Perhaps you are a classical music novice. Maybe the only experience you have with classical music is from your time in seventh grade orchestra or band class.
Regardless of your experience level, I have an easy way to introduce you to classical music by connecting some emotional dots between classical music and pop songs.
With over 33 years of teaching audiences how to really listen to classical music versus merely hearing it, I’ve heard countless stories from people on the benefits they receive from the genre. When you really listen to classical music, it can be an incredible tool for mindfulness.
Focusing on the melodies, instruments and rhythms will make you feel more present and in the moment. With this in mind, I matched four pop songs to four classical music pieces so you can begin your classical music journey with some background knowledge and reap all the meditative and emotional benefits. Simple or complex, with words or without, music is all about the emotions that sound evokes.
1. For those of us who enjoy Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars, check out the Overture to the Marriage of Figaro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart sometime.
Uptown Funk is a song that’s all about feeling good, or dare I say, even silly. So if you like the upbeat feeling of Uptown Funk you will love listening to fast-paced, zany Overture to the Marriage of Figaro.
One of Mozart’s most beloved operas and a staple of the operatic repertoire worldwide, The Marriage of Figaro hinges around two servants, Figaro and Susannah, who wish to marry and are trying to stop their employer Count Almaviva from interfering in their affairs – through wearing disguises, hiding behind bushes and many other frivolous ploys.
As you can imagine, this gives off a fairly whimsical feeling. Mozart’s efficiency in using short, thematic ideas manages to convey giddy feelings that last with the listener long after the overture has concluded – much like how we all feel when listening to Uptown Funk.
2. For those of us who like All of Me by John Legend, listen to Piano Concerto No. 2, Movement II by Sergei Rachmaninov.
All of Me is a song about romance and absolute love – and you’ll find that same feeling of intimacy in Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, Movement II.
The feeling of love from this piece resonates clearly in the first and third sections of Movement II, which each contain the same dreamy melodic themes and harmonic material. It gives off the feeling of sitting beside your loved one, intoxicated by their gaze.
3. For those of us who like See You Again by Charlie Puth, listen to String Quartet No. 1, Movement IV by Johannes Brahms.
See You Again is about losing a loved one, and the very deep pain associated with it. Movement IV, in a similar sense, is about extreme emotional pain.
Written in a minor key, the movement opens with all four members of the string quartet “screaming” the same painful melody simultaneously. This loud musical section is repeatedly brought back throughout the movement, so as to never be completely resolved. This gives off a feeling of despair and nostalgia, similarly to the emotional theme in See You Again.
4. And finally, for those of us who like In My Blood by Shawn Mendes, listen to Symphony No. 9, Movement IV by Antonín Dvořák.
The reason why Shawn Mendes’s In My Blood feels so empowering to many of us is because he recognizes that many of us have faced emotional struggles in our life time, but he refuses to give up and imprints this message upon us. Movement IV conveys this same feeling – in a word,itis heroic.
A bit of background for you: Dvořák spent about three years in the United States, where he traveled the country and encountered many local musical influences. His Symphony No. 9, subtitled From the New World, was the culmination of his experiences here, where he found the liberating “you can be anything” spirit of America to be a life-changing inspiration.
You can feel very clearly the huge range of emotions in Dvořák’s movement. From its determined, gritty opening to its final moments, Dvořák gives us that triumphant “anything is possible” feeling.