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16 Educational and Inspirational Classical Music Compositions

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16 Educational and Inspirational Classical Music Compositions

“One does not need to have any formal knowledge of music ‒ nor, indeed, to be particularly ‘musical’ ‒ to enjoy and to respond to it at the deepest levels. Music is part of being human, and there is no human culture in which it is not highly developed and esteemed.” — Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia

With the advent of the internet, many of us are privileged to have easy access to music from legendary names such as Beethoven, Bach, Chopin, and Mozart, whose compositions provide tens of millions of people with inspiration every day.

Thanks to modern composers and educators such as Stephen Malinowski, the music is easier than ever to appreciate and understand. He uses the Music Animation Machine to synchronize popular compositions alongside eye-catching animations. These turn the complex world of classical music into understandable, colorful, and often mesmerizing videos with pioneering educational capabilities.

His process of creating the animations has evolved over time. Recent efforts incorporate elements of Voronoi diagrams “as an analogue to music perception”, dazzle with flashy neon-esque signs, showcase music as a blooming digital flower, mix aural play with geometry, turn compositions into 3D animations with ChromaDepth technology, and make nods towards retro video games.

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Many of these techniques are in use on the 48 preludes and fugues by J.S. Bach he turned into animations during summer 2016. You can read about some of his techniques at Well-Tempered Clavier, or you can visit his YouTube channel smalin. Whether you want to educate yourself about classical music, find some inspiration, or simply relax, his videos will open you up to a vivid world of genius compositions and peace of mind.

1. Bach, Fugue in C minor, WTC I, BWV 847

This is from the first book of Bach’s the Well-Tempered Clavier (1722) – BWV 847 is one of many Preludes and Fugues in this ambitious set. Malinowski’s video breathes life into the piece with positively luminescent neon flashes.

2. Chopin, Nocturne in D-flat major, opus 27 no.2 (Voronoi)

The second of two piano pieces composed by Frédéric Chopin in 1836, now considered some of his best work. The Voronoi animation style is featured here.

3. Bach, Fugue in B-flat minor, WTC I, BWV 867

This is also from Bach’s the Well-Tempered Clavier—the animation style features an unrolling spiral which emphasizes the 5-voice, 1-beat stretto at the conclusion of the piece.

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4. Franck, Violin Sonata, mvt.1

Written in 1886, this would become one of César Franck’s best known works; it’s considered a masterpiece sonata for violin and piano. Malinowski’s epic animation takes the viewer on a wildly colorful journey, featuring pong-like video game sections in a glittering musical landscape of neon lights.

5. Franck, Violin Sonata, mvt.4

The final movement of Franck’s violin sonata. The animation offers another unique insight into classical music as it features a canon displayed visually.

6. Strauss – The Blue Danube

An easily identifiable work composed in 1866, it’s since been used regularly in popular culture, perhaps most notably in Stanley Kubrick’s landmark 2001: A Space Odyssey.

7. Beethoven, Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, 3rd mvt, Rondo, Allegro

Beethoven composed this piece circa 1800. Thunderous and fast paced, it’s an exhilarating trip through a geniuses’ musical capabilities.

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8. Rivera, Cumba-Quín (guitar)

In this innovative piece, the performers use guitars with a wide range of playing techniques. Each one can be seen represented on the video.

9. Bach, Sheep May Safely Graze, Cantata 208 (guitar duet)

Composed in 1713, Bach’s piece is often called by numerous names. It’s best known as Sheep May Safely Graze, but it’s officially called Cantata No. 208. As this isn’t likely to sear itself into your memory any time soon, over hundreds of years it’s picked up various catchier nicknames.

10. Joplin, Gladiolus Rag

Scott Joplin (1867-1917) composed this piece in 1907. It’s Stephen Malinowski performing the lively piece, which was then set to a Voronoi animation.

11. Bach, Organ sonata no. 4, BMC 528, 2nd mvt., Andante (E minor)

From a set of six sonatas pieced together in 1727, the organ sonatas are Bach’s reworking of previous cantatas, organ pieces, and chamber music. Although several hundred years old, when matched with this colorful animation it’s made strikingly contemporary.

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12. Debussy, First Arabesque (Hearts/Butterflies)

Claude Debussy was in his twenties when he composed the Deux Arabesques. The first remains one of the most easily recognizable piano pieces in modern times. Here it’s been set to v-ring technology – a partial ring with variable attributes which, after some experimentation, led Malinowski to the above effect.

13. Chopin/Godowsky, Étude, opus 10 no. 6/no. 13, E-flat minor

Leopold Godowsky’s (1870–1938) take on Chopin’s work is notable for its playing demands. As Malinowski explains: “Chopin’s original etudes presented certain technical challenges, but Godowsky’s versions present challenges that go far beyond Chopin’s. For example, in this one, the speed of the fast-moving notes is doubled from the original, and the piece is played completely by the left hand.” This is also, apparently, not even the most challenging piece from Godowsky’s rearrangements!

14. Bach, Cantata 35, 5. Sinfonia

This rousing composition from Bach offers, when complemented by the animation, another example as to why classical music can lift the spirits like nothing else.

15. Ante Božić Kudrić – I Western Dances – part 1 (Suite for 2 violins and Piano)

This is a modern composition from film soundtrack composer Ante Božić Kudrić.

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16. Pachelbel, Canon in D (ChromaDepth 3D)

Finally, we have this hypnotic video which shows off Pachelbel’s Canon in D as never before. The piece was likely composed late in the 17th century, but was lost to obscurity for hundreds of years afterwards. It’s now arguably one of the most well known pieces of classical music. The video highlights each note of the melody fading in and out as each violin joins in with the canon, with the legendary (and, occasionally, notorious) bass repeating itself in the center.

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