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About Essay, “Rebel Music,” Daniel Felsenfeld- a Composer of Classical Music

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In his narrative essay, “Rebel Music,” Daniel Felsenfeld- a composer of classical music who was raised by one of the “least musical families” in Orange County, California- explains how his perspective on classical music had changed during his life (Felsenfeld 640-1). When he was seventeen years old, he took piano lessons on mostly classical pieces. However, he happened to find it “uninspiring,” and he even called one of Beethoven’s sonatas “pathetique” (640). Felsenfeld claims that the reason he didn’t enjoy classical music might have been because “the smartest kids [he] knew took the route of dolling themselves up in[to] … goth, punk, or straight edge” music styles (641).

While Felsenfeld was trying to figure out his musical palate, one day his friend, Mike, put Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on to the cassette player. When he heard this symphony, he realized “[this] was not goth, metal, or punk,” yet he liked it more than anything else (641). He was shocked, this was the same Beethoven “whose sonata [he] had done such violence” (641). He started taking Mike’s tapes and listening them wherever he went (642). Out of all the rebels- also known as goth or punk listeners- “[he] felt [he] was the weirdest” by listening to classical music; in his eyes, he was the real rebel (642). As he enhanced his skills on piano, he met other composers-musicians & teachers- who were into classical music just like him (642-3).

He moved to New York and got a chance to compose his own music (643). He “lament[s] not having been raised in a musical family, or [his] late and clumsy start [to classical music];” however, he also appreciates “mak[ing] [his] less-than-ideal origins an asset [by] … do[ing] [his] best work” (643).

The context of this narrative piece circles around Felsenfeld’s need to discover something that will finally inspire him, since he was a kid. As a young boy, he didn’t have the option to choose his own musical path. His mother had done it for him by signing him up for piano classes on classical music (640). As he states, ‘[he] was experiencing a personal drought… especially [for] music” (640). After some time, he stops attending those lessons and tries to find his own passion. He approaches goth, and punk music styles just like every other juvenile delinquents-rebels- of his generation, yet he doesn’t find that kind of music fruitful (641). When he is affected from the people around him, whether his parents or friends, he can’t explore his inspiration. One day, he finds his passion for classical music randomly, not planned (641-2).

The purpose is stated fairly hidden in this context. It isn’t just about how classical music is becoming history, how it’s respected less from the youth, or how it gets irrelevant in people’s eyes over time. These are some of the purposes but not the main one. Main purpose is more generalized- it’s to find a passion on your own and use that inspiration to understand that you need to work really hard to get where you want, to get better at it. For Felsenfeld, this happened when Mike put the tape in to the player, he unconsciously understood that this might have been his life’s purpose (641-2). This point in the text, is a turning event in Felsenfeld’s life.

The audience of this text is mainly beginner musicians with goals and anyone who is going through a journey of discovering their personality- which is what Felsenfeld did. For the audience, this story gives inspiration. Reading about someone, who presented himself as a lost rebel and found his way out of it by reaching his newly sparkled passion- classical music- is an inspiring and relatable story for most people. Knowing that Felsenfeld had started his classical music career later than many other musicians and still got where he wanted by working hard, practicing, and meeting with real piano teachers/mentors is a representation of hope (642). He presents his life experience as a way to show the audience that it was not easy to accomplish his goals, yet it wasn’t a nightmare since he was passionate for it (643).

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