What is FAoL? The Fine Art of Listening is a blog devoted to sharing the treasures of the Art Music world in bite-sized, daily doses.

Why does it exist? Most people I know, regardless of class, race, or education, know next to nothing about Art Music. The average person’s musical diet consists exclusively of commercialized music, which tends to be overly simple, repetitive, and without any lasting aesthetic value. Commercialized music needs no champion, because it is cheap to produce, is superficial, and easy to market. Art Music needs and wants to be shared!

Wait a minute … by “Art Music,” do you mean “Classical Music”? Not exactly. “Classical Music” is a term which the commercial music industry applies to anything that doesn’t fall into the regular consumer-music categories, like rock, pop, hip hop, r&b, country, etc. If it has a violin, bam! it’s classical. No drum set? gotta be classical. It’s a silly label! Art Music is a more fitting term.

Ok then, so what exactly is art music? You’ll find some people disagree on the exact parameters of what is and isn’t Art Music, but as for me and this website, Art Music: is carefully and expertly crafted; strikes deep into a person’s soul; is intended to enrich lives or enlighten the audience; comes from a need to express the human condition, not just to entertain; has the potential to remain fresh and interesting for centuries; pushes boundaries of what we consider to be music. Or something like that.

But, according to that logic, can’t rock, pop, or hip hop also be Art Music? Absolutely! A great deal of commercial music falls into the Art Music category, and I believe that, a century from now, humans will still be singing these songs. However, most commercial music is produced like a disposable single-use cup. It’s fun to drink from at first, but you can’t put it in the dishwasher, and soon it starts to smell.

That’s gross. Sorry. The point is, though – commercial music is designed to make money, not art. Art Music, on the other hand, is transcendent!

But why should I listen to Art Music? Would you recommend someone eat fast food french fries for every meal, every day, all their lives? Of course not. On one hand, it’s not healthy. But even more so, what a waste of one’s senses! There is so much great food to try, to explore, to indulge in. Fast food is cheap and easy to produce, but its merits stop there.

But Art Music is outdated and doesn’t deal with things that are relevant to me. First of all that’s not a question, so it doesn’t belong in a FAQ. But anyway, like commercial music, Art Music often deals with love, loss, parties, sex, booze, and other marvelous debaucheries. Attend a couple of operas, and you could see boozy parties (La Traviata), prostitution (Lulu), women stringing men along (Carmen), men stringing women along (Rigoletto), men stringing men along (Oscar), any kind of adultery you can imagine (… too many to list), incest (Salome), nudity (Salome), murder (Salome), necrophilia (Salome).

But you implied earlier that Art Music was serious. On the other hand, Art Music can cause us to stop and think about our lives, our mortality, our existence. The trial and triumph of Beethoven’s 9th, the deep piety of Bach’s B-minor mass, the “I miss my mommy” of Brahms’ Requiem, the “Up yours, Stalin!” of Shostakovich’s 9th symphony.

Interesting. How long has this been going on? For all of human history. Our music – humanity’s music – tells our story, from our humble beginnings to … well, wherever we are now.

Well, this music was written for rich nobility of centuries past, how could I possibly be interested in this? You are correct that historically, a great deal of Art Music depended on aristocratic patronage. But remember that much of the music composed during this time has fallen into obscurity – and what remains is the best of the best. We celebrate great composers because they cared enough about their craft to make something timeless. We do the same with authors. We all adore Dickens’ novels, but even he wrote a few stinkers.

Dickens absolutely did not write any “stinkers.” Ok, you got me there.

But Art Music is just a bunch of dead European composers, right? Completely wrong! First of all, never in history have there been so many skilled composers writing music than today. These composers are all over the world, in every continent, writing music in about every style you can imagine.

How come I’ve never heard of these composers? See above. It’s so much easier to make money on commercial music, so that’s all that gets played by most people. If you want Art Music, you have to make it yourself, or seek out other Art Music lovers.

Make music myself? I can’t do that. Yes you can. Remember that recorded music is not even 150 years old. For tens of thousands of years, the only music people heard was live. You can do it, and you should. The benefits are too many to number here.

I’m still not sold. Tell me why I should listen. Would you pass an opportunity to visit a different country? Try some new food? Learn about a different culture? With today’s technology, we can hear music from any culture, from any time period. How can you pass this up?

Now you’re asking the questions. That’s my job. Fine, then go ahead.

Well, is Art Music any good? Let’s find out.