top of page


At first glance, classical music is far from mainstream. Nonetheless, people are ashamed to admit to their ignorance in this area. When confronted with this, the reasons they usually give amount to that it's too difficult; that it demands too much attention, or that it's – simply put – boring. And I understand.

If someone is not familiar with musical terms, structure of the composition, or has struggled to play a musical instrument or two, classical music can become something to avoid.

Look at these book piles – they look rather thick and boring, don’t they? A lot of cellulose has been spent to make them. Don't you want to pick up one and start reading? No?

Well, it goes something like this…

Now, wasn't that something? Do you wish to continue to read it, though? Because that was the opening of Harry Potter, a book that's a modern children fiction classic.

If you did not start the journey by reading the opening paragraphs, you would never know what kind of adventure awaits you, nested between the covers of this cumbersome piece of wood.

Listening to classical music isn't much different. You may avoid it for a while, thinking it's too complex – too boring. A chore, shall we say. But you'll never know what it's really like, and more importantly, whether you like it or not, if you do not give it a shot.

And there is evidence of benefits to your mental and physical health that can be acquired simply by listening to a classical tune.

Listening to classical music can decrease your blood pressure and relieve your pain. A study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that participants who listened to classical music had significantly lower blood pressure levels than participants who did not hear any music. Researchers believe that listening to classical music may help your heart recover from stress, decreasing blood pressure as a result.

Listening to classical music can also relieve stress and anxiety. Scientists have discovered that listening to classical music may help reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels in the body. According to researchers at the Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan, pregnant women reported that listening to classical music every week relieved their stress and anxiety.

But all these facts aside, here's the key thing: classical music is fun, in more ways than one – even if it doesn't rhyme.

A well-tuned orchestra can mimic the sounds of animals:

The whisper of seasons:

And classical music can express a myriad of emotions:

Have you ever heard of what death sounds like?

Tickled your interest now, didn't I?

Let's listen to this chromatic scale together.

The person who wrote this inspiring piece of music is John Williams, a famous movie composer. He knows the various ways needed to convey a sense of mystery and adventure to the listener, but there is more to it than that – his themes are made with the story behind the music in mind.

Since you know what the plot is about, the music you're listening to can help you evoke the scenes of fighting, fleeing, the romance behind the musical score… in other words, the knowledge you had beforehand will help you to better understand the music you listen to. Remember that we talked about experience? This is why it's so important.

What is it, then, that we need to seek within our experience in order to gain better understanding of the subject at hand?

We communicate with each other using words – representing combinations of sounds that form mutually recognizable meanings. Languages are made to establish these meanings and teach us how to convey them to those sharing them with us. Once you know this, you're one step closer to understanding how a composer's mind works. Even when creating a musical piece that has no chorus, there is enough potential in the notes and the instruments used to create a powerful message.

Although instrumental music cannot use the human languages, composers can use various musical languages to express their emotions and to tell their stories.

The players are the speakers of this language, and their role is to speak it to us – the audience. They study the pieces, interpret the intent of the composer, and deliver it to the audience.

This is where our human qualities transform the work of art before us. The players can decide – spontaneously or not – to play the notes in a particularly moody manner; our present state of mind can make them sound especially cheerful or morose.

The composer's intent may be clearly stated, but their work always contains a transformative value: feeling plays a role it never could in hard sciences.

Answering the question of understanding, then, requires us to take into account these different musical facets, but first and foremost, to learn to enjoy the multitude of experiences a single note can deliver to us.

There is no simple right or wrong answer here, except that any attempt to understand what you hear will make listening to classical music that much more interesting. It's an adventure of sorts: history of classical music is quite long, and the sheer number of famous composers and numbered symphonies can overwhelm you before you even start. This is what this posting is about – to choose a particular piece for you, kick-starting the journey ahead.

[Video Version]

bottom of page