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~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #197
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As a young girl I took piano lessons, and I will admit, it was not the greatest joy of my life. A timer would have to be set for me to sit down for even 30 minutes to practice, and even then I would get up from time to time to check and see how much more time I had to play. So, no, I was not someone who found joy in playing; however, when my mom would sit down and play and let the notes ring melodically throughout our home, I thoroughly enjoyed listening. We still have that piano, and from time to time I will get the opportunity to hear her play and watch her fingers dance across the keys. There is a tranquility that is shared when such harmonious tunes without lyrics are played. To my ear, it is quite peaceful.
Perhaps that is why as well, I am drawn to jazz, as I do prefer music without lyrics when I am working, relaxing and simply going about my day. I enjoy bringing my story to the notes, rather than hearing someone else’s. Perhaps that is a lack of imagination on my part, but when there are no words, the rhythm is mine to dance with and let my mind wander.
Having always loved jazz since I was a teenager, I have since begun to welcome more classical music into my life and regularly beginning this past fall as I shared in this post (episode #187). Many of my students over the years have been actively involved in the symphony and orchestra, and successfully so, so I do find myself learning from them as I am by no means savvy when it comes to music.
1. Reduce stress
If you find listening to classical music relaxing, then it can reduce your stress levels. Upon listening to classical music, your body releases “pleasure-inducing dopamine and inhibits the release of stress hormones, all of which generates a pleasant mood”. Now, the key is to understand what you find relaxing, make it a regular practice and observe your body and mind relax which will then enable you to think more clearly and thus make better decisions.
2. Increase your ability to think abstractly
The Mozart Effect, as it was coined in 1993, was discovered by Dr. Gordon Shaw of the University of California-Irvine to cause a temporary spike in an individual’s IQ after listening to Mozart. While the findings need to be clarified: no, listening to Mozart doesn’t make you smarter, but it does, Shaw states, “warms up the brain’s ability to think abstractly”.
3. Heighten EQ (emotional intelligence)
In 2001 Southern Methodist University shared their findings of their study revealing participants were more “expressive and effusive with their comments, [and] . . . more forthcoming as well.” Perhaps when we choose to listen to classical music as we relax, our walls come down a bit more, we are more willing to be vulnerable and less quick to react.
4. Increase focus
A study done in France published in Learning and Individual Differences revealed that students who listened to a one hour lecture with classical music playing in the background scored better on the corresponding quiz than those who did not listen to music. Why? The researchers proposed that “the music put students in a heightened emotional state, making them more receptive to information . . . It is possible that music, provoking a change in the learning environment, influenced the students’ motivation to remain focused during the lecture, which led to better performance on the multiple-choice quiz”.
5. Fall asleep more quickly
The University of Toronto discovered that when classical music is played when you settle into bed, participants in the study were able to fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer. Why? The study found that the music by Bach, Brahms, Handel, Mozart, and Strauss offered “rhythms and tonal patterns that create a meditative mood and slow brainwaves”.
The inclusion of listening to classical music in my everyday routine has become a form of simple self-care. Having a sound mind to navigate successfully through the day is an invaluable tool, but it is one that can easily deteriorate if we do not tend to it.
Many readers shared their favorite classical radio station (many of which have free apps available), and I have listed them below. An unexpected benefit I am finding is listening to the hosts of each of the programs whether I am listening to KUSC.org or WRTI.org as they speak about each song, often share the history and other intriguing information. I may never pick up a flute, a violin or an obo, but I certainly am finding I appreciate even more those who do and those who have written the music creations.
Classical music stations:
- KUSC (southern California)
- WRTI (Philadelphia – classical music and jazz)
- KMFA (Austin, TX)
- Radio Classique (French station)
- ClassicFM (London)
I have compiled a Luxurious Classical Music playlist on Spotify (of which there are many others to find as well) that plays
for one hour and 16 minutes 12+ hours with more than 157 tracks (updated as of November 2020) and includes some of my favorites as well as new music I am ever so gradually being introduced to. View the playlist here.
The Playlist: Luxurious Classical Music (below are just a sampling of the tracks):
- Vivaldi: 12 Violin Concertos, Op.8 “Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’ invenzione” / Concerto No. 1 In E Major For Solo Violin, RV 269 “La Primavera” – 1. Allegro
- Yo-Yo Ma – Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007: Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007: Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007: Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007: I. Prélude
- Vaughan Williams – The Lark Ascending
- 2 Cellos – Moon River
- Mozart : Serenade No.9 in D major K320, ‘Posthorn’ : IV Rondeau – Allegro, ma non troppo
- Giancarlo Andretti – Piano Sonata No. 5 in G Major, K. 283: I. Allegro
- Murray Perahia – Italian Concerto, BWV 971: I. (Allegro)
- Wolfgang Rübsam – Suite in A Major, BWV 824
- Dubravka Tomsic – No. 1 in B Flat major, BWV 825: II. Allemande
- The English Concert and Trevor Pinnock – J.S. Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No.6 in B flat, BWV 1051 – 2. Adagio ma non tanto
- Alexis French – Waterfalls
- London Philharmonic Orchestra & David Parry – Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048: Allegro
- Lara Downes – Wonderful Town: Story of My Life
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