Copyright © 2020 Tanvi Banota
Since August, all I have been listening to is classical music. Classical violin, mostly. (There was a period of a week where maybe 12 hours of the day I was listening to Tchaikovsky's violin concerto on repeat.) Which is strange, because I do not (and never did) play the violin.
It becomes a little less strange when we consider that 1) I did play piano for 8ish years and 2) I watched basically every TwoSet Violin YouTube video in existence in one week in the beginning of August.
How I got into TwoSet is perhaps not important (it was through violin vs bass/Davie504) but the way I instantly clicked with their content is incredibly fascinating. I had just the right mix of cursory classical background knowledge through my years of piano and a not well-developed enough understanding of what it meant to be a musician.
Interestingly, since diving deeper into the world of TwoSet, I've noticed that most of their fans (Lingling Wannabes) are casual musicians, or non-musicians, that have a hard time contextualizing TwoSet's music talent with the true musical world. TwoSet only serves as a window into that world. And so because of this, most fans hold TwoSet almost on a pedestal, both in their ability as musicians and their weight in the music world. I certainly felt this as well.
But when you start to explore and interact with those who are not "casual musicians" per se, you (I) start to understand how TwoSet is not exactly the end-all-be-all of the classical music community and they shouldn't be held to the pedestal that perhaps they are held up to.
I had two experiences for me that really drove this home:
1) I was talking to a friend who was an incredibly serious violinist for most of his life. I was almost surprised to hear that he didn't hold TwoSet in the same regard as I did (the point I had this conversation was also definitely the point I was most obsessed with TwoSet). But others in my friend group (who were not serious musicians) loved TwoSet to the same lengths I did.
2) I was watching a person streaming violin on Reddit, and (as it is with much of the classical music content online) it was quickly flooded by the many dedicated fans of TwoSet. When the inevitable question of "do you like TwoSet" was asked to the streamer (for transparent context, this was after the streamer played Pag 24 and someone said, "eh, TwoSet can do it better"), I again was expecting a very enthusiastic response and affirmation of TwoSet's influence in the classical music world. Instead, the violinist was annoyed by the question and said we shouldn't be using TwoSet as our metric for good violin playing. (I was pretty ticked off by that comment and I'm sure the TwoSetters in the stream were as well.) But it made me start thinking about how perhaps to some serious musicians, TwoSet is almost cheapening the idea of classical music and becoming the de facto representatives for an entire community of musicians that didn't sign up to be associated with TwoSet. And that TwoSet are just two guys who were once professional classical musicians who became YouTubers. (Now, looking back at it, this streamer is only a high school kid who probably has a very high opinion of himself as a musician, so maybe this account is not the best to use when considering TwoSet and their influence in the classical music world. )
TwoSet definitely realizes this, and they go to great lengths to show that they do not believe this of themselves - they know they are not the greatest musicians in the world and that they are YouTubers first, and musicians second. But I think it's interesting that (many, but not all of) their fans continue to view them as the standard of classical music, when in fact they're just exactly what they claim to be - two hilarious former professional musicians who have used hard work and practice to become excellent on the violin.
(Side note, but I think this is also why they are so hesitant to release "serious" music (recordings or compositions) aside from their lo-fi tracks - their music will automatically be well-received because of the following they have built on YouTube, regardless of whether the "classical community" thinks the music they release is good.)
But regardless, this is a narrow view of what is a large community, and only derived from a limited number of my own personal experiences, I'm sure my thoughts will change as I continue to engage with the community and the content (and the classical music world in general).
But! This was actually not supposed to be about TwoSet at all, I just ended up rambling (as I am wont to do).
This is actually about two very key observations my obsession with classical music has yielded.
1) That modernizing classical music and having people (TwoSet) that bring it down to a level where it can be contextualized and enjoyed as entertainment and comedy is truly powerful. Millions of people have been introduced to or learned more about classical music through this community and it only continues to grow (#3milsimpSibelius). They have truly accomplished their goal of bringing classical music to the masses.
And 2) That I tend to get obsessed (or perhaps a better way to put it is deeply engrained) in a discrete topic until I've exhausted the depth of knowledge I can acquire from that topic.
Shortly after finding TwoSet (and spending a few days watching all of their videos), I watched their 2 million subscribers livestream, where they played Tchaikovsky's violin concerto. And it was a mixture of appreciation for the music and pride for them for reaching this milestone of subscribers, that I started listening to a recording (by renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman) of the piece on Spotify. It quickly turned into listening to it on repeat constantly, again, both because I enjoyed the piece and because I wanted to feel more connected to the TwoSet community.
I feel like this is where most people would have stopped. Yes, got some nice Tchaik in, let's move on with our lives. But for me this quickly snowballed into only listening to this concerto, to adding a couple of classical pieces I already knew I liked (yes, Glassworks by Philip Glass counts), to starting to practice 1-2 hours of piano every day (before the semester started), to adding pieces I liked from their videos into what has now turned into a 10 hour long playlist of classical violin (and some piano) that is constantly on repeat in the background of my life every day.
And it's gone beyond just appreciating and listening to the music, I feel like I've become a mini-amateur-expert on the violin. I've watched so many of TwoSet's videos (oftentimes multiple times) as well as other violin-related content to the point where I've learned so much about the violin in such a little amount of time. I can now have conversations about violin and violin repertoire (not just about TwoSet) with that musician friend I mentioned earlier that I wouldn't have imagined having before I started watching TwoSet. And I think what surprises me the most is that even among friends that are also into TwoSet, I have become way more obsessed and absorbed so much, to the point where classical music is now part of my identity and something I can talk about at length.
I've noticed that this happens to me a lot - I get very dialed in to a certain topic for a period of time and learn everything there is to learn about that topic, just soaking up information like a sponge. This happened when I first got into football - it was 1 month between knowing only what casual sports fans know to reading coverages and understanding the nuances of the game and the team I supported. This also happened when I got into Tetris (niche, I know) - in a very short period of time I learned basically all there was to learn about Tetris (I'm very excited for this year's CTWC - Classic Tetris World Championships). I can pinpoint several occurrences of this (Masterchef, David Dobrik, the idea of being a physician-scientist, many more), but what I think is even more interesting than my acquiring of knowledge is how much I become emotionally invested in these things, and how they become ingrained into my identity. It's almost like none of my hobbies are half-assed, I dive so fast and so deep, I almost can't help but to become deeply invested in a certain topic.
This all comes back to essentially the core of my personality - passion. It is very easy for me to get passionate about something, and my identity is defined by my passion. It's hard for me to leave things on a superficial level (that's not quite the right word - I don't mean to imply that not diving deep equates to only enjoying something superficially) and be satisfied.
I don't know whether this is a good or bad thing, or whether I'll eventually be exhausted by the amount of energy I invest into one thing for these periods of time, but for right now, as Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata plays in the background, I am thoroughly enjoying my extended foray into the classical music world.
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