Classical music is so 'relaxing'

May 14, 2008 at 05:26 AM · Upon hearing that I'm a classical violinist, one of the comments I frequently get is 'I love classical music, it's so relaxing.' Although I know this is intended as a compliment, and I usually accept it in that vein, it still leaves me feeling uneasy. For me,the 'relaxing' connotation conjures up images of Elevator music,or something that would just put you to sleep.I sometimes wish I could wave a magic wand, transport one of these people into the middle of a fiery, passionate piece,played by a terrific orchestra, and ask them if they find it relaxing enough. I know I shouldn't complain, because classical music needs all the advocates it can get, especially in America, but still. Thoughts?

Replies (93)

May 14, 2008 at 07:15 AM · Prepare a CD with sample recordings (by yourself) of pieces that will totally mess with their elevator music perception once and for all, have a pack of those CDs always with you, hand it out and smile ;-)

May 14, 2008 at 07:59 AM · If it's intended as a compliment then it's on the better side of ignorance, at least they're not saying "don't you get bored playing that sort of music" (I've had this at string quartet gigs). That's the lesser side of ignorance, less hope there.....

May 14, 2008 at 08:53 AM · This is when you get to use your knowing smile. Don't explain. Don't be offended. Be sincere when you make an effort to hear things the way other people hear them. Fact is, people need to relax, and your favorite music helps them to do this. It's a plus, not a minus. Save your soap box for a time when education will enlighten and invigorate.

May 14, 2008 at 10:44 AM · I agree with Emily. In my mind, relaxing has little-to-nothing to do with elevator music. Relaxation can be a source of profound joy and spiritual awareness. Whereas elevator music puts my teeth on edge.

May 14, 2008 at 11:50 AM · Agree with everything said here.

A few idle thoughts.

It seems to me that many people need a drumbeat or a person belting out a long note at the top of their lungs in order to recognize a dynamic range. A mere crescendo or increased intensity of sound may completely not register with them.

In Mozart's time, a leading tone was incredibly jarring. In the context of that era, it was the equivalent of a drumset playing.

May 14, 2008 at 12:17 PM · I recall a certain pledge drive on a certain NPR classical music station that had a certain orchestra guest conductor on the air live, to help raise $$$. The bland, not-too-sharp radio hostess was droning on and on about how R-E-L-A-X-I-N-G classical music was, and how nice it was to have R-E-L-A-X-I-N-G music on as the background music to life.

Well, this guest conductor jumped down the hostess' throat. "How could you possibly describe this music as relaxing? Classical music can be exciting, passionate, and stirring. It should NOT be in the background..." and he went on in such a manner, until the radio folks finally figured out that the only way to shut this guy's mouth was to take a station ID break. He caught the hostess totally off guard. She was speechless. It was hilarious.

Also, Terry, when Mahler was taken to upstate New York to view Niagara Falls, he reportedly said "At last, a real fortissimo!"

May 14, 2008 at 12:50 PM · Anne, great story.

Gary, great subject. Just one of those little quirky things we can all chuckle about here. I'm visualizing how utterly drained I am by listening to something like the Sibelius VC. Can't say I don't enjoy it. It's anything but relaxing, tho.

Then again, I have to say I find Baroque music to be "relaxing" in that sense, that it's something I can play at a dinner party and not be worried that it's going to tear me apart like a Romantic concerto or symphony.

May 14, 2008 at 02:21 PM · play them some shostakovich. :)

May 14, 2008 at 03:48 PM · "You can't possibly hear the last movement of Beethoven's Seventh and go slow." - Oscar Levant (trying to explain his way out of a speeding ticket)

May 14, 2008 at 04:03 PM · Sometimes explaining how classical music has every possible nuance and pastel of emotion will simply make the person feel as if you're calling them idiotic. Other times it can motivate them to further explore and challenge typical beliefs on the genre. The trick is knowing which.

Anyone well versed in classical music, like the members here, are of course going to know that saying that all classical music is relaxing, is nothing short of blatant ignorance. And if someone truly does all the works by Shotakovich, or Schoenberg to be 'relaxing' then I'd be rather speechless.

You can even do something more mainstream, like have them listening to the storm segment in Beethoven's 6th.

May 14, 2008 at 04:42 PM · Vocabulary fails on many levels in the arts. That is why we need the arts with tons of variety. Then art becomes it's own language.

May 14, 2008 at 05:16 PM · I've tried to have the classical station playing in order to fall asleep at night, but I end up listening and staying awake. I find that sports talk radio works better for that purpose. :)

May 14, 2008 at 05:30 PM · "I love classical music, it's so relaxing!"

Initially my inner response used to be "Relaxing???? Beethoven would certainly not be pleased about that" or "It didn't FEEL relaxing practicing the triplet passage over and over again."

Then I learned to think "take it as a compliment, it's not meant as the start of an argument, they don't know any better."

But lately I've been thinking something else. All people (including us classical snobs) tend to compartamentalize music by making quick assumptions. Heavy metal music is JARRING, New Age music is MEDITATIVE, folk rock is POLITICALLY STIRRING... etc.

I think when someone says classical music is relaxing they're saying that their physiological response to it is a sense of harmony. They don't have the vocabulary or the exposure and understanding of it the way that we do. Saying it's relaxing is a positive response. Saying it's boring is narrow-minded and ignorant.

May 14, 2008 at 05:44 PM · "I recall a certain pledge drive on a certain NPR classical music station that had a certain orchestra guest conductor on the air live, to help raise $$$. The bland, not-too-sharp radio hostess was droning on and on about how R-E-L-A-X-I-N-G classical music was, and how nice it was to have R-E-L-A-X-I-N-G music on as the background music to life."

It's not surprising that the hostess for a classical music station should think that classical music is relaxing. My local NPR all-classical station (WETA--DC metro area) plays relaxing classical music exclusively. Lots of anodyne Baroque composers who endlessly churned out pretty tunes and whom musicology should never have resurrected from their eternal slumber, like Telemann.

May 14, 2008 at 08:43 PM · I have been told this as well. This is probably because the people that say this have little intrest in the genre and only scratch the surfface of it. They listen to the generic, often-played pieces like eine-kleine nachtmusik, and the nutcracker whic fall into the relaxing category. Also, the more interesting and emotional music (bruch, khatchaturian, mendelssohn, bizet) is much harder to accept initially. It is not easy music to listen to.

May 14, 2008 at 09:37 PM · It really bothers me when people say things like "I love classical music, but it puts me to sleep!" I don't mean to sound ostentatious, but those kinds of comments really bug me. I realize I'm bias because I'm a classical violinist and pianist, but I think it's incredibly hard to NOT find the beauty in classical music. Granted, there are some Baroque pieces and even some Romantic that are very repetitious, but I still can find the beauty in them!

May 14, 2008 at 10:10 PM · We violinists focus our attention on a daily basis in a way that is unfamiliar to some people. There are people who never exercise their brains in this way....They're always multi-tasking. A young lady once said to me: "My husband and I love your CD. We play it when we are having dinner." I didn't say anything, but I thought: Has it ever ocurred to you to see what you might get out of it when you give it your full attention?

