How old do you have to be to like classical music?

Well of course, this is in many ways a completely bizarre question, rather like ‘how old do you have to be to like ice-cream?’ However, the general opinion is often that you either have to be very, very young (preferably still in the womb) or very, very old.

It has become fashionable to play music – especially Mozart, I understand – to babies in the womb, since it is believed that it confers some sort of intellectual benefit on the developing foetus. However, I also understand that the benefits have never been proved. Besides, Mozart is worth rather more to humankind than treating as some sort of antiseptic cream against stupidity.

In my experience, babies and small children really do respond to any sort of music – dancing around to Stravinsky or Springsteen without being too picky. So introducing your child to all kinds of music at an early age is obviously a Good Thing. I might draw the line at taking your five-year-old to a Wagner opera, but that’s more to do with the embarrassment of having to explain the plot than the suitability or otherwise of the music.

Really tiny children don’t like very loud noise, and autistic children and indeed adults tend to go on feeling like that, so you might have to tread carefully.

It is also a sad truth that some local authorities, railway stations and shops pipe classical music through their loudspeakers in order to keep teenagers away. This is not because teenagers are incapable of appreciating classical music, but because some of them view it as deeply uncool – I suspect because it is seen as hailing from the world of parents and teachers, and hence to be avoided at all costs.

It is also true that many people grow tired of pop music from their mid-thirties onwards, and start looking for something more complex to listen to. Hence the occasional panics among orchestral managements and BBC Radio 3 executives about their so-called ‘ageing audience’. The fact that their audience is constantly replenished by younger people who are actually getting older at the normal rate of sixty seconds a minute doesn’t seem to occur to them.

In reality, you can enjoy different styles of music at any age, including classical music. I was first taken to an orchestral concert at the age of 5 by my primary school and I still remember it. For others, grand opera goes very nicely with a mid-life crisis, along with a sports car and a bottle of Grecian 2000. Don’t allow these stereotypes to hold you back! Just open your ears, and your eyes, and your mind.

Now, I think I may just pop out for an ice-cream.

Click here to hear Classics from Scratch Series 2 Episode 4 on Spreaker.

Published in: on August 24, 2013 at 10:19  Leave a Comment  

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