A Classical Listening List to Please the Musical Mind

Many of you know that one of the enjoyable things I get to do now and then is to take a symphony orchestra – specifically, Symphony Nova Scotia (SNS) – into schools, and play some exciting orchestral music for young people. In the main, our audiences are between ages 5 and 12, though occasionally we present our performances to junior and senior high school students (age13-18).

We’ve just finished a fall run of concerts with SNS in local Nova Scotia schools, and it was a wonderful couple of weeks.

Symphony orchestras have a vested interest in performing for kids, of course: it helps to build audiences of the future. That may seem a bit self-serving for an orchestra, but it’s not much different, if at all different, from taking kids to a professional hockey game: it’s entertaining, and kids get to dream and imagine themselves as professionals.

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But there’s a much more powerful reason to present a local professional orchestra to young people: it opens the musical world to them in ways they’ve rarely previously experienced.

Young people don’t tend to draw a line between genres. To them, it’s all music, whether they’re listening to a good pop song, a movement from a symphony, an African folksong — it’s all music. And they can tell when it’s good.

It’s only when we “get old”, and we start to make a more concerted effort to identify the music we’re likely to enjoy, that we begin to draw lines between the various genres. And that invariably results in us listening to some genres more, and other genres less.

Classical music may not be your thing, but the good news is that these days most orchestras program concerts that include being “the backup band” for rock artists. And that’s where your songwriting brain can really get some artistic stimulation.

I always remind songwriters that the more you listen, the better you become as a writer of music. You hear new (to you) ideas, instruments, melodies, and these ideas will push your writing into new areas.

Concert-going can be pricey, so if it’s not something you can afford to do right now, recordings will do nicely. But if you’ve not been a listener of classical music before, you may not know where to begin.

Googling something like “best orchestral music” will give you endless recordings. But how about a short playlist from me, one that I think you’ll enjoy:

If you’ve got your own ideas of great orchestral music, please feel free to put your ideas in the comments below.

Gary Ewer

Gary Ewer

Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

Posted in Opinion, songwriting and tagged , , , , , .

One Comment

  1. From 12 to 16 October 2015 the dutch classical radio station (Radio 4) broadcast this year’s “Hart en Ziel Lijst” (Heat and Soul List), featuring the top 300 classical pieces that listeners nominated and voted for. The music was augmented by listeners’ stories. You can find the list here: http://hartenziel.radio4.nl/ (available in word/PDF/Excel)

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