May 14, 2008 at 10:37 PM · Greetings,

"My husband and I love your CD. We play it when we are having ---------."

It could have been worse....



May 15, 2008 at 01:33 AM · "Lots of anodyne Baroque composers who endlessly churned out pretty tunes and whom musicology should never have resurrected from their eternal slumber, like Telemann."

Can someone tell me what the point is of discussing how your average person doesn't get classical music when so many comments are made against it?

When I get to my after life I'm going to sit with Brahms and have a good chuckle about how music is... "emotional"

May 15, 2008 at 01:54 AM · I have a friend who was engaged to a man who was a non-musician. She was playing Wieniawski for him and he responded with, "that's so relaxing!" She ended up breaking off the engagement--couldn't imagine spending her life with someone who so clearly Didn't Get It. She ended up marrying another man who has a deep appreciation and understanding of classical music. I believe they've been married close to 50 years!

May 15, 2008 at 04:31 AM · OK, I'm probably going to get kicked off this thread for saying it, but I will anyway. I DO find classical musical relaxing. Not saying that the range of emotions is narrowed down to one and one alone though in any way, shape or form.

What "relaxing" for me means that my shoulders are no longer up in my ears, I don't have a death-grip on anything, I'm no longer grinding my teeth, about ready to bite off someone's head, etc... Even when playing some of the most difficult music, I will start to physically relax after awhile, which is good since you really can't play tense. The same is true for when I listen to classical. The tension that I carry from my day job dissolves - even with some of the most energetic music.

Maybe there is a better way to describe this, but it is what it is.

May 15, 2008 at 05:37 AM · I don't find Classical music to be relaxing because I never listen to it--something that always surprises non-musicians. If I'm in the car, I'd much rather listen to NPR, or Dr. Dean, or Handel on the Law.

May 15, 2008 at 05:59 AM · You know what, Scott, I almost never listen to it, either! Ironically, it's because I usually get too worked up about it.

May 15, 2008 at 07:24 AM · I use the classical radio station to help me get to sleep. I have better dreams if there's music on.

May 15, 2008 at 01:07 PM · interesting to see the responses when gary introduced an average person's response to how he/she feels about classical music and we have essentially the entire thread being rather inconsiderate, condescending or what have you to others' feelings.


you are right and they are wrong?

you know and they don't?

some even post pieces that are not "relaxing" to support the silly argument, without knowing precisely what others find to be "relaxing".

one person reportedly finds another person to marry simply because of a singular reaction to music???

please. get-real pill for everyone!

and gary, you are a practicing dentist and i presume you come across people from all walks of life in your practice. and hopefully i would expect you develop some level of empathy so that a question of this nature would have found an answer within your own soul. another way to put it, try not to bite the hand that has been feeding you.

meanwhile, may want to read sandy's experience with the rotary club in which there is much profound wisdom and style that other violinists should aspire to learn or even emulate. but, sandy being a psychologist and a gent may have something to do with it. kucklehead violinists with zeal probably will f up any god given opportunities to be a good ambassador for classical music. prognosis remains guarded by and large because deep inside, it is still us vs them.

May 15, 2008 at 01:50 PM · Precise language is common within a discipline. So Al could the issue be that posters here are voicing disappointment in the lack of rich vocabulary in play when people describe their experience when listening to music? Like the Inuit having X number of words to describe snow. My point is that outside of any discipline the language is not precise and compounded with some folks having a limited spoken vocabulary we can not be too surprised when descriptions are a bit bland. So "relaxing" might suffice for many who lack the motivation to expand their vocabulary. That is like saying Mozart wrote some "fast" music. Think of all the names for "fast", or all the different ways to describe a particular bow stroke. That is like people describing technology as "cool", or "awesome". That is their feeling about it but says little about the actual "thing" or "event" that initiated the feeling. Overuse of particular words has resulted in some words loosing specific meaning in general use. At least they didn't say it was "nice".

May 15, 2008 at 01:47 PM · Now, now, Al. You have some valid points, but if we all can't grouse about it here, amongst ourselves, where can we do it? I'm very much enjoying this thread. Yes, it is "us versus them" because all of us have logged onto a forum that serves the classical music community. And Them, well, they couldn't give a toss. So I'm not thinking about Them right now. I'm too busy enjoying Us.

May 15, 2008 at 01:51 PM · j, you've made a solid point. however, i think the issue goes deeper than that. the contempt toward those not well versed in classical music is palpable to say the least. i find it disgusting and practising violinists should find it self destructive.

ok, terez, i give you that:)

May 15, 2008 at 01:51 PM · I will add this, as well. I have one friend who says the "I love classical music, it's so relaxing" bit. But then I have 20 friends who have zero interest in classical music. Zero. So, hey. I'll take what I can get.

May 15, 2008 at 01:54 PM · Al. There is definitely a social/class stigma with classical music. People don't like it sometimes for the same reason they don't like W. F. Buckley. That is a separate issue from the experience itself though don't you think?

May 15, 2008 at 02:02 PM · j, picture this.

people on this site more often than not lament how the mass does not like classical music, does not pay attention to classical music...

then someone comes up to you: AFTER LISTENING TO CLASSICAL MUSIC, i find it relaxing.

in response to that, you do what? you might as well think aloud and say STFU!

nice going boyz and girlz!

May 15, 2008 at 02:18 PM · Al,

I understand your point.

There is a guy named George Lipsitz who writes a lot about social issues whom you might find interesting. I could make the arguement that classical music as presented in many of these threads is based largely upon a Eurocentric cultural experience and therefore bound by that to a large degree. It is defined by practitioners by what it is not, as much as what it is. In the end, however, the individual must set aside cultural bias and experience it for themselves. For example, I give little time to listen to rap music seriously. I can't really say much about it, but I know I am culturally biased against it to a large degree. I try to stay neutral because my bias is so weighed toward classical music. As someone who is from Eastern Europe, Bartok, etc. was in our house. It was a part of a cultural experience in the home. I think for a diverse populace, it takes an effort to listen without bias to different forms of music. Interesting thread Al. Stay "cool".

May 15, 2008 at 02:19 PM · how about stay KU:)

nice post j. on top of being eurocentric (nothing wrong with that), i think the matter is egocentric (something wrong with that). we don't have to like rap music. in fact, i hate it.

we are talking about something else here, that someone is knocking on the door of classical music.

knock, knock, knock...

who is there?


WANT who?


May 15, 2008 at 01:52 PM · Al, I pretty much agree with you. I think at least some of the ill-will might come from a misunderstanding of the concept of "relaxing." Despite how it's sometimes used in our culture, "relaxing" is not necessarily a trite, elevator-music kind of concept. I see it as more of a brain-training discipline, like meditation.

Far from being trivial, this sort of research touches many universal aspects of how people aspire to live their lives.

