This thing where “classical music” is “calming.”
This 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.