When confronted with the question “what is classical music?,” dull and ultimately old-fashioned songs best suited for background music or while studying come to mind. Many people consider classical music a dying genre, and sadly, they are not incorrect to assume so. Over the past several decades, classical music has been on a relatively steady decline. Orchestras throughout the country and around the world have been in dwindling; funding has decreased as donors are more than reluctant to contribute money to a genre with no future. Classical music radio stations have also been on decline, experiencing similar problems to the orchestras. Above all, the increased media focus on pop and rock superstars has fostered the idea of the respective genres as “cool” and as a result, more and more young people are turning towards different genres of music today. Classical music has somewhat become a “niche” market, and with an increasingly aging generation, the future of classical music depends on the younger generations. If it is to be kept alive, younger generations need to detach themselves from the cacophony of rock music and blinding lights of pop.
The hope rests in the fact that growing up in a society where information is so readily accessible, we have inevitably been exposed to some classical music. The first few bars of Beethoven’s Fifth, or Strauss’s Blue Danube, are almost universally recognizable, even if people don’t know what they’re recognizing. If one wants to get acquainted with classical music, they should start from the very basics (the aforementioned pieces are a good starting point), and build and discover more music as they familiarize themselves with the vast world of classical music. Some good tips are as follows:
- Pay attention the next time you go shopping, dine in a restaurant, or watch movies or TV shows.
- Listen to and familiarize yourself with famous composers.
- If you don’t know where to start, search for a list of “best classical music”
- Listen to what you already know
The Six Major Periods:
Medieval: Pre- 1400
Baroque: 1600-1750 Highly structured, intricate ornamentation, little dynamic variation (Bach)
Classical: 1750-1820 Structured, elegant, without many rich chords (Mozart, Beethoven)
Romantic: 1820-1900 Emotional, rich chords, flexible rhythmic interpretation (Chopin, Brahms, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky)
Contemporary: 1900-Present Basically anything (Shostakovich, Bartok)
The world of classical music is immense, and this list is by no means comprehensive at all. Listen as you go, and you’ll get to know what you like and dislike.