Excitement and stimulation are good things, but like many good things they can be overdone and overrated, and shouldn't be confused with joy.

May 15, 2008 at 02:01 PM · "classical music has simply "hit the wall"."

By "classical music", do you mean the classical period or baroque, classical and romantic periods, or everything up to contemporary "classical" music?

It may perhaps be arguable whether classical has hit a wall when using a narrow definition, but certainly not if you use more inclusive definitions. There is plenty of largely unexplored "classical" music, not only contemporary and 20th century but also from earlier periods.

"How many times can the same music be remastered and packed in CD's with different graphics and be on racks (near the floor) at Walmart year after year?"

Compare recordings of the same works recorded in say the 1950s, 1980s and in recent years then tell us if you don't notice any noteworthy differences in interpretation?

At the same time, there is plenty of music that is very difficult or next to impossible to even get. For example, I ordered a CD with 2 string quartets by Martinu to complete the full set (of 7). Tower Records tells me every week that they haven't received shipment yet. Naxos Japan officials told me "Yes, we are so sorry about the inconvenience caused" but I am still waiting, waiting, waiting. Another example, I am trying to get hold of a CD with Svoboda's 4 string quartets and all the shops here tell me that I cannot order it in Japan, they simply won't get it for me. For every CD I purchase, there is at least one I would like to get but cannot get. It's very frustrating and I sometimes I wish the most horrible things to happen to the executives of record labels.

May 15, 2008 at 02:44 PM · al ku wrote: "the contempt toward those not well versed in classical music is palpable to say the least."

I think that disappointment, rather than contempt is, by and large, what is being expressed in this thread. Perhaps some frustration as well as disappointment.......When you practice for so many hours to send a message, you wish that more people would be interested in receiving it.


I don't think that anyone is disappointed with people finding classical music to be relaxing. Rather the disappointment is with some people being limited to get nothing more than relaxation from it.

al ku wrote: "you are right and they are wrong?

you know and they don't?""

I think that it is better to have cultivated one's taste to a higher level than not. Those who love to hear a Beethoven symphony have made an effort to cultivate their ability to respond to the symphony. This is indeed a better thing than not having made the effort and not being able to enjoy the reward of the symphony's profound content.

May 15, 2008 at 02:36 PM · karen, interesting point. case in point,,often, my kid would practice in front of me after i have been exhausted from a day of tension and stress. no matter what she plays, somehow my body just aligns it to the playing, be it fast, slow, loud, soft, etc. my body or mind must find it, uh, relaxing enough that i frequently fall asleep. the 3 min nap is in fact very short, but i wake up very refreshed, often much more alert than sleeping overnight.

mr steiner, your points are noted. let me put it in a different frame. people on this site live by eating cakes. those who profess classical music as being relaxing have been feeding on bread. there is a potential disconnect. i think it is to the best interest of classical musicians to engage the relax-er: oh, interesting, tell me about it.

seize the opportunity to educate them, open up their heart and mind. jee, i am sounding so syrupy that it is sickening.

May 15, 2008 at 02:45 PM · Oliver's points are well stated as usual.

Al's issue seems to be about whether some listening experiences are more "authentic" than others based upon one's socio-economic standing (bread/cake). Like an onion, Oliver rightly suggests it is in the layers you can access, not whether or not you are eating an onion. The experience is authentic no matter what layer of the onion you eat, but an awareness can add other spices to the experience. Regards.

May 15, 2008 at 02:46 PM · al ku wrote: " i think it is to the best interest of classical musicians to engage the relax-er: oh, interesting, tell me about it.

seize the opportunity to educate them, open up their heart and mind."

I certainly agree with that!

I wish that people would not inextricably link cultivated taste with income level. I am personally acquainted with truck drivers and furniture movers who had cultivated their musical taste to very high levels. It bothers me when TV jounalists use the phrase "upper class", when they really mean "upper income"! I have certainly known low class, uncultivated wealthy people and very high class, highly cultivated low income people.

May 15, 2008 at 02:53 PM · Since reading Al Ku's and a few others recent posts here and else where I no-longer watch T.V. wrestling!

May 15, 2008 at 03:06 PM · royce, in case we have lost you over to the ultimate fighting channel, make sure you put on something,,,relaxing:)

May 15, 2008 at 03:10 PM · I am not offended by someone's opinion of classical music if they are not well educated about the subject because they have no basis of understanding it.

I am not offended by someone's opinion of classical music if they are a top notch musician because they have a broad basis of understanding it and have hopefully come to their conclusion after rigorous trial.

I am however weary of classical musicians who condescend to the general unknowing public, but at the same time make broad generalizations of specific genres or composers and try to brush them off as insignificant.

Consider music as exercise. We all take in a certain amount ranging from walking to our car, or running a marathon. Some people like to walk around the neighborhood (like the general listening public), others like to join a gym (people who have an elevated interest in classical music) and other people dedicate their lives to exercise(like us professional musicians). The point is that everyone has their own take for doing it for whatever reason. I might say I enjoy walking for fitness and an olympic trainer will say "what a layman... she should be lifting weights, doing harder cardio, and playing a sport for fitness."

May 15, 2008 at 03:20 PM · why can't i say it nicely like marina?

great post!

May 15, 2008 at 03:30 PM · "I don't think that anyone is disappointed with people finding classical music to be relaxing. Rather the disappointment is with some people being limited to get nothing more than relaxation from it."

I understood the original poster in an entirely different way. I didn't think that he had any issue with anyone finding (some) classical music relaxing per se. I think his reference to elevator music shows some kind of disappointment with what he perceived the other person's understanding of classical music was, as in "Oh, they say relaxing, they probably only ever heard the popular classics stuff, not what I play".

To give an example: In his early years, Beethoven wrote a Septet (op.20) which was extremely popular in Vienna for many many years, so much so that it eventually caused him dismay. It's a lovely piece of music, nothing wrong with it, but later on, when Beethoven would present more challenging, more revolutionary works, often he would find the public response to be along the lines of "Impressive new piece, Herr Beethoven, but I really liked the septet, you should write some more music like that". Can you imagine the disappointment? I think it was this kind of disappointment the original poster was talking about.

May 15, 2008 at 03:39 PM · ben, i see what you are saying, not unlike heifetz telling the lady that the violin does not make a beautiful sound when not being played. when heifetz did it, because of his statue, it can be viewed as cute. when others who are still paying dues do it, it may be considered as inappropriate.

i consider most classical musicians as musical interns still paying dues in the grand scheme. they are here on this earth to learn, to share, to influence in a positive, encouraging manner because the topic of interest is seemingly very difficult for most to comprehend. and classical musicians are here to help. as marina put it, treat people accordingly and i will add,,,with more empathy and respect.

look around us,,, of all things, does this even qualify as something disappointing?

May 15, 2008 at 04:01 PM · "Can someone tell me what the point is of discussing how your average person doesn't get classical music when so many comments are made against it?"

