I have extremely fond memories of music nerding it up on a Friday or Saturday night: hitting Michael Fowler with my high school music pals for NZSO concerts followed by gelato-laden debriefs. We started doing it around year 12, when one friend was offered discount tickets through her piano teacher. Quickly performances extended to NZ Opera performances too, and that was how we rolled. It was always such a sacred, almost ritualistic event, and there were always crazed and sugary conversations at Kaffee Eis with the gang, as we discussed each performance, high school dramas, music assignments and anything else under the sun. We saw Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, Farr’s From the Depths Sound the Great Sea Gongs, Beethoven’s 9th, Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman (traumatic) and I think maybe Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (?!?), just to name a few.
It’s Not Just “Classical”
“Classical” music, as it’s commonly known – is actually so so much more than that. For starters, the classical music period was just one part of the history of music timeline, and it goes like THIS. Honestly I’m not going to do it justice, so if you’re interested in a basic rundown, this is a good starter resource.
If you’re into Art History at all, you’ll probably notice there’s a lot in common between music and art periods; it’s a really fascinating parallel.
Music Periods Revisited
- Medieval (1150 – 1400)
- Renaissance (1400 – 1600)
- Baroque (1600 – 1750)
- Classical (1750 – 1820)
- Romantic (1820 – 1900)
- 20th Century (1900 – 1999)
- 21st Century (2000 – present)
- Robo Boogie? (laaaaame FOTC reference)
Me? I’m a personal fan of the Romantic period onwards, bc imo that’s when shit got interesting. However, on the cusp of every new period, there were front runners paving the way, pushing musical boundaries, blowing minds and at times even disgusting listeners of the day, because their music was apparently obscene and even crossed the line of what was considered socially acceptable to listen to. There was Mozart of course – we all know that name – he was actually such a little bitch, if there’s any accuracy to the autobiographical drama film Amadeus – and there was Beethoven (Baethoven, let’s be real). Ode to Joy, more like Ode to Abby Joy (jk). I’m getting a bit linguistically hyperactive here, but I will double back and say that I don’t mean to write off Mozart – obviously he was a great composer and a literal prodigy – but I’m honestly a little bit sad that he tends to be the only composer the average Joe is able to name.
edit: Also, he’s a textbook Asperger’s male with savant abilities imo – socially immature and often unaware of his at times abrasive, blunt or inappropriate nature. Gots to cut him some slack.
Handel‘s (Baroque) Ombra Mai Fu is literally about a tree hugging woman serenading the ‘fronds’ of her ‘beloved platano’. I don’t think there was ever an opera piece I could get behind more tbh. The present day relevance is real. Also, trees are just trippy in general.
There was Vivaldi (Baroque) with his iconic Four Seasons, and I bet that most of you (New Zealand readers, at least) will at least vaguely recognise Summer, because it featured in this Bank of New Zealand ad in the early 2000s and it had this black beauty type horse galavanting along the sand – lighting all moody and green and shizz. I couldn’t find the 2000s version, but there’s a ’93 throwback for ya. The camcorder graphics are a little bit hilarious.
Fun fact: in year 10 science I did a research project on how music affects plant growth. I vaguely remember that the ones that listened to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons everyday flourished and grew better than both the control and the ones that listened to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Coincidence? I think not. 😉
There was also Chopin (Romantic), a solo piano composer. I haven’t actually given him a lot of listening time to be frank, but ooosh this Nocturne piece is real nice.
Puccini (late Romantic) was a renowned opera composer. It’s a bit of a basic bitch choice, but O Mio Babbino Caro is a piece I would LOVE to perform solo one day.
There was Debussy (late Romantic & early 20th Century) who is probably most famous for Clair de Lune. A lot of his works were regarded as very impressionist, and almost a musical representation of impressionism within the Art History sphere.
There was Stravinsky (early 20th Century) with his terrifying Rite of Spring, a ballet – but likely unlike what you’re used to imagining. No white tutus or gentle celeste melodies here. Just a chaotic horror soundscape. That guy must have had a lot of pain.
Another well-known piece of his is The Firebird, also quite eerie.
Shostakovich (early 20th Century) was such a moody and melancholic sorta dude. Growing up in what, 20th century Soviet Russia likely does that to a person. He looks in many ways like Harry Potter, but he’s actually like, not. He’s a prolific composer and a Personal Fave. There is almost nothing that soothes the soul more to me than Jazz Suite No. 2, and Symphony 10 is golden.
Satie wrote the Gymnopédie suites, and I listen to this over and over when my insomnia gets real bad, or when I just want to have a melodramatic moment and lie on the floor with gentle piano forte in my ears. I have been learning Gymnopédie No 1 on piano on and off for a while now, and it feels even more soothing playing it for myself – even if it can be clunky and erratic when I get to the kinks I haven’t yet ironed out.
Mendelssohn (early Romantic) wrote about a cave. But not just any cave, Fingal’s cave. Yes I’m fully throwing back to year 12 music here (and tbh, this whole blog post is just riddled with high school nostalgia). I apparently can’t help myself.
Where are All the Wāhine?
Why were they all white men? Because women were just terrible composers back in the day. No, I’m totally kidding – but for real though, I imagine the thought at the time was that women simply weren’t all that talented at composing/working in general. I don’t know, I haven’t really researched it. One Day I MiGhT do. Maybe that day will be tomorrow, whilst I procrastinate my Wittgensteinian linguistic metaphysics essay further…
Local Boiz (New Zealand Composers)
Farr – now there’s a character. Percussionist, composer and drag artist on the side, my good friend had the pleasure of interviewing (and roasting) him live at our high school Music Awards Evening once upon a time. I really need more [redacted]’s Lounge in my life to be honest. From the depths of my heart, I urge you to open your ears to the great sea gongs of 21st century New Zealand musicians and their compositions.
Terrible sound quality, but this piece is another personal fave. I saw this live once, ughhhhhh ❤ take me back.
My back hurts. But I’ll tell you what doesn’t hurt – giving Psathas a good ol’ listen once and a while. This dude knows how to compose.
Mvt 2: Chaos | Aneatanga
It’s almost entirely irrelevant, but also kinda sorta completely relevant to drop the second instalment of my symbolic music playlist. It soundscapes the first four years of my high school career, from year 9 until the end of year 12. I’m still rejigging the order, but for the most part I’m happy with it.
Jaaaaaazzzzz music, my friend.