September is “Classical Music Month,” a time to celebrate artistic excellence in music. The time correlates to the start of a new school year (with its accompanying recitals and concerts) and a new season at the symphony.
Here at Brandermill Woods, we love Classical Music Month both because of the power of the music and because of the health benefits listening to classical music provides—particularly to seniors. Health benefits include:
- Physical Wellbeing. Classical music’s tempo has been shown to lower blood pressure, relieve stress and help you sleep—benefits all of us should enjoy.
- Mental Health. Classical music also releases dopamine—the brain’s feel-good neurochemical—which helps you feel good and wards off depression.
- Improved Brainpower. Studies show students remember more when classical music is playing during study time. You may have taken your last pop quiz, but everyone can benefit from a boost to the brain.
In the name of good health and artistic excellence, here is a little fun background about what we call “classical” music.
A Little History of ‘Classical’ Music
If you’ve never taken a music appreciation course, you might be surprised to know that the term “classical music” is a misnomer. People use the phrase commonly to refer to the type of music you might find at your local concert hall—symphonies, concerti and the like—music composed from the 17th to the early 20th centuries. Think Beethoven, Bach and Brahms.
But the term “classical” technically refers to one musical era (roughly 1730-1820), whereas Baroque, Romantic and even Modern music are often lumped together as “classical.” Here are some of the general eras of western music we celebrate this month:
Medieval (500-1400): Music of the Middle Ages was primarily associated with the church. “Plainchants” were sung as a form of worship, and are marked by a smooth and soothing devotional sound. In the High Middle Ages, music notation was invented, allowing for more complex “polychromatic” music.
Renaissance (1400-1600): In the 15th century, the western world changed dramatically thanks to the resurgence of Greek and Latin texts, advancements in science and more. Notation plus the printing press allowed music to become more complex, and instrumental music emerged.
Baroque (1600-1750): This period starts what you likely think of as “classical”—with sonatas, fugues and other instrumental pieces from the likes of Bach, Vivaldi and others. This era lends itself to much traditional wedding music.
Classical (1750-1820): The Classical period is known for smooth instrumental music with a clear melody. Symphonies, string quartets and other chamber music ruled the roost, and composers such as Haydn, Mozart and Schubert are some of the most widely remembered.
Romantic (1820-1910): As in literature, Romantic music is expressive and emotional. Beethoven serves as the bridge between the Classical and Romantic periods, and typical Romantic composers include Chopin, Berlioz, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Verdi and Wagner (whose operas perhaps illustrate the height of Romantic drama).
20th and 21st Centuries: Music from the past 100 years is arguably as varied as it’s ever been, with everything from Schoenberg’s eerie and atonal works to Stravinsky’s energetic rhythms. Will future musicologists one day look back on Queen or Pink Floyd’s rock operas and lump them in with Shostakovich and Charles Ives? Seems unlikely, but you never know…
Ways to Celebrate
We’re fortunate in Central Virginia to have many avenues for enjoying music of all stripes, including performances at the Richmond Symphony and Virginia Commonwealth University, to name just two forums. We encourage everyone in the area to support live music performances and enjoy the health benefits of concert music.