I'm sorry someone reacted negatively to my post about insipid (in my view) Baroque composers that our local classical music station seems to play so frequently. Personally, I prefer music that engages me and doesn't simply invite me to sit back and let it wash over me.

I don't feel that anyone has an obligation to like all classical music indiscriminately or that they can't express their likes and dislikes forcefully for fear of turning "your average person" away from classical music. I don't think that classical music is so threatened that those who love it need to avoid criticizing what they don't care for.

On the other hand, I also think that some posts have made a valid point about those who listen to classical music because they find it "relaxing": they shouldn't be dismissed with contempt, but instead should be encouraged to continue to listen to it and maybe even dig into it more deeply. But I don't think that maintaining that all classical music is beyond criticism is an effective way to engage those who have little exposure to it but might be capable of responding to it.

Utterly off topic: "Like the Inuit having X number of words to describe snow." See this (particularly the portion in green):

May 15, 2008 at 04:07 PM · Benjamin I second the notion. I think we instinctively take offense that classical music is relaxing because it was not written with the intent of being relaxing. Quite on the contrary each musician, artist, composer, philosopher, author, even chef tries to make a piece of art that will PROVOKE and CHALLENGE the audience.

My husband is a painter and I walked into his studio and saw his recent painting and I HATED IT so much that it made me cry because I was so angry. Don't ask me why I was mad but it just seemed so unlike him and the color was bad and he's so good that I would find it embarrassing to have such a bad painting leave the studio. He got quite a kick out of it and was really really happy that I had a REACTION. He saw my point though and changed it but a real artist wants you to stop, look, listen, discuss, and think. Not just swallow, nod, and say "that's nice."

By the way, this morning my alarm sounded off to NPR and I was listening to the loveliest Telemann concerto for 2 flutes. I couldn't bring myself to snooze it was so beautiful.

Even Bach aspired to Telemann.

May 15, 2008 at 04:40 PM · Marina, I totally agree with the provoke and challenge bit. Yet, what I meant by disappointment about the perception of understanding what classical music is may require another anecdote to explain ...

When I was a little boy, about 5 years old or so, my favourite piece of music was Beethoven's 5th symphony (the whole lot, not just the first few bars of the first movement) and when extended family visited and they were told I liked Beethoven, they hummed or sang the ode to joy and I remember that I was somewhat "offended" by that. Not that I didn't like the ode to joy, but it was that disappointment I talked about, the disappointment that they reduced Beethoven to the ode to joy. So, I would say something like "yes, that's Beethoven, too, but I like the other pieces better, do you know this one, and that one, and that, and this and that?" just to make the point that there was more to Beethoven than the ode to joy.

I understood the original poster such that he was disappointed because he felt the people who said "relaxing" reduced classical music to "elevator music", just as my relatives had reduced Beethoven to the ode to joy.

And, yes, Telemann wrote some very enjoyable music. Have you heard or played his fantasies for solo violin?

May 15, 2008 at 05:17 PM · Oooo, must seek Telemann solo fantasies... must seek Telemann solo fantasies...

May 15, 2008 at 05:58 PM · It's just people stepping up in his defense because someone back there said he needed to be put to rest.

May 15, 2008 at 06:03 PM · "...each musician, artist, composer, philosopher, author, even chef tries to make a piece of art that will PROVOKE and CHALLENGE the audience. ...

"By the way, this morning my alarm sounded off to NPR and I was listening to the loveliest Telemann concerto for 2 flutes. I couldn't bring myself to snooze it was so beautiful."

I don't doubt that the Telemann concerto was beautiful and well constructed. But do you really think it was intended to provoke and challenge you?

The Telemann fantasies are also charming and well-constructed and ingratiating and effective music, and I've tried my hand at them on occasion. But, to my way of thinking, they don't come close to engaging and uplifting the performer or the listener the way the Bach sonatas and partitas do. My complaint about Telemann is that I've never heard music by him that really engages me and sweeps me off my feet the way the giants who were his contemporaries do--Bach, Handel, Domenico Scarlatti and Rameau--even when they are writing music that is intended to be charming and ingratiating.

I guess I'm in the minority on that point. Maybe I was wrong in writing that Telemann shouldn't have been resurrected.

May 15, 2008 at 06:44 PM · @ Marina

Unfortunately, although in the public domain, the Telemann violin fantasias are not in the Telemann section of Wever Icking's PD archive. They are available as commercial sheet music though here:

YouTube has some videos, but most of them are by less advanced performers. Instead you may want to check out Anthony Princiotti's recording on this site, he has also released the whole lot on CD ...

@ Bill

You are probably right in your assessment of Telemann as having mostly written less challenging, less ground breaking music than Bach or Handel, but that doesn't mean his works deserve to be dismissed.

Interestingly, at Bach's time, Bach was not considered a great composer, Telemann was the star of the era, Bach was known as a virtuoso on the organ and the hapsichord, his compositions were considered old fashioned.

Bach even got his most prestigious job as "thomaskantor" in Leipzig only thanks to Telemann rejecting the position. Ironically, some of Telemann's pieces have been misidentified as Bach works and got BWV catalog numbers, some of them rather prominent ones, such as the album for C.P.E.Bach -- Telemann became C.P.E's mentor/fatherly friend.

May 15, 2008 at 07:11 PM · Well, I guess there goes ultimate fighting also.

Dear Al Ku,

Here I placed an order online with Gliga violins to have you a custom made violin with Dale Ernhart's portrait pyrographed on the back and the perfling to look like a miniature race track with Dales care, HAND CARVED MIND YOU, winning with the checkered flag the finest imitation mother-of-pearl and ebony inlay my monthly check will buy with another matching but with the portrait of Elvis Presley and looking like the nice paintings on black velvet and giving up TV Wrestling is not good enough for you?

And Now For Something Completely Diferent- After a while though generalizations do reach the point where they just simply bite! My Sioux grand-father said that when he and other tribes and bands were all heaped into one generalized entity said that it felt like a paper cut. He loved classical music too. When someone made the "blanket" statement that started this thread, he would mention Elgar or J. du Pre's playing Dvorak' Cello concerto #1 in C major.. put the record on and ask them durring the more tense moments, "This relaxes you? No offense but to this day I still can't figure you non-Indians out." But if the peice was 'relaxing' great, but the other?

May 15, 2008 at 06:59 PM · Reaching in to my music history part of the brain I remember it as Benjamin said. Telemann was the star of that period, he got all the coveted jobs, Bach lost at least a couple of jobs to his seniority. Like any other composer it is up to individuals to find their like or dislike for him. I've only had wonderful experiences playing Telemann and can't find anything to dislike.

Was he trying to provoke me? No, he didn't know me. Was he trying to provoke his audience? Yes I do believe so. But keep in mind that he was employed by an aristocrat, like many composers such Bach, Haydn, etc. Employed as a servant he had a job to do and that was to conjur up entertainment for dinner parties, balls, and other estate type events. He may have been limited by those parameters in many of his compositions so maybe not all of them were meant to provoke, but simply for entertainment. Taflemusik infact translates to table music which I'm sure was background for many a dinner parties at the estate.

