Okay, so you hear the words “classical music.” Are you asleep yet? It’s easy to associate classical music with either old people or pretentious hipsters. While I won’t confirm or deny that I fit into either of those demographics, there’s something lively about a full orchestra telling a story with its symphonies. More than anything, I ask you to give classical music a chance. It’s meant for so much more than background music in luxury car commercials.
One of my earliest memories of classical music was hearing Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” in music class. It was underwhelming but pretty. Looking back (or should I say listening back?) on this piece, however, it’s incredible. “Peter and the Wolf” is a key example of classical music telling a story. Each instrument represents a different character. For example, the string quartet represents Peter, the flute represents the bird and three horns represent the wolf. As a whole, the orchestra shares a tale of a boy and a wolf without saying a word.
It’s far easier to make an argument for something when there’s concrete evidence, so I leave you with several beautiful classical pieces.
“1812 Overture” – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
This piece is extremely well-known, and for good reason. The piece tells the story of France’s invasion of Russia in 1812. You can, of course, Google how that whole ordeal turned out, but that would ruin the fun of the song’s finale. Hint: There’s cannons involved. Cannons. In classical music.
“Across the Stars” – John Williams
Okay, so this one isn’t technically classical music, but John Williams, composer of the soundtracks of “Star Wars,” “Harry Potter,” “Jaws,” and probably any other movie you can think of, has been heavily influenced by classical music. And yes, while the “Star Wars” prequels could have been better, John Williams still crafted a beautiful soundtrack that almost makes up for the creation of Jar Jar Binks.
For lack of a better comparison, this piece is the “Imperial March” (a.k.a. Darth Vader’s theme song) of classical music. Also known as “Montagues and Capulets,” the song accurately portrays the tension and drama between the two feuding families in “Romeo and Juliet.” The orchestra’s frantic strings and foreboding brass gives off so much anger and power while also remaining melodic and beautiful.
Everything about this piece is grand. While the other songs listed have a very clear narrative, “Piano Concerto No. 1” invokes raw, unadulterated emotion. The link only provides the opening to the concerto (the entire piece is close to half an hour), but those first few minutes are what sparked my own personal love for classical music. This piece makes me think of big romantic gestures and long-waited reunions.
Classical music is universal. It tells stories and expresses the emotions that words can’t. There are no language barriers; the instruments have voices that everyone can understand. They just need someone to listen.