Today in More Ideas We Ought to Drop

This thing where “classical music” is “calming.”
IMG_0508This is from a bulletin board at the gym on how to reduce stress during exam week. I don’t know about you, but I do not normally emerge from Carnegie Hall in a stupor. I’m usually sort of twitchy and hyper and excited.

The thing is, of course, listening to classical music can be calming, because if you are focusing completely on what you are listening to (even if it’s a barnstorming rendition of Lady Macbeth’s “or tutti sorgete” which is not what I would call calming, unless perhaps you are Lady Macbeth) you are probably not thinking about what is stressing you out, and thus you’re giving yourself a break from the stress – but this effect can be achieved with any music that is interesting enough to hold your attention. Possibly this effect is more powerful with more abstract music – it’s not “about” anything (sort of like how asking what a Rothko painting is “about” is the wrong question, you know?) and so even if it evokes a strong response in you as a listener, that emotional response is unlikely to have any direct relationship to, say, your organic chemistry final. Or, you could treat yourself to a good cry over some Wagner, and even if you were dissolving your mascara in the Liebestod and thus not at all calm, you would – again – have at least had a rest from Spanish verbs or marketing jargon.

5 thoughts on “Today in More Ideas We Ought to Drop

  1. This is our local classical station’s main marketing angle, and it makes me want to go over there with a large stick and an iPod loaded with all the things they’re afraid to play.


    1. 24 hours of Wozzeck and Schostakovich and George Crumb and then we will see who is relaxed. And/or perhaps some Stravinsky. Hell, even anyone who thinks Beethoven is calming is probably sort of dead.

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  2. People who think classical music is calming by definition should watch this video of Giuliano Carmignolo playing part of Vivaldi’s Summer. My heart rate goes up about 20 points when I watch this (which I have done more times than I should admit).


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