But don't worry, he is definitely dead and gone if that is how you wish to keep his music. I have some space in my Wagner hate closet if you'd like to place your hated music there with it. I light candles outside it hoping that the world will forget but alas, he lives on in the hearts of listeners world wide and even I can't resist one or two motifs here and there.

May 15, 2008 at 07:09 PM · Benjamin, can you escribe Is it worth subscribing to? What else is available on that site for my consumption?

May 15, 2008 at 07:14 PM · Marina, no I am not a subscriber, but I noticed that many of the things I searched for - when I couldn't find them on Werner Icking's PD archive, most often virtualsheetmusic comes up as first hit, so it seems they are well stocked.

"I have some space in my Wagner hate closet if you'd like to place your hated music there with it. I light candles outside it hoping that the world will forget but alas, he lives on in the hearts of listeners world wide and even I can't resist one or two motifs here and there."

Exactly how I feel about Wagner, too. :-)

Although, there is at least one positive thing to be said about Wagner, he acknowledged the greatness of Beethoven's late quartets in absolute terms.

May 15, 2008 at 07:17 PM · Marina,

Do not lock the closet door,leave the door just

slightly ajar in order that said pieces may

emulsify into an opus more satisfactory to

your ear and mind.

Do keep the candles burning though !

May 15, 2008 at 07:32 PM · Keep the candles burning, Yes. What about books and music?

May 15, 2008 at 07:37 PM · Wagner always sounds like NS propaganda to me, not really Wagner's fault I guess, but anyway, not sure if and how that could possibly be turned into something more satisfying. Seems like trying to turn mosquito repellant into flower incense.

May 15, 2008 at 07:51 PM · "Wagner always sounds like NS propaganda to me"

Always? I find much of Wagner's music sublime, and the only ones that for me might have NS overtones are Siegfried, Meistersinger and Parsifal. Tristan as NS propaganda? The Dutchman, Lohengrin, Tannhaeuser? I don't see anything NS about Walkuere, either. But we're straying off-topic. Wagner's music is definitely not relaxing if you listen to it carefully and engage with it.

May 15, 2008 at 07:54 PM · well, "always" by association, which is why I said, not Wagner's fault, but what can I do about it? In a similar way, I don't like Haydn's emperor quartet, at least not that movement which has the melody line that eventually ended up in the German anthem.

May 15, 2008 at 07:56 PM · "what can I do about it?"

Try to listen to and engage with his music without preconceptions. I don't mean that to be rude. I felt the same way for a long time too, but then I started really listening to his music. Try Lohengrin or the Dutchman for starter.

May 15, 2008 at 08:03 PM · Telemann was better than Bach in their day. Would be interesting to hear through their ears somehow.

Emily said:

"People need to relax."

True! Not what you meant, but it's no skin off anyone's nose if it just stays "relaxing." Not sure why classical musicians sometimes want to proselytize. Nobody at Boeing cares that nobody cares about the fine points of airplane designs, and your surgeon doesn't insist you understand exactly how complex what he just did was :) I did have a teacher who had on his door something like "Music shouldn't be to let the ears lay back in an easy chair" or somesuch, but it was directed to musicians, the airplane designer/surgeons, not at the public.

May 15, 2008 at 08:28 PM · @ Bill

If I run out of new material to explore I may consider that. Then again, I wouldn't want to listen to the tune of the Horst Wessel song in an attempt to dissociate it from its NS background, simply because the melody in itself doesn't have anything intrinsically NS about it. Sometimes, when a certain amount of harm has been done, one has to accept that the damaged goods cannot be returned to their in situ state, and trying to mess with it only makes things worse.

@ Jim

"Telemann was better than Bach in their day. Would be interesting to hear through their ears somehow."

Evolution or progress if you want, doesn't always move "forwards", sometimes if moves sideways and backwards. In Bach's day, people had enough of ever more complex polyphonic music, they wanted it a little easier on their ears for a change. Or in other words, they wanted to relax a bit -- yay, we seem to be back on topic again.

May 15, 2008 at 08:33 PM · If you really want to avoid music with NS associations, don't listen to Carmina Burana.

May 15, 2008 at 09:02 PM · Bill, don't worry about it, I don't understand what would seem to be an American obsession with Carmina Burana, anyway. Not my cup of tea ;-)

May 15, 2008 at 10:43 PM · So what is the opinion of, [or how would it fit into this discussion] the new Blogg, "Am I Playing Notes...Or Music?" By Debra Wade?

May 16, 2008 at 01:59 AM · Marina - I highly recommend Rachel Podger's recording of the Telemann Fantasias, great stuff.

As for classical music being "relaxing" - I believe Karen has got the right point when she says it hinges around the definition of the word "relaxing".

If I've had a bad day, I can sit down and put on one of my favourite Mahler CDs and "relax"... not that the music is relaxing in the sense of being like, say - a lullaby or anodyne elevator Musak or whatever, because obviously the drama, emotion, intensity of Mahler's music is anything but that. But it IS relaxing in the sense that I can listen to the music and drift off into another world where the emotions and statements of the music and its performance/interpretation are all that matters to me at that moment and NOT the email which should have arrived but didn't, or the bus which went past my stop without stopping... I can switch off all the normal day stuff and just "relax" just as I do when I do my practice even though it might be music which is anything other than relaxing because of the technical demands it poses. But I feel relaxed while figuring out that tricky chord in Bach because it is an action which I am enjoying and which works my brain in a relaxing positive way rather than a stress-inducing way.

So yes, it is certainly valid to say classical music is "relaxing".

May 16, 2008 at 02:41 AM · " believe Karen has got the right point when she says it hinges around the definition of the word "relaxing"."

Given the situation the original poster describes, I cannot possibly imagine any situation where this would be case. Think about this, you meet somebody, you find out he's a violinist and all you can say is "Oh, I find classical music so relaxing". Do you really think that somebody who has a good grasp of classical music, wouldn't find something different to say?

I claim that if the person was in any way an active listener of classical music, they would rather ask "Oh, what kind of works do you play?". Even an extremely uneducated accidental classical music listener would at the very least come up with a comment like "Oh, you mean like Mozart?"

No way, if they cannot come up with anything other than "Oh, it's so relaxing" that is a near 100 percent guarantee that they have not the slightest idea what classical music is, don't know the name of a single composer, nor any piece, neither its melody nor its name. It is almost certain that the original posters suspicion was right that they really do associate elevator music with classical.

As for your reference to Mahler and how, to yourself it can be relaxing to you in a different way, I cannot possibly imagine that somebody who has ever listened to Mahler would come up with a comment "Oh, it's so relaxing" when they meet a violinist. They'd rather say something like "I was listening to Mahler the other day on the radio and liked it very much, do you play that too?"

