Something that a lot of my older subs likely know is that I have a huge thing for classical music. It started with the first Disney film that I saw – Fantasia. That movie started both my love for 2D animation and my love for instrumental music. It is my second-favorite film of all time. So yeah, I love this kind of music. As I was watching a movie that has a pretty good, albeit short, soundtrack, I got to thinking – what are my favorite pieces of classical music. Now, when I say pieces, I am not talking about large productions like Suites and Symphonies. Those are a list for a whole other post. Also, this is purely instrumental work. So, as much as I love Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” it has lyrical accompaniment. These are just stand-alone pieces that can stand on their own. For each piece of music, I am going to take a cue from Fantasia and pair it with an image that comes to mind when I hear the music. Take that for what you will. To listen to each piece of music, simply click on the name.
When it comes to melodious classical, few do it better than Chopin. The highlight of the Romantic Era style, his songs are soft, soothing and very mellow. This one is no exception. The flow of the song has a thoughtful quality. I like that scene where Deb is listening to this in Dexter. The song feels like something that will focus your mind. It is so easy to dismiss. The simplicity of the piano, it stirs up a longing emotion, for something just out of reach. No wonder Deb wanted to punch her boyfriend when he interrupted her listening to it.
9. “Raindrop” Prelude
Yeah, you’re gonna see a lot of him on this list. What can I say, the man was brilliant. Another piece with a kind of simplicity about it, yet an order that few other songs can match. It’s almost as if the order to the music sets the tone of what the music will be like. This piece starts out very light-hearted, yet there is a darker tone that hints itself later on, like the piece has a cold message to pass on to you. It’s kind of unnerving, but that is what makes it a good piece. Most of Chopin’s work has a mood that makes it hard to really quantify what it’s about. That’s what makes it so easy to debate. The sign that the music is really great, the way we see it. Then the song ends right back where it started. Part of that is musical convention, but at the same time, it leaves you wondering what to think.
8. Scene I (Swan Lake)
Now, this one is technically cheating, because it is part of a larger piece of music, but this is so freakin’ good! Not to mention, I don’t think much of the rest of the Suite, so yeah. Talk about setting the mood. This piece is dark and cold in all the right way. It feels so desperate and lonely. You can almost see the bitterly cold world of the music as the music picks up. There was a scene in The Blacklist where Raymond is sitting in a ballet and watching Swan Lake, while listening to this music. You can almost see the cold gears in his head as he watches. You can almost feel the cruelty inside of him as he tries to come to grips with who he has become. This song set that mood perfectly, and it has a place here on this list.
The thing I like most about Debussy’s work is how, like Chopin, you never really know how to feel about it. The difference is that with Debussy, it is all about emotion. His music is all about plumbing the depths of your soul. How did Nostalgia Critic describe Bambi? An emotional experience? Yeah, that sounds about right. As I listen to this song, it takes me back to my childhood. The summers that I used to spend at my grandma’s house. She was the most important person to me, in my younger years. I loved my parents, but I had a connection with her that I found nowhere else, pre or postmortem. This song has an emotion about connection and peace. Only with the gentleness of piano can you capture it.
I might be cheating here a bit too, as this is part of their work “Porgy and Bess.” However, so few actually know that. Truth is this song is known by most people all on its own. Unlike others on this list, this is a very melancholy piece. It tells a story of days gone by, and times that can never truly be regained. It is so beautiful in its melancholy. So few songs can capture that. Gershwin was a master. He could go through so many emotions in a single piece of music. With this one, it is the same. All of the emotions are playing out at the same time. It is kind of like being part of the story, seeing it begin. The beauty is in how you become invested in it. I see days long gone, where the first girl I loved and I would play in the woods. We had a tree that was ours. Those days together, they were everything to me. Days that I will never get back.
I can’t honestly think of a song that is more emotionally-explosive than this one. Unlike Summertime, this piece is all about one emotion. It conveys it so strongly that you can almost feel it. The emotion – joy. Pure, unabashed joy. The song may be named “Morning,” but to me, that is not fitting. I hear this, and I see some running through a field, with the wind blowing through their hair. All of nature sings as this person takes it all in. Is it a bit too much? Perhaps. Still, the emotion has such weight, and it is why this song is so wonderful to listen to. Although, I can see this song when you wake up after a beautiful night being spent with the one you love. Everything is perfect, and you wouldn’t have it any other way. I hope to someday experience that for myself.
4. Moonlight Sonata
Ludwig Von Beethoven
Another melancholy song, this one does feel fitting with the title. However, this is not a good night. It is a very depressing night. It brings to mind a night where we sat on the deck of our old house, staring out at the lake. The moon was low enough over the water to make the light shine on it. It was like a glowing disc. Beautiful. Still, we were thinking about the uncertainty of the future, and what we were going to do. It was not an especially pleasant thought, truth be told. However, it is still beautiful. Like most of Beethoven’s works, it has a subtle sense of cold detachment. Really makes you think.
It’s funny – every time I hear this song, I keep thinking about the last episode of the original Fullmetal Alchemist. You know, the series that was good, unlike that other one. I don’t know if the person who made the song in that series that is so similar to this made it as an homage, or ripped it off. Either way, they have good taste. This song is also very melancholy. For me, this song makes me think of people we have lost. That is a very sad thought, yet the memories can be beautiful. I think back to my oldest and first true friend. The days him and I shared, that are long gone. I think back to the last friendship I had that fell apart. The love I had for this person, that they threw away without a backwards glance. A song that harkens back old memories, of days gone by. Sad, but still beautiful.
2. The Dying Swan
This is a song that is both melancholy and not at the same time. I can’t think of many pieces of music that balance those two elements as well as this one does. For real, it’s a marvel that way. For my own perspective, as with most pieces, this one takes me back to old memories. Maybe that is classical music’s hold on me – memories. But these ones go back to the more humdrum. I think of my oldest friend and I playing pool in the basement of my grandma’s. We both sucked at it. For real, there wasn’t enough room for the table, so we kept smacking the cues into the wall. It was bad. But we enjoyed playing. For whatever reason, we played pool down there so fucking much. Got me as to why I have this memory so strong in my head. Still, it is a beautiful dichotomy, of peace and sadness. Bless this song.
And my favorite piece of classical music is…
1. Clair de Lune
For me, this song has a lot of emotion behind it. This has been my favorite piece of classical music for my entire life. There was this old cassette player that my grandma had, and a cassette with this song on it. I must have listened to it a thousand times. I can see the summer nights when me, my oldest friend and my first love spent together. I think of the nights my oldest friend and I would must about the world we wanted to make. We both had so many ideas. I wanted to make a utopia for the people important to me. He wanted to make a nation with strict laws. Together, I think the two of us would have made a great nation. So many memories. So many feelings. So many great thoughts. It makes us want to cry. How can so much emotion be tied into one piece of music? Where does it all go? Marvelous. A testament to one of the greatest musicians who has ever lived.
So, what are your favorite pieces of classical music? Let me know in the comments section. And post a video with it, so people can hear it. Who knows, maybe you’ll find one I missed.
Until next time, a quote,
“A scattered dream that’s like a far-off memory. A far-off memory that’s like a scattered dream. I want to line the pieces up, yours and mine.” -Sora, Kingdom Hearts II