When people say that they don’t like classical music, it is a bit of a knee-jerk reaction. There is still the notion for some younger music lovers that classical means old, boring, orchestral work that offers nothing for them. But, there is a lot of classical music in popular culture as well as modern artists bridging the gap.
So, if you have a friend or family member that wants to learn more, you need to know how to introduce someone to classical music. You can’t throw them in at the deep end with a night at a formal recital or opera. This will just reinforce those negative stereotypes.
The trick is to find a way in through something they already like, engage with them, and then help them to learn more.
What many music lovers don’t realize is that:
- they already listen to classical music in their lives
- there are lots of modern composers that cross between classical and pop culture worlds
This is where you can find common ground with your friends and family. Find something that uses classical music in some way and talk about what you hear. Classical music really is everywhere, from adverts to wrestling. Some of the most feared heavyweights in WWE come out to classical music for extra gravitas.
Classical music in film.
Classical music within the film industry is one of the best places to start. There are lots of films that use scores containing orchestral instruments and emotive compositions.
You may even have friends that download certain pieces from films onto their mobile devices. These are classical pieces. Even the theme from Harry Potter is a modern classical piece.
Friends that are film buffs may enjoy watching movies and see what true classics they can pick out. For example, The King’s Speech makes good use of works like Beethoven’s 7th Symphony during key scenes. You can discuss how this use of music adds to the regal theme and drama of the film.
Another must-see for those interested in classical music is Amadeus, which focuses on the life of Mozart. The film is a fun biopic but it uses a lot of pieces from Mozart and his rival Salieri. This adds to the historical context of the film.
The popularity of film scores and modern classical music allows for more cultural events that celebrate the genre.
Public concerts in parks may lean towards this sort of classical style to engage with a wider audience. Their guests may not know who Handel and Strauss are, but they do recognize classic themes to movies and TV shows. Give them a fireworks show to the soundtrack of Game of Thrones and they are happy.
In the UK, the legendary Proms series from the Royal Albert Hall often delves into classical-approaches to pop culture. For example, there was a Doctor Who show.
Let’s take a couple of well-known names as examples of classical music in film. John Williams and Hans Zimmer.
John Williams is held in high regard as perhaps the greatest film composer and is certainly one of the most prolific. His close connection with Stephen Spielberg means that you will have heard his work on films like Jurrasic Park, Schindler’s List, ET, and Jaws.
His most famous work has to be the score for Star Wars. So, if you have teenagers with the Imperial March as ringtones, you can remind them that they like classical music.
Hans Zimmer is a composer whose work stretches across different genres. He is perhaps more famous for his work with Christopher Nolan on Inception and The Dark Knight Trilogy.
So, if your skeptical friends enjoyed the scores on those movies, it might be worthwhile checking out more of Zimmer’s work. Zimmer also worked on the Planet Earth II series by David Attenborough. Part of this work included a collaboration with Sia, which brings us to the next way to introduce people to classical music.
Classical music within popular music.
We often create a divide between classical and popular music, with the assumption that they don’t co-exist. But, this isn’t the case at all. As we saw with Hans Zimmer, you can get popular artists collaborating with composers to provide vocals or other features of a song.
It helps to add another layer to a song, such as emotive lyrics, and draws listeners in further.
There is also the fact that a big name artist gets more press attention.
One way to introduce people to classical music is to look at their favorite artists and see which ones use classical music in some way. There are different ways that they may do so.
Some might have some classical training and bring their own compositions into their work. Others may use samples of classical pieces underneath their own music, perhaps a juxtaposition of new and old. Then there are those that might rework their music and perform a show with an orchestral for a unique experience.
Blending classical and rock music together.
If you have a friend that loves rock music but is curious about classical music, point them in the direction of Muse. Frontman Matt Bellamy has composed classic elements to songs and albums for years, including the ambitious Exogenesis Symphony. There are also reimagined versions of Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat major and Elgar’s Nimrod.
The band also gives a salute to Ennio Morricone in their live version of Knight’s of Cydonia. Another interesting fact for Game of Thrones fans is that Bellamy also composed a piece for the final series.
Artists sampling classical music.
Classical samples appear more often in popular music than you might realize.
They provide a different sound that can work to enhance dramatic pop songs or add contrast to hip-hop or electronic music. In fact, electronic DJ Pete Tong took this further and reworked a lot of his own music with his Heritage Orchestra. It was a hit and brought a classical style to a new audience.
The most sampled classical composer is Beethoven. Whosampled.com states there are 113 samples, but this may not be accurate. On that note, Alicia Keys played one of his most famous pieces, Moonlight Sonata, at the Kobe Bryant memorial.
Remember to engage with your friends and family and help them in this journey of discovery.
Whichever route you take, whether via film scores, popular music, or classical concerts in the park, be sure to take an interest in their opinions.
Ask them for feedback about certain pieces after watching a movie or listening to an album. Which elements stood out the most? How did the piece make them feel and was it influential in their enjoyment of the scene? From there, you can point them in the direction of other composers and pieces that may be similar.
Here are 5 examples of classic music to get you started.
1) Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.
This was mentioned above in relation to Alicia Keys and Kobe Bryant. Those that saw the memorial and were moved by her rendition may be interested to hear the original. The piece is popular today and well-known by those learning music. It was even more so when it was first written.
2) Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat major
Again, this is a piece mentioned before. It is a good idea to listen to the original composition for comparison. It is a piece that we have heard somewhere before. The tone is much different from that of the Moonlight Sonata. The two work together nicely together as a discussion on emotions and intent.
3) Handel’s Messiah
This is something completely different in tone. It is a much grander piece for ceremonies and while it might not be instantly familiar, it will evoke some memories. It is also just a lot in churches around the time of Easter and Christmas. It is complex but great for discussion.
4) Dvorak’s Symphony No.9, 4th Movement
If you want to try something a little more dramatic, this classic is the way to go. This powerful piece is sure to people talking, especially with the tempo shifts. There is also the fact that new listeners can’t help but hear the Jaw’s theme at the start.
5) Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite
Anything related to ballet and the performing arts is always interesting for discussion as you can look at the way the music drives the emotion and intent of the dancers. You can listen to it with no imagery to get an idea of the composition and then with a piece from a performance.
6) Brahms’ Symphony No.3, 3rd Movement
One of the most melancholic and achingly beautiful pieces of music to come out of the Romantic period. It also happens to be a personal favorite of mine.
Start slow when learning how to introduce someone to classic music. You may make a fan out of them still.
These pieces are just a starting point. They act as a nice bridge from the classical inspirations in popular music and the film score they love. Once they find a style or a specific composer that speaks to them, you can help them learn more and showcase other pieces.
Give them time and focus on the use of modern classical music as a common interest. You might not get them to a recital anytime soon, but you might start discussing scores and composers over coffee.
Check out: What Does Listening To Music Teach You?