No, for me, the situation is fairly clear, the person making the comment had no idea what classical music means. Of course it's also obvious that they were open minded and tried to say something positive. Therefore they deserve to be encouraged to find out what classical music actually is, in a nice way of course.

May 16, 2008 at 03:20 AM · Classical Music (the generic term Classical) is like wine, most people don't really like it or at least understand in their early experiences. (I'll say adults because I have found small children seem to be universally fascinated by seeing classical music groups perform live - when my quartet is playing in public, say at a reception or party and families walk by, the parents don't even give us a look, but the kids stare and try to stop, only to be pulled past forcibly by Mom and Dad. Every once in a while, though, an enlightend Dad or Mom will stop and crouch down with their child and let them watch, sharing the fascination they see in their child).

To get back to the wine analogy, if people persist, they will find wines that they do like, usually sweet, smooth, light wines - white zin, chardonney, etc. At this point they say they like wine. But generally what they like is partaking in an activity that is considered cultured. They have found some forms of it they like, and they enjoy buying the bottle, uncorking it, pouring the lovely liquid into a pretty glass and putting it on the table with their food, this makes them feel good, and that is fine. Their enjoyment may not be deep, but it is enjoyment none-the-less.

As a person learns more about wine and develops their palate, they begin to enjoy wine - and other foods as an offshoot - in ways that they could never have fathomed. The delicate nuances of flavor and aromas, aftertastes, and complexities. The multitude of good wines, and the good years, and the nuances of temperature for serving different wines, and storage and aging, etc, etc. But to many, the simple enjoyment of a simple wine is enough, and that is okay.

I read a study that found that listeners of classical music are the smallest general grouping of music lovers but that they find the greatest enjoyment and statisfaction in their music of all the groups surveyed.

Just as for a wine connoisseur, the intellectual aspect of our music is what makes it so satisfying, exciting, and alive, but also keeps it at arm's length from the majority of the population.

Someone who finds it relaxing, at least has found enjoyment in and use for 'our' music in their lives. It also resonates with the way classical music is used popularly by the media and advertisers - especially at Christmas. But at least they have taken the first step in learning to appreciate it, most will not go further, but some will.

May 16, 2008 at 05:54 AM · I believe that classical music audiences, deserve far more credit than it seems classical musicians at least on this forum are willing to give them. Very often I find the opinions musicians here express about classical music audiences to be rather insulting and offensive.

Maybe this is an American thing. Maybe the majority of the classical music listening public in America is as incompetent as their reputation would seem to suggest. Maybe I see things differently because I am European, live in Japan and travel mostly in Asia and Europe.

But maybe it is because we have a very different view of what constitutes a listener of classical music. Let me ask you guys this: Consider somebody who by mere accident listens to Take Five on the radio and says he likes it, but they would never even buy a CD with Take Five nor any other Jazz or Jazzy tunes. Would you consider them to be a Jazz listener or a friend of Jazz or a Jazz lover? I definitely don't.

Likewise, somebody who is an entirely *accidental* listener of some classical work, who says he liked it but has no idea what it was he listened to and has no interest to find out more, never actively listens to classical music, I don't consider them to be a classical music listener, friend of classical nor a classical lover either.

If you exclude the accidental listeners from your definition you will find that the classical music listening public is made up of people who know a great deal more about classical music than they are given credit for. Even the ones who know very little will at the very least be aware of the great variety of different styles within the large body of classical music. They wouldn't make blanket statements that put the entire body of classical music into one box, such as "relaxing".

Even people who are active listeners of what one might call light entertainment classical music, they too, know that there is a great number of other styles out there under the moniker classical music. It is usually the first thing they tell you. They would say something like "Oh, I like classical music too, but only the light variety, like pop classics, not the serious stuff". And even those, are able to tell you the names of a few works and composers. They'd probably tell you "I like Chopin" or "I like Mozart". Many will further be able to tell you some of the works or composers they discovered they didn't like, for example they might say "I don't like Mahler" or "I don't like Beethoven that much, it's a little too heavy for my taste".

No folks, classical music audiences are much smarter than you seem to say they are. At the very least outside of North America, they are. Somebody who has nothing else to say than "Oh, classical is so relaxing" is not a classical music listener, at the very least, outside of North America, they are not.

Those people are only confused about the term classical music, they don't know what it is and they don't listen to it other than by accident and if they do, most of the time they won't know they do. Consequently, any statement such a person may make involving the words "classical music" is not actually a statement about classical music. It is nothing more than an expression of confusion about terminology.

May 16, 2008 at 06:00 AM · No matter what you think on this issue, many classical radio stations definitely push the "relaxing" aspect of classical music. For some time there was a billboard visible to anyone leaving Logan Airport in Boston that advertised WCRB, the commercial classical station in the city. The slogan: "Relax...and enjoy the music." They seem to regard their product as a rarefied form of muzak.


May 16, 2008 at 06:48 AM · Kevin, like I said, it's possible that this is an American thing. Such radio stations would seem to be an American phenomenon.

Nevertheless, if somebody is confused about terminology, be it as a result of radio stations or something else, a person which is confused about what classical music is, doesn't actually know what it is, cannot possibly make a statement about classical music and there is no meaning to be found in whatever they say.

Have you ever heard about Feng Shui? Let's assume you haven't. Let's assume you are going to Hong Kong for a week and pick up the words "Feng Shui", but you don't know what it is. You can make out that it is not the name of a person, location or company, but other than that, you can't figure out just what it is. You ask some locals but their English is so limited that you are only getting more confused. You intend to look it up in a dictionary when you get back home, but once you're back, you forget all about it.

Now, you meet somebody who says he is a Feng Shui master. There it is again, these two words, you still don't know what it is, but at least the words sound familiar, you have stumbled into them before. You want to say something nice to the guy, and you are trying to figure out what to say. You are slightly embarrassed that you didn't look it up and you are a little worried that your ignorance might be offensive.

It would probably be the best thing to tell the naked truth, like "Oh, Feng Shui, I came across that when I was in Hong Kong and tried to find out what it was, I meant to look it up in the dictionary but when I got back I got so busy I forgot all about it, so please pardon my ignorance, I am very interested to find out more about it."

But let's be honest, we're only human, we don't like to make fools of ourselves, so in a moment like that we don't often muster the courage to be honest about something we don't know and so we try bluff our way in an attempt to both be nice to the other person while also trying to avoid looking stupid. And then it happens, we say something very stupid, like "Oh, Feng Shui, it's so exotic, isn't it?!"

Now the other person immediately gets the picture, that we have absolutely no clue what we are talking about. We tried to be nice but we did the exact opposite, by accident, sort of.

Now, let's assume you did say "Oh, Feng Shui, it's so exotic", did you really make a statement about Feng Shui? No you didn't. You have no clue what Feng Shui is, so how could you possibly make a statement about it. You can't make a statement about something you don't know. What you did was speak a sentence that involved the two words you picked up. The sentence does not carry any meaning other than "I want to be nice to you but I don't know what to say". Any attempt to read any meaning into what you said in relation to the subject matter, would be futile.

