I was 14 years old when I first discovered classical music. It was through an invitation from one of my friends to a classical music concert – an invitation that I accepted with much hesitation. I attended the concert without knowing that it would be an inflection point in my life.
The concert was a picture of human perfection. My mind was overwhelmed, seeing the organization of the orchestra and musicians, sensing the beauty of the melodies and the magic of the sound. This was the start of a passion that has lasted up through the moment I’m writing this article, and that has determined many of the decisions I’ve made in my life.
However, the positive impact I had from that experience also caused me to develop some extreme opinions about music.
I used to believe that classical music was the only music. For me, this was not a subject that allowed for debate. I immediately classified anyone who expressed admiration for another type of music as a person who didn’t understand anything about art or music.
In my view, pop was just a defective evolution of music in the 21st century, jazz was only an excuse to continually play false notes, and Arabic music was a complete mess.
That was my mindset as a teenager. However, I now start the day listening to Bach’s fugues, in the middle of the day find myself enjoying Enrique Iglesias’s tunes, and at night go to sleep with my headphones broadcasting Umm Kulthum’s songs. What has changed?My Reconciliation With Pop Music
The most mistaken opinions you can hold are those you arrive at without having enough information. The extreme opinions I had about music were a result of my teenage obstinacy and my negative perception of all music other than classical, in addition to my lack of contact with other types of music.
I remember how one day when I was sitting alone in my room, I got bored after listening to two Mozart symphonies in a row and so decided to give some of the songs that were trending at the time a try. My situation was similar to that of a young guy thinking about smoking his first cigarette. With my headphones turned up loud, I felt a sensation that I had never experienced with any classical music. Starting then, listening to pop songs became a guilty pleasure for me.
The Power of Simplicity and the Magic of Repetition
The thing I found to be special about pop music was its simplicity. If classical music is a work of philosophy, pop would be a children’s book. Pop is basically a simplified version of classical music.
While classical music is generally based on complicated chord progressions and complex melodies, pop music is based on a few basic chord progressions and simple, repetitive melodies. While an orchestral music piece generally requires a wide variety of instruments to produce different sound timbres, a pop music song may use only a few electric instruments, or even a single instrument, along with the human voice. That’s why a person who is used to the complexity of classical music may find pop music easily accessible, predictable and enjoyable.
Many classical musicians criticize pop music by saying that it’s too repetitive, when repetition is very common in classical music as well. For example, many consider the second movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony to be one of the greatest, most emotional slow movements in the classical repertoire, even though it’s based on repetition of the same chord progression, with some variations in melody and orchestration.
All in all, pop music shows how powerful simplicity can be, and is proof of the magic of repetition, so it’s not a coincidence that it’s the most popular genre of music in the 21st century.
Road to Arabesque
The story of my relationship with Arabic music is a bit different. Coming from an Arab country, not appreciating Arabic music always made me feel bad. However, I didn’t have the opportunity to value Arabic music until I left my home country. Loneliness and nostalgia were the impulses that urged me to explore the world of arabesque as a link to my roots.
I might be a little bit biased when talking about the sublimity of Arabic music. The sorrow and the melancholy that it transmits are unique. Moreover, unlike other types of music, it gives a great deal of freedom to the creativity of the composer, since it’s not limited by any restrictions of format.
Human beings seem to always categorize and label everything. The experiences I related above showed me that music shouldn’t be labeled. Because it speaks to the heart, rather than the mind, it’s the only truly global language that exists.
I believe categorizing music according to geography, style or whatever is useless, because in the end, music is all about seven notes (DoReMiFaSolLaSi/CDEFGAB), with some alterations. The way these notes are organized is determined by the creative process undertaken by the composer, and what matters most are the feelings we get from the physical, sonic experience of hearing them.
Now, when someone asks me which type of music is my favorite, I tell them proudly and confidently, “Music.”