Classical Music and Baseball

Guest post by PARMA intern (and Red Sox fan) Matt DeSchuiteneer

Baseball holds a special place in American culture. Of all the major sports played here in the States, only baseball has the honor of being called “The American Pastime.”  And for good reason:  With over 150 years of play, baseball has given us countless stories of heartbreak, rivalry, triumph, and even more heartbreak.  Just ask any Red Sox fan…

Right off the … bat, it doesn’t really make sense, to compare baseball with classical music. While baseball focuses on simplicity, classical tends towards the grandiose and spectacular.  Classical also has an undeserved reputation for being stuffy and elitist, seemingly opposite to baseball’s ideals of equality and inclusivity.

So how is classical anything like baseball?

Prince Fielder, former designated hitter for the Texas Rangers, is known for two things: his batting average and his flair for the dramatic.  He has a tattoo on his arm which reads “prince” in Korean, and used the sound of a siren as his walk up song because, in his words, “it just lets people know something is about to happen.”

How does this connect to classical?  Consider this: Before he changed his walk out song to a siren, Fielder was famous among the baseball community for his original choice. While other players used classic rock or 80’s hip hop to fire up the crowd, Fielder took to the diamond to the tune of Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor.  What better way to establish yourself as one of baseball’s greats than to have a choir singing “king” in Latin as you walk up to the plate.

Don’t take our word for it. Watch this video and see for yourself:

Here’s where we see the connection between classical and baseball coming together.  Both elicit intense emotions in the players and the audience.

Nothing comes close the emotional power of hearing a live symphony.  It’s a shocking, awe-inspring display of power.  Nothing could possibly draw that much emotion from a large group.

Nothing that is, except seeing your favorite team come through in the clutch.  If the following clip doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, well, just watch ….

From this emotional impact comes the second connection:  narratives. Being a New England native, I can tell you first hand how important the rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees is to the very fabric of the New England identity.

Every year, it’s the same story: The Red Sox (scrappy underdogs with a heart of gold) trying to hold their own against the NY Yankees (soulless devils) for the very integrity of the sport itself.  This is just one of the many narratives baseball fans create.

Classical music, too, has its narratives. The rivalry of Mozart and Salieri, the tragedy of Beethoven’s hearing loss, the incredible drive of Franz Schubert — composing over 600 songs in just 31 years of life!  These stories are abundant in the classical and, just as in baseball, they are vehemently held by fans.

Many of the great names of classical music are not American.  From German composers such as Mozart and Beethoven to Italian masters like Vivaldi and Paganini, classical was firmly entrenched in the old world, but that’s all changing.  Great composers (and baseball players!) are being discovered in every corner of the world.

Phenomenal new athletes and musicians are redefining their respective fields with startling brilliance and expanding horizons.  Records are being shattered everyday — from Fenway Park to Carnegie Hall … and beyond!

To show you what we mean, we want to share with you our Classical Hear and Now playlist.  This playlist is made up of composers and musicians from all across the globe, adding new ideas and diverse cultural influences to the classical genre.

More than ever, classical music, like baseball, is becoming a genre that celebrates inclusivity and accessibility.

As opening day draws close, give this playlist a listen. While you’re watching your team take to the field for the first innings of the season, you’ll be able to make your own connection between classical and baseball, the two great American pastimes.

One more thing:  GO SOX!!!

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