Now, replace "Feng Shui" with "classical music", "Feng Shui master" with "violinist", and "exotic" with "relaxing", then read the this hypothetical anecdote again, et voila, you got exactly the situation the original poster described when he felt somebody was complimenting him on elevator music, as he put it. Thus, that person did not make any statement about classical music and there is no point to read any deeper meaning into the "relaxing" statement, for example how one might perceive this or that piece by Mahler or Shostakovich as relaxing even though at first sight it may seem to be a contradiction given the nature of the music etc etc etc. There was never any such meaning, the speaker of the sentence didn't know what they were talking about. All they meant to say was "I want to be nice to you".

Looking at the situation this way also leads to a simple straight forward answer to the question "how do you deal with such a situation". Since the meaning actually was "I want to be nice to you but don't know what to say" you can simply answer as if they had actually said so: Be nice to them, make them comfortable, let them feel that there is nothing wrong not knowing anything about the subject matter, encourage them to find out more, probably even help them to find out more by doing most of the talking and sharing some interesting insights.

May 16, 2008 at 10:19 AM · Benjamin K- You've mentioned a few things that got me to thinking. Perhaps there is a cultural phenominon going on. And could the listeners be sort of like... violin strings? Take a brand that produces the whole set, but many gravitate to the 'E' strings? Taste in 'sound'? As for causes then what kinds of music does the American listener have as a staple in his/her environment that would influence the decision of taste?

May 16, 2008 at 10:58 AM · Royce, yes indeed. I have no doubt that musical taste is very much influenced by listening experience and exposure. And different places means different kind of listening experiences.

For example, here in Japan they play Johann Strauss waltzes during school fitness programs, so to the Japanese, that music is very well known but it's also strongly associated with fitness exercises. By contrast, in Europe you get exposed to this music when you go to dance school in your teen years and it is associated with fancy ballroom events.

Another influence may be the way radio and television is organised in Europe. The stations there see it as their duty to expose the public to lesser popular 20th century and contemporary classical music, so even if you don't get to like it, at least you will know what kind of stuff is out there. This may be entirely different in the US, where radio and TV is far more commercially oriented.

Still, I believe that everybody, ignorant or not, mislead or not, we all are curious about new stuff. So if you give people the opportunity to listen to something quite different from what they are used to, they will at least be interested. One of the nice things about classical music is that it is such a large and variety rich body of works, there's something to find in it for everyone's taste. The downside is that many people need a little help navigating this large body of music, simply because of its sheer size.

May 16, 2008 at 01:39 PM · Although information about a composition or a composer may be helpful toward the goal of responding to music, I don't think that it is the main gateway to musical bliss. People who are new to classical music will often assume that loving classical music is mainly about *knowing* things. I believe that the best way to make someone into a music lover is to sit him in front of a live perfomance or a recording, and whatever attracts him, let him hear it again. If he likes the 1812 overture (and so far nothing else) play the March Slave for him. If he likes the opening melody of the Mendelssohn Concerto, but doesn't feel inclined to hear the whole thing, let him listen to the just the opening melody over and over. Eventually he'll want to hear more of it, and then he'll likely want to hear the Beethoven. He will more quickly become a music lover this way, than by knowing the year of Mendelssohn's birth. I wonder how many people are put off from classical music listening because they think that they have to learn alot of verbiage in order to "get it".

May 16, 2008 at 02:06 PM · Oliver, I agree with what you say, but if you want to *find* music to listen to, you will have to know what you are looking for. So, you need some knowledge to be able to navigate, or you need somebody to help you by suggesting some music to explore.

May 16, 2008 at 02:19 PM · if people at the door do not know where to look, classical musicians should make the first move to ice-break, as both of you said above.

if you do not know their "taste", give them several cds of contrasting styles and get feedback. from there, you get to know the person better and lead them further down the road. instead of telling them how they should feel, i think the key is to inquire how do they feel and build from there.

in the interest of time or what have you, often authorities give new-comers the take-it-or-leave-it attitude, adding fuel to their insecurity and anxiety, so they back off.

i am not a musical person, far from a classical music fan per se, but i can never get tired of listening to bach. so simple yet so complicated and elegant and profound, just like a chess game well planned and well executed. i cannot imagine any living human being not finding a spot in their heart and soul for some profound classical pieces.

May 16, 2008 at 02:20 PM · I can't agree with you Oliver. Many times people are happy just listening to the first few bars of Beethoven 5 forever, without ever exploring it further. I disagree with you because in my own experience when trying to appreciate something that is foreign to me I must first understand something about it before I get pulled into it.

For example:

When trying to get someone to appreciate Beethoven you could get them to listen to the moonlight sonata over and over again until they sort of accept it. But you could be much more inspirational by telling them that by the time this music was written Beethoven was completely deaf. Knowledge and appreciation go hand in hand and the more people see music as "made by a person" and "relatable" they'll be more inclined to explore it.

Bad example, too obvious I know. But the same goes for any painting in a museum. A long time ago before I knew anything about it I saw some Edward Munch and thought "weird, whatever" and walked past. It wasn't until someone pointed out to me that by the time this set of paintings was made he was almost completely blind, and that's why they looked so strange in comparison to those otehr paintings over there. See? A little knowledge and understanding go a long way in appreciating music, art, philosphy, etc.

May 16, 2008 at 02:36 PM · 1) How do anyone of you feel about people calling Baroque or Romantisim "Classical" when it's not from the Classical era?

2) How would any of you here introduce, "Classical" music; (All the periods) to someone? Certainly getting to know the individual would play quite a part as to where to start and where to go.

May 16, 2008 at 02:42 PM · In response to Marina:

but then comes the purist's question...

is one appreciating the art in itself then? Should the background of the music affect the listener's reaction? Or should it be merely the music that makes the listener appreciate it?

On the inside of Nigel Kennedy's Sibelius/Tchaikovsky CD he wrote a little article on this. Some people think images and information detract from the music itself. Kennedy thought that it would be highly unethical to make people enjoy the Tchaik or Sibelius by telling them that Tchaikovsky was homosexual or that Sibelius was an alcoholic. Because of course that would focus attention on the composer rather than the work of art.

May 16, 2008 at 02:46 PM · i don't think marina and mr steiner are necessarily talking about different approaches; rather, similar idea but at different stage.

marina looked at the painting and said: weird. that is an indication that she already reacted to the painting with her own feelings. to her, right then, it was weird. argue all we want, it was still weird to her. however, that is the basis for further learning. is it truly weird regardless or dependent on level of her understanding. that is when an art teacher can come in and enlighten. or, marina grows and learns on her own wit.

with classical music, some show no reaction initially, some do. some show a little, some a lot. again, the musician teacher should guide accordingly. different ways to skin a newbie:)

May 16, 2008 at 02:43 PM · In response to Royce:

I think that classical music (in the broad sense) is something people think you have to dress up for, and can't scream in the middle of like in rock concerts. :P

May 16, 2008 at 03:00 PM · well, to not to scream in the middle of something is not too much to ask. it applies to many things in life so better get used to it:)

--so, looking over your CV, it seems that you have had great experiences and you've also got great recommendations, one even from perlman. nice tank top by the way. tell me more about yourself.


