The Hidden Power in Music
Filed under Music by Frederic Patenaude
A lot has been said about the Mozart Effect.
A while ago, researchers found that when students listened to particular piano sonatas by Mozart, they performed better on subsequent tests. This led a generation of parents to buy classical music and play it to their children, hoping that it was going to help develop their brains.
Bach and Mozart are the favourite composers for this particular purpose. It’s been found that while the Mozart Effect helps your concentration, it does not necessarily make you smarter.
However, there is undeniable power in music.
I believe that music can be used for a number of purposes: to feel better, to concentrate, to expand your mind, to heal, to find depth within yourself, to express yourself, to discover beauty and perhaps to develop your brain, too.
How can we listen to music in such a way that we unlock its powers?
Let’s talk about what type of music first.
I believe any type of music has its unique power. Rock music, jazz music, flamenco, pop, heavy metal… they all have their place and they all can be used effectively to boost your energy, to enhance your mood and to touch the sublime.
I love all kinds of music, but I spend most of my time listening to what could be considered “classical music.” I did study music for a number of years and this was my initial choice of career; it’s been a part of my life ever since.
There’s something about the music of the great composers that really touches me, and to me it seems that there’s just more there to explore than in any other type of music.
Let’s talk about the music of the great composers. How can you unlock its powers? It’s clear that the great composers were inspired.
Bach was a deeply religious man and he lived in a time when the expression of music was considered the expression of God; that you not only fulfilled God’s wishes by praying, but also by composing and playing music. His deeply religious views led him to compose music of amazing beauty, music that will never be outdated. There is hidden meaning and power in Bach’s music.
Take, for example, the Goldberg Variations, a series of musical variations that he wrote for Count Goldberg, who was an insomniac. Bach’s music is based on a cycle of expanding canons. Each canon occurs after three variations. The first canon represents unison — perhaps the moment before the big bang? It’s unity – purity. And then, the second canon represents the splitting of the cells, or the breakaway point. Each canon explores a new aspect of the soul — a distance from “home” and what it represents. Am I getting too philosophical here? Just listen to it and you’ll be touched by it, without having to know why.
While there is unbelievable complexity behind this music—more than just pretty notes—we can sense this on a subconscious level; that’s why this music has been around for so long and has never waned in popularity.
Take, as an example, the Prelude to Wagner’s Opera, ‘The Rheingold,’ where a single chord is repeated, ever expanding harmonies to symbolize the process of the creation of the world. No music has ever been written that so accurately represents this image of creation.
How can we all get the meaning of the music from those great composers? Let me give you a quick way to get started:
- Listen to the same pieces several times. Listen to it at least five or six times; the music will unlock its secrets the more you listen to it.
- Don’t just listen to the music as background music. Also take some time, maybe before going to bed, to listen to the same pieces. Don’t do anything else. It’s okay if you fall asleep during that time, but as you get more familiar with the music you’ll be able to follow it better.
- Learn about the piece you’re listening to. If you’re interested in music, I highly recommend Dr. Robert Greenberg who recorded several amazing courses on music. The most important one: How to Listen to, and Understand Great Music (which you can find on Audible). This course walks you through the entire history of Western music and enables you to understand it. When you know more about the history of a particular piece, the composer, why he composed it, etc., music becomes more than an assemblage of pretty notes. You feel that these people were real. They wrote the music for a reason.
I guarantee that if you listen to some of the great pieces of music in this way, you will unlock several of its powers. It can enhance your life in a way that you never thought was possible.
I like to recommend some of my all-time favourite pieces of instrumental music. I like to keep this list very simple with only the three main composers: Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.
- Bach: The Goldberg Variations and The Brandenburg Concertos. These are sublime pieces by Bach and they pretty much represent his art at its highest level. You can never get tired of listening to these pieces. There’s just so much in them.
- Mozart: the three operas: Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Cosi Fan Tutte. Mozart liked to say that he was an opera composer, who made a living writing piano concertos and who also wrote and played music with his friends.
- Finally, our good old friend, Ludwig van Beethoven. We’re familiar with his symphonies, but I think his most profound music would be his string quartets. This is not beginner’s music. Don’t start here, but once you feel ready there’s literally exhaustively amazing and powerful music in Beethoven’s string quartets.