Saturday, August 7, 2010

Drinking From The Fire Hose

Growing up in a small town certainly had its advantages. My only worry in the world was getting to the drugstore in time to make the latest additions of all the comic books. A coke float and brand new Spider-Man and I was on my way. However, living in an environment such as this, you are limited to your surroundings.

It was in this environment that a little boy I knew would take up an almost impossible challenge of becoming a classically trained violinist. If you can imagine the amount of animosity that he faced growing up in the woods. Surrounded by an almost dominant country music market, his struggles were many as his peers challenged his efforts within this kind of music. This music that was so foreign to all of us.

That little boy would be my first introduction to classical music but it would not be until my adult life that I would begin to understand the music and develop an appreciation for it. And it’s not easy. It took me almost two years to develop this kind of musical palate and in all honesty, I was forced to do it.

In 1998, I was selected as agency of record for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The marketing director at that time made the executive decision that if an East Texas boy was going to sell classical music, he better start understanding it. So to school I went.

Now before I get into the weird part of this article, let me preface it by saying that classical music is complicated. It can have several parts, or movements, to one song. Kind of like chapters in a book. And to add to the complexity of the music, there are at least 100 musicians on stage at one time. Now I’m a musician and that’s nuts to me. The amount of different things going on all at once is mind boggling and it can be very overwhelming if you really listen to it. Kind of like drinking from a fire hose.

And this would be when it gets weird.

About two years into going to the symphony every Thursday, something happened to me sitting in that chair. I became capable of listening to everything at once and it began to take me somewhere else. Almost like a religious experience. It’s really hard to explain it but the music moved me in such a way that I became completely immersed within it almost like having tunnel vision.

Now I know most of you out there are thinking there is no way I’m going to sit in a chair for two years in order to appreciate classical music. And I’m not suggesting that you do. I think I would have taken to it a lot quicker if perhaps I had gotten a milder taste of the hot sauce rather than drinking an entire cup of Tobasco every Thursday night. Slowly wading into the shallow end instead of jumping into the deep end without knowing how to swim is always a better way to go.

So I’m going to make a suggestion and you can take it as an experiment if you dare. There are two guys that are widely known as the very best in classically trained guitarists. Brazilian brothers Sergio and Odair Assad might be the greatest players you will ever hear. The kicker with them is that they are highly skilled at reworking symphony music themselves creating their own arrangements. So figure scaling a song written for 100 musicians down for two guys on guitar. And perhaps by scaling down the complexity of the music, it might be a good place to start without trying to drink from the fire hose.

Below is a performance by Sergio and Odair Assad. If you click it, I recommend that you really listen to the music which means earphones if you have them. Music like this is meant to be listened to carefully and takes some effort.

So turn off the rest of the world and give it a chance. You’ll be glad you did.

Peace Out…Now get your classical on.


  1. Nice my introduction to classical from a certain living legend band director who I happen to be related to; Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #3 when i was around 8 or so. Still a big fan, as well as a Beethoven/Mozart fanatic and medieval music listener. Lately listening to a lot of Russian Chorale and Greek chant since I became Orthodox....all Orthodox music must be a capella and the Russians bring some insane polyphony to the party. Thing about jumping into classical is that I think of it as more Wet n Wild than a single pool. Don't like baroque? Try some Viennese or Romantic. Try different pools because there is one out there you will like.

  2. Dear Edwin,
    What a wonderful piece! I am the mother of the young violinist friend of yours WAY back when..... You were artistic and very much a leader even then. When I think of you, Laura, and your parents I feel warmth and comfort. It was a gentle time, eh? Edwin, if Jason had an influence on you re: classical music I am in the same boat with you. Through his years as a very musically talented young kid, with "perfect pitch", I think we all grew to appreciate its beauty and how much hard work it took to make those beautiful sounds on a piece of wood with strings. Now look at YOU with your own band, channeling all that wonderful talent and making some big bucks while doing something you love. This is the answer for us all..... to do the things we love. Go Edwin! We are all proud of you and happy to call you FRIEND. Big hugs, Penny