Free Classical Music for the Parsimonious

Among the things I’ve loved since I was in my teens is classical music and I’m a regular listener to BBC Radio 3 and RTÉ Lyric FM (but not Classic FM – I don’t like the voices or the style of the presenters, and as for the commercial breaks, ugh!)

During my London years I had a vast record collection of classical music. I had LPs dating back more than fifty years, including some of the first LPs commercially available in Britain. And that’s in addition to the cassettes, some more than twenty years old, and the CDs, not so old but none the less valuable. But it all got out of hand, too big and too expensive and I had to leave it all behind back in March.

But lately I’ve been rebuilding my collection, not on LPs or cassettes or CDs. No, I can’t be bothered to trawl through thousands of records in a record shop to find the cheapest recording anymore. I’ve come across a site that offers free downloads of classical music. It is (take a note of this!)

It’s the Petrucci Music Library and at present it is home to 46,118 works, 141,663 scores, 5,319 recordings, 6,704 composers and 149 performers. And those numbers are constantly increasing.

The only problem is, downloading mp3 files onto my mobile phone is so painfully slow. Last night I downloaded C.P.E. Bach’s Flute Concerto in G major. The total size of the three files is 48MB. They took a total of five hours to download. Just as well I hardly ever receive any calls!

The Youth of the DPRK

I’ve spoken in the past about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and of how there is little or no influence from the junk culture of the USA that permeates just about every level of society in South Korea.

Korea has an abundance of song, dance and literature in its own right, not to mention a history that stretches back more than four millennia. They don’t need American “culture”, or American anything. And the government of the DPRK is just as aware of that as anyone on the peninsula.

They are also well aware of the potential of young children and the musical and artistic talent that can be fostered and grown. It can make children become the best they can be.

This is Kang Eun-ju (강은주) from Hamhung city. She is playing a tune from the children’s movie “The Boy Commander”.

And here is a quartet of children playing kayageum (가야금).

Kim Yu-san (김유성, 7 years) from Sariwon plays two tunes, “Paradise Flower Garden” and “Children’s play”

Finally, five children from Chongjin city.

Now since these videos appeared on YouTube, comments from Western viewers have been mixed. Some praise the remarkable talent and dexterity of the children, others say they’re so cute. But others still say that these children are merely products of an autocratic society, trained to within an inch of their lives, bullied and browbeaten to become little prodigies.

They are not. Every child is born with some talent or other, be it sporting, artistic or musical. A child discovers that he can make nice sound with a guitar after twanging randomly and playing the odd note. A child discovers that he can make pictures with a pencil and paper after scrawling randomly and drawing circles and squares and spirals. A child discovers that he can control the way he kicks a ball around the field after randomly knocking it around with his feet. And as time goes by, those abilities become more advanced and sophisticated. Some children don’t really develop those abilities until they’re well into their teens. Others develop them quite early on, and with the right guidance they can really become virtuosi.

Many of the cynics and naysayers watching these videos only see chldren dressed up like performing monkeys, a product of a society that is bankrupt, brainwashed and on the verge of collapse. They don’t understand that these children really enjoy playing music. Their parents approve of it and so does the Dear Leader Kim Jong-il. (Would they be on national television if he didn’t?)

Children could not possibly perform like this if their hearts weren’t in it. I never became a footballer because I was never interested in football and nothing anyone did could make me play. I was good at drawing and my parents realised that and they encouraged me. My drawings became better as a result and that got me more praise and encouragement, not just from my parents but from many others.

If those naysayers object to those children being paraded on national television, let me ask them this: is it any worse than what goes on in the USA?