?

A: At the age of 18 I decided to start listening to some classical music using a guide for the Beethoven symphonies that I’d found in a second-hand bookshop. That guide came with a CD with the fifth and sixth. At first, I hated the music but after repeated listening, I learnt to like it.

B: You learnt to like it?

A: Sometimes a gentle force is needed. No kid will ever tell you on his own he wants to start playing the piano. But with the right guidance…

B: But did you like classical music right away?

A: Oh no, it took quite a few listening attempts. But a year later and I was listening exclusively to classical, using a new guide to find, and even compare recordings. But you know… I have to confess, there are times I think I regret this decision. It can be a lonely process.

B: How so, if you don’t mind me asking?

A: Well, first of all, I found out that some old classmates of mine, my age, are now famous DJs. I’m sure you know them… (He mentions their names and gets a nod). Back then, these guys knew nothing about pop and rock music. On the contrary, I knew everything! If I had stuck to these kinds of music, I’d probably have followed their path. You know, playing at fancy parties, expensive wedding receptions of high-profile people, clubs, being popular not just among your peers but to a whole younger generation. And not just that. One has to think about the whole solitude issue that comes with classical music.

B: Would you care to elaborate?

A: How easy do you think it is to hang out with —let alone find—  friends who like classical music? Once you mention it as a hobby, you get weird looks. Not to mention finding a girlfriend.

B: You mean, you wouldn’t date a girl who doesn’t like Mahler?

A: Mahler! It’s more complicated than that! Classical music has changed my way of perceiving the world. Thinking in complex ways… Structure, form, content is important to my everyday life now. New standards. Compromising, on the other hand, has become more difficult. But think about that: if I had kept following the charts, for instance, I’d now have twice the number of friends, people I could talk to about music for hours. Not to mention how a DJ attracts all the female population!

(They both laugh. The Chopin piece stops and Schubert’s quintet starts playing now. It’s the slow movement. Both listeners are transfixed and remain quiet for a few seconds. It’s obvious that A is deeply moved. A moment of self-reflection.)

A: Having said that, just now I’m sure you also realise we—

(B’s phone interrupts A mid-sentence. Even the mentor recognises the ringtone, it’s the latest summer dance hit that’s been playing everywhere. B is busy talking on the phone, and when he hangs up he turns back to A.)

B: I’m sorry, I need to go. It’s my best friend; I forgot we had scheduled our football practice earlier than usual. (He shuts down the PC.)

A: No worries.

(They both leave and as they reach the lift, A takes the stairs with the excuse of being claustrophobic.)

Going out vs Antonioni (Dialectics, no. 2)


It’s Friday night in the city and two girls are talking on the phone. They’ve been friends for quite a while now but nowadays they don’t see each other very often. The thing is, girl A is a socialite while girl B has been more of an introvert lately, even though she’s been quite popular herself in the past. And now it’s just one of those times when A is trying to convince B to go out.


A: I really don’t understand why you keep saying no. It’s Friday night! Let’s party! You do sound so boring sometimes, sorry to say that…

B: Me boring?

A: Well…

B: It’s just sometimes I really prefer staying in and watching a nice movie. The other day I saw The Eclipse by Italian director Antonioni.

A: Anto-whaaat???

B: Antonioni. He made a trilogy about the vanity of human relationships — at least that’s how I view these films.

A: Are they any good? I can’t stand old, art-house films with no drive. You know these movies with no plot, where nothing…

B: Don’t watch it then. It’s like that indeed. Antonioni’s not the point anyway.

A: Well, you mentioned him. It is a he, right?

B: Goodness gracious me! Of course it’s a he! I’ve been referring to him as a he all this time. Anyway, I’ve only mentioned his name to tell you I’d rather have a quiet Friday night in. Just relax and watch something that in a way speaks to me and explains the whole really complex world of human relationships and how you can never be satisfied with people around you. I mean the film doesn’t really explain that but… it does in a way. You know how you meet people and get all excited only to be disappointed later on and then—

A: Honey, there is no need for me to watch this Antonio stuff to know this. I just go out 3-4 times a week and learn all about human relationships firsthand.

B: You’ve got a point there.

A: Honey, listen to me! Why be miserable, stay in and watch all these depressing movies, only to learn something you can experience in real life? And life’s short you know. Someone said that, don’t remember who. I think it was Mozart. You need to go out more, meet people, fall in love, have fun.

B: OK, but you do realise you make me sound like the most pathetic person on earth. All I say is that sometimes you need to take some solace, when everything around you doesn’t make much sense, I mean that’s when I return to Antonioni or read some Proust.

A: Read some breast???

B: You know what, never mind, let’s just go out.


About fun, social media photos (Dialectics, no. 1)


A cafe in a metropolitan European capital. It’s the end of July and two co-workers from a multinational corporation are having their lunch break. The sky is grey and it’s been raining for a while now. Co-worker B is taking his summer vacation the following week. Co-worker A hasn’t planned any summer holidays but usually goes skiing in the winter. He has been described as a workaholic by his friends and he is the one to talk first.


A:   So I hear you’re off to to the Mediterranean soon.
B:   Yes, to the Greek islands.
A:   Tim’s there now. He’s been posting sunbathing photos every few seconds on Facebook. Say, what do you think of the whole situation? You know, all these people showing off, how they’re having fun and stuff.
B:   Well, I think it’s OK.
A:   I just don’t get it, I mean why try so hard to convince us they’re having fun?
B:   Uhm… Because they are? I mean I myself upload photos from my holidays. And I will certainly do that next week.
A:   It has nothing to do with holidays. It’s about people taking photos at the pub. At restaurants. Having fancy dinners and drinking expensive cocktails. Having fun…
B:   You have to admit they’re inspirational. You know, when I’m at work l feel relaxed looking at this kind of photos.
A:   Relaxed or lazy?
B:   Now you’re pushing it.
A:   Well, think about it. Instead of taking fun photos, why don’t we post photos of ourselves at work, working on our projects at 7 pm? Working overtime even? Or you know, us parents running errands. Our wives doing the dishes.
B:   Cause that’s depressing?
A:   I mean don’t you think these real life kinds of photos could be the true motivation to be more productive? You say fun photos are inspirational, but I’m not quite convinced that proving that having fun could have creative gains. What do these posts teach us? What is the aim? To become lazy hippies?
B:   Now, that’s kind of racist. I really think you ought to take some time off work.
A:   And I think our lunch break is over.
B:   Already?
A:   Back to work. And no surfing on social media until 5!
B:   Yes, sir!