Understanding classical music. What would that mean? In the first place, it means understanding how to listen to it. There is the passive way of listening, which is sitting relaxed in one’s seat, ignoring the audience and the players, closing one’s eyes and letting the sound wash over one – as if taking an aural bath – without giving much attention to what is happening. Certainly something of the musical meaning will be experienced, but it is like, well, taking a bath – good for you but only touching the exterior layers. To really experience the music as the composer and (hopefully) the performers meant us to experience it, a state of mind has to be prepared which combines the utmost alertness and focused attention with the total absence of intellectual deliberation. How can that be achieved? We have thoughts all the time, until we fall asleep or (if we are young and inexperienced) sink into a drunken stupor. But a form of attention without thinking is perfectly possible. Instead of the consciousness dealing with itself – which is to say, having thoughts – a state of consciousness is possible where all attention is focused upon the thing that is out there – in this case, the musical narrative where all notes are arranged along axes of relationships, moving position all the time and thereby changing the perspective. Music – tonal, classical music, that is – has more than the one dimension of physical sound: it is structured with a background and a foreground. The latter is the acoustical presence, the way it impresses upon our consciousness; the former is the tonal direction, which moves behind this impression, taking our consciousness from one moment to the next. Most classical music also has a middle ground, differentiating between back- and foreground and responsible for the experience of an “inner space” in the music.