Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Redux — Balm for Sadness Edition

I struggle through election cycles. So much rabid ugliness on casual display, so many times I am reminded how much I don’t matter to people to whom my life and well-being should matter. Sigh.

I didn’t want to post about all of that, however. At least not tonight. I wanted a distraction and the cosmos offered up a sweet one.


I used to think I didn’t like classical music. I didn’t understand anything about it and was made to feel ignorant, as if that was a door I wasn’t allowed to pass through.

I stayed away for a long time. But I secreted bits and pieces into my life – through choral music, through listing to WQXR on the DL. I started to be able to recognize certain composers … well, mostly just one composer, Dvořak. I started buying his music, perked up whenever Gregg Whiteside mentioned his name during my morning QXR fix. 

Listening to Whiteside helped me give myself permission to like classical music, to allow myself to be entirely ignorant and still like things I listened to. He was always so into it, so engaged, clearly enjoying his job, even the Alliance Française and Parliamo Italiano ads he read every morning. He made my secret explorations feel safe.

I have friends who are professional classical musicians. One, a violinist, was surprised by the classical pieces I listened to or was familiar with. She was particularly surprised by Dvořak, said his weren’t pieces she would expect a casual listener to like or be drawn to.

I’ve never been sure what to make of that. Aren’t we just drawn to whatever we’re drawn to? We hear something we like, we are moved by some combination of melody and instrumentation. We don’t make a choice, the sound and feeling choose us. 


I still don’t know anything. I mean, that’s not entirely true. I’ve played instruments, I sing. I know little bits of things about music in general and even smaller bits of things about classical music. But really I know nothing (me and Jon Snow). But I know when something strikes me, when something settles into my chest and thrums. That’s really all I need.

Thinking about this threshold I felt I couldn’t cross made me realize that I’d also closed the doors between myself and other kinds of music. There were the doors to jazz, to rap, to reggae. What the hell?

But was it really true? I listen to all of those “forbidden” things. Listen a LOT. So are the doors really closed? And, even though I listened to the music that was off limits, why was I hectoring myself about it, giving myself a hard time for having the audacity to take pleasure in something? How crazy is that?


Over time, I’ve allowed myself to be more comfortable with classical music, allowed myself to listen and enjoy and not have to “know” things, not have to do anything more complex than be moved by what I hear. A few years ago, I went to an Orpheus Chamber Orchestra concert at Carnegie Hall with my friend, Red Emma. The following year, I bought an Orpheus subscription, and two more subscriptions. Yes, me: totally embracing my love for classical music. In public.

I’ve since calmed down a bit and now have only two subscriptions — Orpheus and the Philadelphia Orchestra. 

I’ve written about my subscriptions before, hence the reason this post title is a repeat. An excellent thing happened today, though. I was thinking about all of this, my allowing myself to be comfortable with liking this music. And I thought about listening to Gregg Whiteside every morning before work. And it occurred to me to look him up, see what he was doing since he left QXR.

And what perfect thing should I find but that he’s in Philadelphia being the producer and anchor of the Philadelphia Orchestra shows on WRTI?! 

I’m sad today about some big, messy things in the world, but this bit of serendipitous joy helps, lets me believe the universe hasn’t turned her face from me after all.

It’s March, which means it’s time for the
13th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Curious? Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to.
Or … it’s not too late to join in!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

5 thoughts on “Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Redux — Balm for Sadness Edition

  1. We are such complex beings. I’d never before thought consciously about doors I didn’t feel I was allowed to pass through, but now that you mentioned it I’m examining those forbidding doors in my own life.


  2. Pingback: Listen, We Don't Do That | Raivenne-lations

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