The last two Saturdays I’ve written about attending a classical music concert. So now what? What do you do after the concert? Well, you could attend more concerts, of course. And you could also make a conscious choice to listen to more classical music on a daily basis.
What makes classical music different?
I finally identified a song the other day that had been dogging me for the last year. It was used in a TV commercial. I discovered that it’s an old Queen hit called “Another One Bites the Dust.” I love old rock music, folk rock and popular music, but my absolutely favorite music to listen to is classical. Why?
Classical music is classical because of its long tradition that includes polyphony, melody, harmony, counterpoint, instrumentation, meter, and tonality. All that sounds very technical, but it boils down to the approach to organizing sound or tones. With rock music, for example, the meter tends to always be in either 2 or 4, i.e. 2 or 4 beats to a measure of the music. The melody can be gorgeous, like with The Beatles, but the harmony will be simpler than in jazz or classical music. So rock music is like eating s’mores. Classical music is like eating beef burgundy with more depth of flavors and more complex ingredients. A good music appreciation book like Joseph Machlis’ The Enjoyment of Music will go into more detail about the elements of classical music to enhance listening pleasure.
Listening to classical music can be relaxing and energizing at the same time. It can stir the emotions like other music, true, but there is a depth to the sound that only really good jazz can equal. When you’re just beginning to listen to classical music, what should you do? Anything special?
No, nothing special. In fact, if you have kids, I suggest that you listen to classical music with them and watch how they listen. Kids just open themselves to the music without judgement. And that is the perfect way to listen, in my opinion. Close your eyes, sit back, and let the sound wash over you. Let your mind wander. Or think about nothing but the sound.
As you learn more about classical music, you can apply your new knowledge to the music. For example, listening for meter changes or key changes — major to minor or vice versa are the easiest to identify — or identifying the different lines (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) in the music.
Where is Classical Music?
Besides attending classical music concerts, there are other sources, too. Explore the FM band on your radio for your local classical music station, usually a public radio station. You can also explore internet radio and listen to classical music stations from all over the world, or that are focused on specific kinds of classical music, e.g. Baroque, Romantic, etc. or for a specific instrument, e.g. orchestra, piano, voice, etc. Finally, you can download the music from Amazon or other music stores, or buy CDs. I buy CDs so that I can add them to my music library and play on other players.
The Benefits of Classical Music
Yes, there are benefits to listening to classical music. Like meditation, it changes the electrical activity in the brain. It has been shown to lower blood pressure. I find that it is a door to my imagination — it triggers my mind to produce images or stories to go with the sounds. It can be deeply relaxing and soothing. Years ago when I was going through an intensely stressful time, under threat from a phone stalker, I listened to Brahms’ First Piano Concerto all the time. It mirrored my emotions, allowing me to feel them in a safe way and help me process the stress. The second movement soothed me. We use classical music at times of celebration as well as times of profound loss. I incorporate it into my life on a daily basis because it makes me feel good, and it makes my brain feel good.
Classical music gets a bad rap as being something for elitists. It’s really not. It’s music for everyone whether you’re interested in the Western European tradition or another, like the fascinating Indian classical music that is based on a different music scale. Music transcends boundaries of all kinds….