Can some pieces of music change your life?
That expression is so overused, so I’m going to hesitate in answering in the affirmative. However, if a book can, “change your life,” why not a piece of music?
To me, music is the best way to grasp the ungraspable. To let your mind reach a place of reflection and emotion where words alone cannot transport you.
If music can inspire you, lift you, transfigure your sorrow into something positive, then I’d say it has the power to “change your life” – at least at the moment.
We Need Abstract Music
Today, we flood ourselves with information — with words. But the result of this information overload is often confusion, fear, anxiety, and despair.
The reason why I love classical music is that it’s a work of art with high information content, and yet it has emotional power.
The information is merely the complexity in the music, where there’s always something new to discover and appreciate if you stop and pay attention. This is something you don’t find in many other kinds of music that lack depth.
But at the same time, I don’t listen to music because I want to be intellectually enlightened. I listen to music for its emotional impact.
7 “Life-Changing” Pieces of Music
Initially, I made a list of my favorite pieces, many of which last over half an hour. But I decided to go for mostly slightly shorter pieces, even just movements of longer works. If you feel inclined, you can always listen to the whole thing.
Robert Schumann, “Chiarina” from “Karnaval”
This is the most soul-crushing 45 seconds of piano music. It’s part of a longer work that paints a carnival filled with people from Schumann’s life. This one is for his wife Clara, nicknamed “Chiarina” (little Clara in Italian). This piece opened up Schumann for me and made me love the rest of his work. What I love about it is that it’s not a melody, yet it expresses more than a tune ever could. It’s a cry of the heart. It’s pure emotion.
Schubert, Impromptus Opus 142, #2 in A-flat Major
Schubert, my God, what a soul. He died before his 32nd birthday and wrote more fantastic music than almost anyone in history. And I know no other composer who can write such bitter-sweet melancholic music. Schubert, you were the greatest of the romantics! This short piano piece perfectly captures everything that’s so wonderful about his music.
Brahms, Intermezzo, op. 118, #2
If you put a gun to my head and forced me to name my favorite composer, I would probably scream out “Mozart” or “Beethoven!” But the fact is that I listen to Brahms music more often. There’s something about that never gets old. Here’s a favorite short piece:
Rachmaninov, Op. 16 No. 3 Moment musicaux
I must say that Rachmaninov is my “guilty pleasure.” It’s the wrong expression because he’s a great composer. But some people consider his music a bit too buttered up heavy. But I love how he pours his heart out without any hesitation.
Although my favorite Rachmaninov work is by far the third piano concerto, I love his shorter piano pieces. This one is a personal favorite:
Mozart, Piano Concerto 21
This is the piece of music that made me love classical music. I first encountered it when I was 17 or 18, and it has remained my all-time favorite classical music piece and the one I would choose to accompany me into the next world!
There are a grace, eternal beauty and joy that emanates from every bar. Of course, the second movement is to die for (or live for, if you prefer).
Chopin, Sonata #2, Funeral March
So, in such a top-10 list, I should have a piece by Bach, but I chose instead one by Chopin. Because the idea, after, is to find relatively short pieces that can “transform your life.”
This is perhaps the most well-known funeral march ever written, but it’s also the most poignant one and is full of hope.
Of course, the first movement of the “Moonlight” sonata is one of his most well-known piano pieces. But to me, the “Appassionata” sonata is the greatest of the well-known sonatas. This interpretation by Daniel Barenboim is just perfect.