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16 Educational and Inspirational Classical Music Compositions

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.

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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Alex Morris

Content Manager, Copywriter, & Blogger

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

How to Tap into Your Right Brain’s Potential

How to Tap into Your Right Brain’s Potential

You may have heard someone say they are “totally right brained” or that they’re “a left brained person.”

There is a pervasive myth that’s been making its rounds for over a century: people have two hemispheres of their brains, and if they have a dominant left brain, they’re more analytical; and if they have a dominant right brain, they are more creative.

Before we go debunking this theory and then giving some tips for how people can access their creative brain centers, let’s first take a look at where the left brain/right brain lateralization theory comes from.

The Left Brain/Right Brain Lateralization Theory

In the 1800s, scientists discovered that when patients injured one side of their brains, certain skills were lost.[1] Scientists linked those different skills to one side of the brain or the other. Thus began the left brain/right brain myth that continues to this day.

Then, in the 1960s and 70s, Roger W. Sperry led 16 operations that cut the corpus callosum (the largest region that connects both brain hemispheres together) in order to try to treat patients’ epilepsy. Sperry wrote about the differences in the two hemispheres as a result of those surgeries.[2]

Sperry’s work was popularized in 1973 with a New York Times article about his lateralization theory—that people were either right brained (read: logical) or left brained (read: creative). From here, Sperry won the Nobel Prize for his work and numerous other publications spread the right brain/left brain myth.

Debunking the Right Brain/Left Brain Myth

If anything, the lateralization theory of the brain is a gross exaggeration. It is true that people have two hemispheres of their brains. It is also true that there are differences in the composition of those two hemispheres.

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However, the hemispheres are actually much more interconnected than Sperry’s work initially made it seem.

In a 2013 study,[3] scientists scanned over 1000 people’s brains, checking for lateralization. They confirmed that certain brain functions occur predominately in one hemisphere or the other but that, in reality, the brain is actually much more interconnected and complex than the right brain/left brain lateralization theory makes it seem.[4][5]

A New Metaphor for Right Brain/Left Brain

How do we get past this right brain/left brain myth?

First, let’s look at what contemporary cognitive science says about brain regions, and creative and logical modes of thinking.

My background is as an improviser and improv researcher. I wrote Theatrical Improvisation, Consciousness, and Cognition and think looking at improvisation and the brain can shed light on a new model for talking about unlocking the brain’s creative potential.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans have shown that while trained improvisers improvise (musically on a keyboard, rapping, and comedic improvisation) an interesting shift happens in their brain activity. [6]

A region called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex decreases in activity and creative language centers such as the medial prefrontal cortex increase in activity. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is linked with conscious thoughts—that inner voice that tells you not to say something or criticizes you when you do.

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The medial prefrontal cortex is among the brain regions linked with creativity. So, instead of thinking about right brain and left brain, perhaps it’s more current and correct to think about more specific brain regions instead of hemispheres. Perhaps, it’s more useful to think about which activities and strategies will allow us to inhibit our dorsolateral prefrontal cortexes and allow our medial prefrontal cortexes to flourish.

How to Enhance Your “Right Brain” — Creativity

Whether we’re talking about right brain versus left brain, creative versus logical, or medial prefrontal cortex versus dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, we still know enough to talk about strategies to tap into your creative brain’s full potential.

So, now that we’ve dispelled the right brain/left brain myth and looked at a more contemporary, cognitive neuroscience theory of brain regions and creativity centers, let’s look at how to tap into the potential of your creative brain.

1. Performing Arts

One way to tap into your creative brain centers is to participate in the performing arts. Whether you improvise, act, or dance, the performing arts allow you an embodied experience that will help you snap out of your habitual, logical thoughts.

Another benefit of the performing arts is that it changes your attention. Attention and creativity are inextricably linked. When we improvise, act, or dance, we have to focus intently on our fellow performers. This means we are forced to focus less on our conscious, logical thoughts. This frees us up for more creative thinking and expression.[7]

One of the conclusions of my research on improvisation is that focusing intensely on fellow improvisers and the task at hand makes it more likely that we experience a flow state. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi,[8] a Professor of Psychology and Management defines flow as an optimal psychological state when our skills match the difficulty of the task at hand. Our perception of time is altered as we get into the zone and become more present and in the moment during our chosen activity.[9]

A flow state is a creative state. It’s the opposite of crunching numbers and forcing ourselves to work out a problem with the conscious regions of our brain. So, get up, improvise, act, or dance to access your creativity.

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2. Visual Art

Art teacher Betty Edwards[10] wrote a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Here again, we see that a shift in our attention can lead us to an increase in our creative thinking.

Edwards’ book gives art students tricks to shift the way they see the world. For example, one exercise encourages students to literally flip whatever it is they’re drawing upside down before they draw it. This forces budding artists to literally see the object in a new way. This shift allows them to focus more on the individual components and patterns of the object, which allows them to draw it better.

Shifting how we see things is another way we can access our creative brain centers. Take an art class to shut off your conscious, critical thoughts and start seeing things from a new, more creative perspective.

3. Zone Out

If there’s one thing creativity doesn’t like, it’s being coerced.

I think we’ve all felt that awful feeling of trying to force ourselves to be creative. When we force it, we’re really trying to force our logical brain regions to be creative. It’s like asking your gardener to perform your appendix surgery. It’s just not what she does.

Instead, stop forcing it. Take a break. Take a long walk or a relaxing bath or shower. Let your mind wander.

Whatever you do, stop forcing it. This break lets your creative centers rise to the surface of your attention and get heard.

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4. Practice Mindfulness

The final trick to start accessing your so-called right brain is to practice mindfulness.

Now, there’s a lot of different ways to go about mindfulness. You can take a more physical approach with a yoga class. Or you can try meditating to become more aware and in tune with your thoughts and feelings: Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

You could also try to incorporate fun mindfulness exercises[11] into your everyday routine like forcing yourself to go on detours or pretending you’re a detective who needs to examine people and places closely.

Any way you do it, mindfulness exercises and training can help you become better versed in how your brain works and what your normal thought process is like on a day-to-day basis. If we’re ever going to reach our optimal creativity, we have to become an expert in how our individual brain functions. Mindfulness is one way to become your very own brain expert.

Mindfulness also has added benefits like calming us, slowing our breathing, and helping us become more observant, which are also great ways to start tapping into our creative potential.

Final Thoughts

So, it may not be correct to say that our right brain is our creative brain, but it is still a valid pursuit to try to optimize our creative brain centers.

The key to do so is to relax, become observant, shift your perspective, move your body, try something new, and, whatever you do, don’t force it.

Creativity can feel slippery. It can abandon us when we need it most, but by slowing down and looking at things from a new perspective, we can give ourselves a better chance of tapping into our ultimate creativity, even if that doesn’t exactly mean our “right brain.”

More Tips on Boosting Creativity

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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