Classical music has a remarkable capacity to inspire. It can lift your mood in an instant (making it an effective anti-depressant), assist you in your work, and provide the soundtrack to your life. It is also more accessible than ever before thanks to the Music Animation Machine—the work of Stephen Malinowski. Through this, we can now observe, in vivid detail, what happens in some of the finest masterpieces ever composed.
Making the videos you see below requires entering a score of music into notation software, and synchronizing it to the recording. The music has to be adjusted to the score as a performer can often add, change, or miss notes. Animation is then designed for the video, before rendering and assembly occurs in a video editing program. The audio, titles, and credits are subsequently added and the video is uploaded online (for a detailed look at the process see this diagram). Whilst I can report this in a succinct paragraph, each video takes a great deal of time to construct.
You can visit Stephen Malinowski’s YouTube channel, smalin, for an extensive range of animated music.
1. Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat Major, Opus 9, No. 2
Frédéric Chopin (1810–1849) was a Polish composer famed for his emotive piano compositions. He spent much of his life in Paris, but snubbed a celebrity lifestyle in favor of relative solitude. He rarely performed in public, preferring intimate performances in his flat.
2. Beethoven’s Symphony 7, Allegretto, 2nd movement
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) remains one of the finest composers in history. Famously, his hearing began to deteriorate circa 1800, and much of his later work was created despite being deaf.
3. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, 1st movement
Also known as Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor “Quasi una fantasia,” this piece was completed in 1801. This is the famous first movement.
4. Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21, Andante (“Elvira Madigan”)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s (1756–1791) startling genius saw him compose over 600 pieces. A virtuoso performer, he had concertos and operas on the go before he was 10, and died mysteriously at only 35.
5. Vivaldi’s Winter, Four Seasons (Allegro)
Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741) was a Baroque composer famed for his violin skills. He’s perhaps best known for The Four Seasons, composed in 1723. This is the fourth concerto of the set—Winter.
6. Pachelbel’s Canon in D
Johann Pachelbel (1653–1706) was a German Baroque composer. Unfortunately, much of his work has been lost, and this piece lay forgotten for hundreds of years. It was re-published in 1919 and has since become a much celebrated work.
7. Bach’s Air (“on the G string”, string orchestra)
This is August Wilhelmj’s arrangement of Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major. The original piece was finished circa 1720, with Wilhelmj adapting the second movement in the late 19th century.
8. Bach’s Preludio, Partita in E Major, Lara St. John, solo violin
Bach’s compositions are renowned for their emotional intensity. As a consequence, his work is highly regarded in cultural circles for its artistic depth.
9. Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1, 1st movement
Bach’s music gained popularity after a revival during the 19th century. He remains one of the major names associated with great composers.
10. Schubert’s Piano Trio in E-flat major, 2nd movement
Franz Schubert (1797–1828) was an Austrian composer. He lived to only 32, but still composed 600 Lieder, ten symphonies, operas, chamber music, and much more. Despite his prolific nature, he was unappreciated during his era. He’s now considered an all-time great.
11. Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, 1st movement, E Minor, Opus 64
Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847) was a German composer during the Romantic period. He helped re-popularize Bach’s music during his time.
12. Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 2, 3rd movement, Intermezzo
Mendelssohn’s extensive body of work includes symphonies, oratorios, and chamber music. As a composer, he was reassessed in the 20th century and has since become increasingly popular, having suffered restrictive anti-Semitism during his lifetime.
13. Tallis’s Spem in Alium (40-voice motet)
Thomas Tallis (1505–1585) is regarded as one of England’s finest-ever composers. Here is a mesmerizing composition from 1570—it’s for eight choirs of five voices each (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, and bass). As it requires forty competent singers who can meet the motet’s demands, it is rarely performed.
14. Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah
George Friedrich Handel’s (1685–1759) famous piece has been used extensively in modern culture. The chorus is taken from Handel’s 1741 Messiah oratorio. The famous section appears in Part II of III.
15. Brahms’ String Quartet No. 1, 3rd movement, Allegro Energetico
Johannes Brahms (1833–1897) proved a hugely influential composer whose innovative music inspired a new generation.
16. Brahms, Piano Quartet in C minor, Opus 60, 3rd movement
This piano quartet was composed in 1875. Brahms’s approach to music was to keep the “purity” of famous composers such as Mozart and Beethoven, but to modernize compositions.