Updated: Jan 6
What do Ready Player One, Aphex Twin and World of Warcraft have in common?
Classical music. The new reggaeton?
Well, on many counts and thankfully no. The chances of today’s youth banging their heads to some Bach or moshing to Mozart are as low as a bass tenor. It would be a strangely warped Universe where booty was ‘ground’ (assuming this is the past tense of grinding one's booty) to anything orchestral. Classical music just doesn’t have that appeal. Or does it? We could easily look at Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as the world’s first ‘Rock’ star in terms of his life in music. He began touring when he was just 6, by 8 he’d written his first symphony and his first opera by 11. Okay, just sounds like a musical genius? Well, people travelled from all over Europe to get their kicks to his jams. He wrote more than 600 more pieces of music before burning himself out at just 35, being buried with no wealth or social status in a common grave, because he never sold out to the man, man. His gravestone simply read #whatever. The epitome of rock n roll.
Go to YouTube, type in any combination of ‘music’ and ‘study’ and his cherubic face will pop up. Why? It seems that despite over 200 years on the shelf and much to the chagrin of the devout classical music lover, orchestral music is having something of a reprise.
Your brain on strings and things
Research performed in France shows that listening to classical music can aid sleeping patterns, boost the immune system and reduce stress. The research published in Learning and Individual Differences found that a lecture with classical music played in the background aided test scores, possibly due to the subliminal emotional effect of the music heightening the openness of the students.
“Music, provoking a change in the learning environment, influenced the students’ motivation to remain focused during the lecture, which led to better performance” the researchers reflected.
Meanwhile, researchers at the University of San Diego discovered that listening to classical music significantly reduces systolic blood pressure compared to other types of music. Basically, classical music fires up your brain whilst reducing the anxiety and stress of external stimulus.
But it doesn’t just hit a high note with the students that are actually studying. Classical music and cinema have long been partners. The orchestral cinema scene is worth millions and a good score can make or break a film. In fact, it is often the case that the score supersedes its cinematic platform and soars off into the ether, leaving the movie relatively unknown. However, when good cinematography and a powerful score come together, only boulders fail to be moved.
The epic scores of John William’s include Jaws, Schindler’s list, ET, Star Wars, Jurassic park and more, enjoy this mix
More recently we have Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings
Hans Zimmer’s Pirates of the Caribbean, Interstellar, Inception and more, enjoy this mix
If you haven’t listened to them outside the movies, give it a try next time you’re cleaning the house, you’ll be swinging from the light fittings.
It doesn’t end there. The world of gaming has brought a whole new generation to the pit. Britain’s most popular classical music channel, Classic FM, after noticing a number of scores from computer games entering their charts had to produce a show and separate chart dedicated to the abundance of modern classical gaming music. Jessica Curry’s ‘High Score’ at peak time Saturday evening covers the latest gaming breakthroughs in ‘ambient music.’ She currently recommends Jeremy Soule for his work on Skyrim while Eimear Noone has explored new mythical territory with her work on ‘World of Warcraft’
Classical versus Modern Classical
It is clear we use modern classical music, orchestral music or ambient music in a different way. In film and games it is used as a soundscape, with the focus on the visual spectacle, the music heightening the emotional territory being explored. However, is this not exactly what is happening when we use classical music to study? They certainly sound the same and we can find them in the same charts. But can we put the Electronic music artist Aphex Twin, real name Richard David James with pieces such as ‘Avril 14’ on the same stage as the classical composers?
What makes classical, classical?
This year sees PlayStation's premiere gaming music concert at the Royal Albert Hall, featuring the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The event features favourite themes from chart-topping games, including: Shadow of the Colossus, The Last Guardian, Uncharted, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, LittleBigPlanet and Horizon Zero Dawn “this exhilarating live show – with a full symphony orchestra, guest presenter and spectacular light display – takes you on a musical journey from vast deserts and overgrown ruins, to ancient artefacts and futuristic landscapes, celebrating some of the most memorable gaming music from the past 20 years” they say. Presented by Classic FM's own Jessica Curry, tune in for highlights and decide for yourself.