Do You Need to Understand Classical Music to Appreciate It?

Lori Archer Sutherland

Lori Archer Sutherland earned a Bachelor of Music in Theory and Composition degree from the Ohio State University and a Master of Library and Information Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She composes, performs, and teaches clarinet. She plays bass clarinet with the Crystal Lake Community Band and the Woodstock City Band, clarinet with Winds Off the Lake Woodwind Quintet, and is the founder and organizer of the Knock on Wood Clarinet Choir, where she plays an even bigger clarinet. Check out her site and podcast at tonaldiversions.com

6 Responses

  1. Becky says:

    Knowledge does allow someone to have a deeper appreciation of an ingenious or difficult accomplishment; however,by deeper, I do not mean greater. The only time I find a lack of knowledge annoying is when someone critiques.

    • I definitely agree on the critique part, and that’s basically the main time I get annoyed, too. And yes, there’s a distinction between deeper and greater.

      For me, since music is my passion, knowledge lets me have both deeper and greater appreciation for it. But I don’t know if I could honestly say that same for something I’m not as passionate about. It poses an interesting question.

  2. Brenna Layne says:

    Great question, and great post! It’s interesting to think about how fickle we humans are about this stuff. I expect that some of the people who insist they can’t appreciate classical music because they haven’t studied it are the same people who have no problem appreciating a pop song despite never having formally studied pop music. It’s always possible to appreciate something, regardless of your level of expertise. We appreciate things in different ways depending on our levels of knowledge and experience, but a lack of knowledge or experience doesn’t preclude appreciation.

    • I agree! And while knowledge can certainly help give us both greater and deeper appreciation for something, it doesn’t mean that we have to have that knowledge before we’re “allowed” to appreciate it. I think that’s where the snobs have it wrong – they want to be gatekeepers and require certain things before a person is allowed to enjoy a “higher” art form (and even labeling something as a higher art form is a huge debate in itself!)

      • Brenna Layne says:

        Very true! There’s a lot of talk in the writing community lately about romance novels. A lot of people turn up their noses at romance, but what is it exactly that makes focusing on romantic relationships “less literary” than focusing on anything else? Lots of food for thought.

        • Definitely! I’ll admit I’ve not been as gracious as I should be about romance novels, which means I need to actively find some great ones to read. If you have any suggestions on books in that genre, I’m all ears!