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.)