May 16, 2008 at 03:01 PM · Hannah- I hope that you never had well meaning family shouting the request for your orchestra to play Lynard & Skinnard's "Free Bird" when you were in J.R. Youth Symphony!

May 16, 2008 at 03:21 PM · "1) How do anyone of you feel about people calling Baroque or Romantisim "Classical" when it's not from the Classical era?"

Indeed, the terminology can be rather confusing, there is the scholastic term "common practice period" for baroque, classical and romantic put together, but that still doesn't include anything after the romantic period and then it sounds rather academic, not very practical for use in everyday speech. Sometimes, I see the term "serious art music" to be used for the whole lot, including modern classical, but that may cause even more confusion than just using "classical", I'm not sure.

"2) How would any of you here introduce, "Classical" music; (All the periods) to someone? Certainly getting to know the individual would play quite a part as to where to start and where to go."

Yes, you first have to find out a little about their musical preferences. Ideally you can come up with something that relates in some way to music they like in other genres.

For example, somebody who likes very strong rhythmic music, like techno/hardcore or some hard rock or heavy metal bands who use a heavy rhythm as background noise, I'd introduce them to Shostakovich pieces where rhythm is very strongly pronounced, say the cello concerto, or the string quartet no.8, Beethoven's Grosse Fuge, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, etc.

In fact I noticed that rock band fans often relate to string quartets well, as long as you play something that's "noisy". I tell them its like a rock band but with a bass violin called a cello, a rhythm violin called a viola and two lead violins, then I pounce on them by saying "they don't need a drummer because they use their instruments to drum the beat". That always gets everybody's interest. They ask "what? do they bang on the violins?" and I'll say "listen to Shostakovich's string quartet no.8 and you'll hear how they drum". This has worked many times to win rock and techno fans over.

It can also help to introduce somebody to a modern transcription or adaptation of a classical work.

For example, if you know they like Jazzy music and saxophones, you could get them to listen to Henk van Twillert's baritone saxophone transcriptions of Bach's unaccompanied cello suites, it's an amazing performance.

For others, Tomita's synthesizer performances of works by Mussorgsky, Ravel and Debussy may do the trick. Guitar lovers are best introduced to Kazuhito Yamashi-ta's guitar transcriptions of Dvorak's New World Symphony (can you imagine one single guy playing a symphony all by himself on a classical guitar?) or his transcription of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.

In fact Pictures at an Exhibition is a very good piece to use because there are so many modern interpretations/adaptations of it that I have lost track of what is out there, it's got a wikipedia page which attempts to list them all, there should be some version for everybody's preferences:

scroll down to non-orchestral arrangements

happy hunting ;-)

May 16, 2008 at 02:51 PM · This thread has been very interesting so far...but the question begs to be asked why does this even matter.

Does it honestly really matter if someone finds classical music relaxing? It's not necessary for everyone to be as immersed in classical music as we are.

Marina mentioned her husband is a painter. How cool is that - I love art! Do I know very much about it? No. Do I need to be educated in art to find it relaxing, enjoyable or to invoke some sort of passion in me? Again, no. More than once I've made some totally ignorant comment when viewing art. Someone usually kindly points out some particular point of interest that 1)enlightens me a bit more to what I'm seeing and 2) brings me a little closer to the inside track.

There are numerous, valid "rabbit trails" that could be explored in peoples reactions to different genres, composers, etc. But perhaps when someone learns that we are classical musicians and responds with "Oh, I find classical music so relaxing" we can take their comment for what it is. An attempt to step out of their comfort zone and show interest in what we do.

It took every one of us years to learn what we know - and we are still learning. Why on earth would we expect an "outsider" to feel the same enrichment we do. So instead of holding the comment against them, let's try to use that comment to help them explore a little more of the music we know and love. What draws a person to music? I've found that my enthusiasm for what I do will bring people running, because they want to know what the excitement is all about.

May 16, 2008 at 05:18 PM · Benjamin, Hanna I have two new threads started that spin off from my latest post and your input. I hope that you will transcribe a little from your posts here over there; 1) "What Is Classical Music.", and "Is The Violin The End Of It & It's siblings Evolution?"

Any music can find the relaxation point in just about anyone. Each person is a unique individual, a whole complete in his/her self but just one 'part' of a unit. E Pluribus Unum. Out of Many, One! And so we should expect music to be the same?

May 16, 2008 at 06:42 PM · Marina Fragoulis wrote:

"I can't agree with you Oliver. Many times people are happy just listening to the first few bars of Beethoven 5 forever, without ever exploring it further. I disagree with you because in my own experience when trying to appreciate something that is foreign to me I must first understand something about it before I get pulled into it.

For example: When trying to get someone to appreciate Beethoven you could get them to listen to the moonlight sonata over and over again until they sort of accept it."

That is not the method I described. My suggestion was to find whatever gets the best reponse, (even a brief excerpt) and to then let him stay with that, **and find how his response deepens with repeated listening.** This will lead to him gradually and naturally expanding out from the initial favorite excerpt.

May 17, 2008 at 07:07 AM · "My suggestion was to find whatever gets the best reponse, (even a brief excerpt) and to then let him stay with that, **and find how his response deepens with repeated listening.** This will lead to him gradually and naturally expanding out from the initial favorite excerpt."

Very well said. In my experience this approach works very well. What people do need help with is identifying the initial pieces to start with but once they have found something that grew on them, they are usually able and wanting to explore on their own.

August 8, 2008 at 04:11 PM · Classical music is thinking people's music!

Beethoven's fifth is drenched in drama, Vivaldi's summer is fiery, Corigliano's Red Violin Concerto is anything but relaxing, and Lalo's Symphonie is a firecracker!

I might be missing many other exciting, passionate pieces, but those are what came to mind first!


The Finale from Stravinsky's Firebird is triumphant!

August 8, 2008 at 04:33 PM · Me too, Gary. Shostakovich and Mahler are not what I'd call relaxing.

August 8, 2008 at 07:31 PM · People often perceive something as "relaxing" when in fact it captures their attention and takes that attention away from other things that may be tension-producing or worrysome or otherwise difficult.

Let's say that your attention may be dominated by Bach's implied counterpoint in a Solo Violin Partita. You may very well experience this as exciting and energizing, and it may absorb all of your auditory attention and musical understanding and inner psychological resources. It may in fact "take you away from" the administrivia of daily life for a while.

So it may be a pleasant and meaningful and emotional experience, and therefore perceived as positive.

But that doesn't necessarily mean it's "relaxing."

Hope that helps.


This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Business Directory Business Directory Guide to Online Learning Guide to Online Learning

Dominant Pro Strings

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin



Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine