Have we made a mistake in the title? There is no escape from the reality that David’s music did have a beneficial effect on Saul, though it is true Saul did not gain long term benefits from it. And this is our point. Whereas the previous article describes the physical effects of different types of music on well-being, this article concentrates on positive suggestions for our personal use of music. Refreshment, relaxation, as well as mental stimulation, can all be affected by good music. This article is quite different from the “normal” articles found in The Lampstand. It is not strictly “spiritual”. Nevertheless it incorporates suggestions which help to create a musical environment, which is helpful rather than detrimental to us as we continue our pilgrimage. If we do not create a healthy environment the void may be filled with forces of evil. The following suggestions are directed to parents with younger children. A subsequent article will address the needs of teenagers and adults.

Because the music of this age is so invasive, it occupies a position of dominance which we cannot escape, unless a stronger and more positive influence is found to gratify the taste and affections. This is demonstrated in our Lord’s parable of “the unoccupied house” (Mark 12:43–45). Development of an appreciation of and love for “good” music is imperative if we are to supplant the evil influences of that music which reflects the spirit of the age.

One does not need a formal or even an informal education to be able to enjoy and appreciate good music. Because it is a natural part of daily living music is for everyone, except possibly the absolutely tone deaf.

Even if you cannot read a note of music, have never had a music lesson or attended a music appreciation class or experienced a “live” musical performance—it is possible to enjoy and benefit from good music.

It Is Important

 This article is not about personal tastes. It is not written to persuade you to love the same types of classical music as the writer. It is a frank presentation of methods which work. They have been used successfully. It is clear from the preceding article that modern “rock style” music is both dangerous and damaging. It is mandatory that it be removed from our homes and from the cars of our young people. Their eternal life is at stake. But it must be replaced with positive influences.

Parental Initiative

 How do parents introduce “good music” to their children? And how can they sustain their interest? Take heart—it can be done. The suggestions in this article have been successfully used by many families in our midst. But we all need to take the responsibility of actively developing good and positive attitudes in our children. Parents must take positive steps in their own listening.

As with all leadership roles, example is the greatest teacher. Take the initiative—explain what you hear. If you were listening to the Grand March from Verdi’s Aida, two trumpets come to the fore in juxtaposition. As the volume of one heads for a crescendo, so the other decreases—so balanced—so beautiful and stimulating. So fill the house with the harmony and symmetry of “good classical music”.

Listen With Understanding

 “An orchestra is a group of people who are scraping, blowing and banging things.” Though crude in form, such words from a famous conductor succinctly encapsulate the types of musical instruments in a modern orchestra—strings, wind and percussion. Here is the first feature—know what you are hearing.

Listen with interest—identify the types of instruments in the piece—perceive the melody—feel the harmonious support of the other parts. And listen with understanding.

Is the stringed instrument a violin, a cello or double bass? Is that a trumpet, an oboe or a flute?

Gaining Interest

 Use the example of David and Saul. Perhaps start with a piece which has easily perceived rhythm and is bright and sprightly—say, the Radetsky March by J Strauss Snr. Why not the gaiety of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, or the stirring music and booming canons of his 1812 Overture which easily conjure up a picture for us of Napoleon’s retreat from Russia , or the simplicity of Leopold Mozart’s Clock Symphony.

Gain Interest—The “Standard Works”

 Three “standard works” have been found very useful for the development of a “musical ear” in good music for young children. The first is Peter and the Wolf by Prokofiev. It is a genial tale based on a popular Russian children’s story presented with all the wit and humour of which Prokofiev was capable.

The vivid colours and simplicity of the score together with its originality continue to enchant. Each character is represented by an instrument— the Cat by a clarinet, a Little Bird by the piccolo, the Wolf by three horns, Peter himself by a string quartet, his Grandfather by a bassoon and so on. Narrator and orchestra combine to tell the tale of the high spirited Peter and his encounter with the bloodthirsty mean wolf. All the characters are skilfully drawn in masterly musical portraits.

Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Säens was actually a private musical “joke” dashed off whilst the composer was on a holiday. It portrays animals with humorous affection, beginning with the majestic roar of the lions and ending with a finale which jumps from nursery rhymes to his own Danse Macabre and Rossini’s Barber of Seville. In between come strutting cockerels and hens, careering wild asses, bounding kangaroos and even an amateur pianist!—all portrayed musically by different instruments of the orchestra.

Finally, for those a little older—The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra by Benjamin Britten completes our “standard works”. The theme, a rondo in D minor, is taken from the works of Purcell. The entire orchestra plays the theme which is then heard in four main sections—wind, brass, string and percussion. Then come variations, each geared to allow a different instrument to “shine”. First go the flutes—then the bassoons with a perky march, followed by the violins who play a polonaise. Castanets whip and cavort in a percussion cadenza, the double basses singing out with elegance. As all the instruments reappear they are put together using a brilliant and exciting fugue. As the piece becomes more complicated and it becomes louder and louder (to the delight of youngsters!) the brass “raise the roof” with a farewell salute to the majestic theme.

  Series of Educational Recordings

 Produced in Canada as a series called “Classical Kids Presents…” these recordings combine real drama with superb music to draw children into the world of classical music. Mr Bach Comes To Call uses over two dozen excerpts, including Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, Brandenburg Concerto No 5, flute sonatas, piano minuets and preludes and his famous organ music.

After the dramatic send-off of his music into space aboard Voyager II, the story is of Mr Bach calling on a little girl who is doing her piano practice (a well known scene!) along with his orchestra and choir. Delightful family incidents involving music make this a well-loved story for children and parents alike.

Beethoven Lives Upstairs is the story of a young boy exchanging letters with his uncle about the chaotic arrival of Mr Beethoven into his house. In the end he is won over by the music while we are treated to true incidents from the great composer’s life. The music has over two dozen excerpts including Symphonies 5 to 9, the Moonlight and Pathetique Sonatas.

Set in Venice, Ring of Mystery describes a young violinist’s arrival at the orphanage where Vivaldi was music director and her search for clues to her mysterious past. Vivaldi’s well loved Four Seasons (with real sound effects) is featured, as well as guitar, piccolo and trumpet concertos. Also included are many of the violin pieces played by young violinists today.

Mozart’s Magic Fantasy and “HallelujahHandel are also available in this series. The latter, as the title suggests, includes stirring excerpts from the oratorio we all love. In each case the story is quite captivating. More important than the story, the music of the “great masters” is skilfully and subtly integrated into a happy and harmonious whole.

Is It “Good” Because it is “Classical”?

 Not all classical music is “good”. Some music which is not strictly classical can be “good”. Also, not all music written this century is bad and of course not all music written before this century is beneficial.

Tastes vary, but fortunately the range of good music is great. But what makes a piece of music “good” music and good for us? It has harmony, not discord; it has melody, not raucous sounds; it has a sense of beauty and is not bizarre; it has rhythm, but not a dominant beat; it is interesting to hear time and time again, not of transitory interest.

There is no great mystery about classical music, it is simply a case of finding out what you like and where to find more music like it.

Some Suggested Helps

 Some readers may be concerned that they do not have sufficient musical knowledge to implement our suggestions. What is a sonata? What does a bassoon look like? How does one distinguish a minuet from a fugue or prelude? We don’t need to know all these answers, but like everything of value, the more we understand the better our enjoyment. Help is at hand. Here are a few suggestions.

A book by Karl Haas entitled Inside Music has the sub-title, “How to Understand, Listen to and Enjoy Good Music”. It is published by The Macmillan Company of Australia in association with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and is available through ABC shops ($17.95). Unfortunately stocks are not kept in Adelaide, but your order (ISBN 0 7251 0546 1) will bring it from Melbourne where, at the time of writing, large stocks are held. The international program Adventures in Good Music is broadcast daily on ABC FM (103.9 MHz) where Karl Haas himself presents fifty minutes of  enjoyable and educational music.

Conclusion

 In a “How to do it” article, we have presented some suggestions of how you can make good music exciting for both yourself and your children. In our next article we will discuss family activities, gathering around the piano, choral music and suggestions for building up a collection of recorded music. We will be more specific about the different benefits of particular pieces of music—for eating, for relaxation, even for relieving headaches! Though music is not in itself morally good or bad, it does have effects and these can be beneficial or harmful. Depending on the style, classical music can be used to sharpen the mind, soothe and relax, stimulate or elevate.

No one would knowingly allow themselves or their children to be exposed to a poisonous or harmful environment damaging to their physical welfare. Even more vital is spiritual and moral health. We must take up the challenge as early as possible with our children, pointing them in the right direction. Music plays such an important part in our lives that we must be the arbiters of our listening and enjoying.