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My relationship with classical music had a rough beginning. At the age of ten, I sat my father down and declared (breaking his heart as gently as I could), “Dad, I just want you to know that I’m never, ever, ever, ever going to like classical music”. In hindsight I recall a gentle, knowing smirk on his face, but at the time I thought I’d emphatically gotten the message across – and that was that. And so I felt released from the life of misery I believed classical music would bring. It’s clear to me now, when I think of the anger I felt breaking this news to my father, that in the same moment I declared my rejection of classical music it had finally gotten under my skin – unsettled me, moved me in some way.
But I was a stubborn child, and even though my father had given my sister and me the choice of which record to listen to while drifting off to sleep every Friday and Saturday night for years, all I could do was complain about his collection. I was passionate about disliking it. It contained a selection of Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Rachmaninov and Debussy as well as 1980s Paul McCartney, Simon & Garfunkel, the soundtrack to The Elephant Man and a selection of op-shop oddities. I can remember one of them only by its lyrics: “My name is Norman Bates, I’m just a normal guy. My name is Norman Batesssss!” Having no knowledge at this point of Hitchcock’s film Psycho, I remember thinking, “Hmmm… I guess Norman Bates must be some really average guy”. I was a child of the ’80s and pop music was all that mattered to me. Classical music, jazz, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and everything else my dad held in high regard was of little significance to me.
And so it was, on those Friday and Saturday nights (that I now remember so fondly), that we chose our “falling asleep music”, and in an act of defiance to my father and his taste in music, we mostly based our choices on the look of the album cover. There was an unhinged looking chap on what I think was Hooked on Beethoven. He looked positively inebriated and it seemed more “fun” than some of the other sombre-looking classical records. This was all classical music meant to me at that point. I found it as uncertain as a rollercoaster ride, if not dark and unsettling.
What would have happened had I not spoken those words “never ever”? I believe those words somehow sealed my fate because here I am, holding a vinyl copy of my new album in my hands, inscribed: “To the inimitable Nikolai David Blaskow”. Although it is not classical music, I have recorded the entire album with a symphony orchestra. I said “never ever”, but he was right, it was not always to be that way. I eventually did fall in love with classical music and the power of the orchestra. It can be grand, it can be emotional, it can instill fear, it can overwhelm and it can also calm the most tortured spirit. I have recorded an album with orchestra in order to raise the hairs on the back of the neck, just as those early classical albums did on mine.
I treasure that vivid moment when I said to my father “never ever”. I consider it now to be a magical moment and in hindsight I think I knew it at the time. At that moment I believe I was, somewhere in my heart, building a space for classical music and imagining its possibilities. The words were spoken and they set something in my life in motion and I will never forget them.
THE MUSIC I COULDN’t LIVE WITHOUT…
RAVEL: Piano Trio in A Minor
Jean-Jacques Kantorow v, Jacques Rouvier p, Philippe Muller c
Sarah Blasko performs songs from I Awake with Australian orchestras in February. See www.sarahblasko.com for tour details.