Henry Wadsworth Longfellow described music as “…the universal language of mankind.” He recognized the significance of music and how it speaks to people’s hearts, souls, and minds across the board. Music is one of the most magnificent forms of art because it stirs human emotions and positively impacts brain functions. Classical music and songs are strongly associated with the ability to soothe and calm individuals. Numerous scientific studies have shown that classical music releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays important roles in the body, to spike pleasure and prevents the release of stress hormones. It can also stimulate babies in the womb, though it isn’t quite clear why some music genres such as classical offer more positive impacts than others. It is suggested that perhaps humans feel an increased connection to classical music due to the well-balanced and elegant melodies that humans find intriguing.
Classical music refers to music compositions in the European traditions that were written from 1750 to 1830. Music produced during this time often consists of detailed rhythm, pitch, and precise coordination of instruments. Many of the talented artists of that time would improvise melodies as well. Often, the main intent of classical compositions was for performance purposes. Audiences enjoyed the many forms of music, including symphonies, concertos, sonatas, quartets, orchestras, and operas. The classical period produced many great composers. Some that come to mind are Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). Though these artists have not been with us for some time, their music’s unforgettable and superior nature and their melodic legacies make their compositions highly recognizable today.
Mozart, a favorite composer of that era, was a prolific artist who demonstrated prodigious abilities from his early childhood. This Austrian musician began composing music at the age of five and often performed for European royalty. His best-known pieces were written during his final years in Vienna. Mozart was known for living to the excess financially. Toward the end of his life, it is purported that he grew despondent over his health, whereas he believed he was being poisoned; however, he pushed through to complete some masterpieces such as Requiem in D Minor (K. 626). Throughout his lifetime, he achieved more than 600 works that fit into various genres. Some of his most famous works include Serenade No. 13 “Eine kleine Nachtmusik,” Piano Sonata No. 11 “Alla Turca,” Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, The Marriage of Figaro, and The Magic Flute. Though Mozart would die at the young age of 35, his music lives on to inspire people today.
Beethoven, a famous German composer whose works transition into classical music’s romantic era, is another distinguishable artist. Like Mozart, his musical talents were evident at a young age. At 21, he moved to Vienna, which became his base as he studied composition with Joseph Haydn. Beethoven gained notoriety as a virtuoso pianist. Despite a deterioration in hearing, he continued to conduct and compose, though becoming less socially involved with his hearing loss progression. Beethoven suffered from an unfulfilled personal life, and, as with most artists, intimate experiences involving love and loss are relayed through musical expression. Some of Beethoven’s most famous pieces are Moonlight Sonata No. 14 Op. 27, Pathetique Sonata No. 8 Op. 30, Adelaide Op. 46, Fifth Symphony Op. 67, and Für Elise.
Per the BBC, there are five main characteristics of classical music: elegance and balance, well-balanced melodies and clear-cut questions and answers, mainly simple diatonic harmonies, mainly homophonic textures with some use of counterpoint, and contrasting moods. Musical composers often put much of their personalities into their pieces. To fully appreciate their talents and grasp bits and pieces of their often-complicated lives, we must explore the musical notes they have written. Each composition will journey the listener through high peaks of emotion (delights) and deep valleys (pain). When listening to Mozart, one might experience the artist’s lavishness, the complexity of his relationship with his father, or his angst over his own death. When hearing Beethoven’s music, one might gain a sense of idealized love or the resulting unattainability of romance. All the intrigue is there…all we must do is listen.
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