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My Mission to Discover Classical Music in 2012

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In my local train station they play classical music to prevent kids from hanging around. Debussy has become a deterrent.

And, increasingly, I worry about this. It may have little direct bearing on the possibility of world peace (thinking about it, and the reduction in crime it effects, it may even be aiding it...) but I feel more and more certain that it's symptomatic of a wider cultural disease.

It points to a whole generation who have lost the art of listening. For whom three and a half minutes is the limit of their concentration and who will never be taken on an emotional journey of any complexity through music because of this. And most of all, this worries me because I fear I might be one of them.

Sure, I dutifully squeaked through childish clarinet lessons, have periodically sat through concerts and made thoughtful faces, have even had fleeting moments of elation (I loved the film Shine, what do you mean it doesn't count?)

One of my happiest memories is even of my father cooking Sunday lunch and humming along to...well, something classical. Because that's my problem. It's never sunk in or taken hold of me.

Art, now, is a different matter. I'm no painter, or art historian for that matter. But I can stand before a work of art for 20 minutes. I've gasped, welled up, and puzzled over pictures. I can tell my impressionism from my cubism. I appreciate it, engage with it, I can 'read' it.

Not so with classical music. I just can't get a handle on it. I'm not sure why. Perhaps its because, while art can be explored in a solitary fashion, classical concerts come with an exclusive audience that seem likely to judge one, not to mention prices that deter chance-taking and exploration.

Maybe, on the other hand, it is simply that this music is not meant for me. That's what the classical sections in record shops suggest: a thousand identikit CD sleeves from which the forbidding faces of ancient male composers frown out at me.

And yet, and yet...I'm pretty sure that behind this door that's closed to me, there's a world of wonderful, enriching sound out there. And if I could only find the handle, I'd be able, at least, to stand on the threshold and catch my breathe at the panorama in front of me.

So that's my aim this year. I don't flatter myself that I can become an expert in so short a time. My aims are humble:

1 - to sit through five classical concerts and listen properly (really properly) from start to end
2 - to be able to name five composers whose work I really enjoy because it is alive and relevant to me, not just as exercises in 'culture acquisition' or worthy perseverance
3 - to cry, at least once, during a performance or a recording
4 - to find a language in which to talk about classical music without feeling inhibited (I don't necessarily mean the jargon of 'music theory' here)
5 - When contemplating the genre, to feel less like a woman about to be exposed for wearing a fake-moustache in an exclusive gentleman's club.

I might add to these as I go - since I'm such a novice, it feels right to be fluid and receptive to ideas. So I will looking for guides along the way. I'll try to interview someone fun and knowledgeable every time I blog. First up, it's James Rhodes, the wonderful, maverik concert pianist.

But I'd really like your help and suggestions. I'm going to need a lot of them, because it feels like a pretty vast terrain to navigate solo. I'm bewildered and I haven't even opened the door yet. I know this isn't exactly Bear Grylls stuff, but I have no idea which direction I should set off in when I do. The locals don't seem particularly friendly. I don't know their customs, I don't wear their garb and I'm afraid I might clap in the wrong places. So please. Don't let me die out there guys.

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