Please see the disclaimer.
As a general rule, I do not like classics. This goes for literature and music.
I have maintained that opinion for all of my life, even when I received contempt from people for it.
And yes, people have given me hate for it. I have had an English teacher and a literature professor (in college) tell me that I was wrong for not liking Shakespeare and called me “uncultured.”
In response, I always explained that I could still appreciate the skill and craft that went into those things, but that doesn’t automatically mean I like them. There is a difference.
In fact, I always gave the example of food with lima beans. I don’t like lima beans. If a professional chef gave me a dish with lima beans as an ingredient, I can still appreciate that the dish was well done, even if I don’t want to eat it.
Now, to hear my college professor, not liking Shakespeare is tantamount to heresy.
But as I have gotten older and learned more, I have learned that the culture around the classics, whether music or literature, is just a bunch of people admiring an emperor in new clothes: everyone is lying, and if they are not, it’s because they actually don’t know what they are talking about.
Let me explain.
Shakespeare wrote poetry. Poetry can really only be written for one language. In fact, it can only be written for one dialect or accent of a language because of cadence. That means that Shakespeare’s writing should only be read in the pronunciation that Shakespeare used in his day.
But the pronunciation is the same as what we use, right? Oh, no. Not at all.
So how did Shakespeare’s poetry sound to his audience?
So how does Shakespeare’s poetry sound compared to English now?
Quite different, isn’t it? As they say, there are a lot of rhymes that don’t even work in our modern pronunciation!
Is it any wonder I don’t like Shakespeare?
I actually like it better in the original pronunciation, though it is still hard. I think that if I took the time to learn how to listen to original pronuncation, I would like Shakespeare!
But what about classical music? Surely, people are not doing classical music wrong.
Oh, but they are. Have you heard of tuning systems?
In the same way that poetry is written for a specific language, dialect, and accent, music is written for a specific tuning, and depending on the tuning, it is also written for a specific key!
The only tuning that allows free movement between the keys is the modern Equal Temperament tuning.
So as it turns out, the way classical music is played, in modern Equal Temperament tuning, is wrong. Just listen to the difference:
In fact, using any tuning, except the one the song was written for, can sound wrong:
As a good example of what has changed, I will use the example of the Major 3rd. The Major 3rd is often a nice interval (depending on the key, of course), and classical composers used it as such a lot. However, in modern Equal Temperament, the Major 3rd is actually quite dissonant, no matter the key!
The best example of this, I think, is from a song where the composer used the Equal Temperament Major 3rd well: Spectacle Discovery from the National Treasure soundtrack by Trevor Rabin:
Listen especially at 2:55. There are two trumpets that end the phrase. They are obviously dissonant from each other, and for good reason: Ben (Nicolas Cage) is about to be found by the bad guys. So the dissonance is good in this case.
And the interval between the trumpets? A Major 3rd. I checked it myself.
In fact, when I did, I couldn’t believe it. It was only when I learned about tunings and the strengths and weaknesses of Equal Temperament that I understood why.
So yeah, I don’t like classics, literature or music. But the reason is not because I am uncultured; it’s because I know the emperor has no clothes, and many others refuse to believe it.
It turns out that I am very cultured; I just want to experience the classics as their creators intended.