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Classical Music Month 2021: An Introduction to Classical Music in 8 Songs

If you’re unfamiliar with classical music, you may think of it as a genre of bygone eras or an art form only accessible by its practitioners. Some music fans even assume that classical music is boring – but they may surprise themselves yet. Although the genre is home to some of the most celebrated composers and songs from before the 20th century, it’s evolved substantially in modern times.

Classical music can evoke intense emotions with orchestral crescendos contrasted by soft piano and violin lines. That’s why you can hear elements of classical music in so many film scores, video game soundtracks, pop music and even electronic music. For those uninitiated in the genre, we suggest activating your Nura profile and celebrating Classic Music Month by letting yourself get lost in these pieces. Be warned, though – people crying at beautiful songs during a classical concert is not a rare sight. 

Call Me Joker - Hildur Guðnadóttir

Icelandic composer and musician Hildur Guðnadóttir has an impressive list of television and film pieces, including credits on Chernobyl and The Revenant. But her Oscar-, Grammy- and Golden Globe-winning score on Todd Phillips’ Joker is nothing short of magnificent. Whether you’ve watched the movie or not, her score is chilling, brimming with tension, and em bedded with classical music attributes. The track Call Me Joker, in particular, is spine-tingling. Its sustained strings and slow drums rise and evolve into a loud, intense wall of sound that perfectly depicts the Joker’s descent into madness. 

Symphony No. 5 – Ludwig van Beethoven

You’ve at least heard the first four iconic notes of Beethoven’s 5th symphony, whether in remixes, pop culture, film, and TV. Listen to the entire composition, and Beethoven will steer you into more tranquil passages that elicit feelings of hope, joy and triumph, then erupting back into dramatic, swelling parts. It’s quite the emotional rollercoaster. This symphony earned Beethoven significant praise several years after its premiere and was later a staple of orchestral music. It’s on the famed Voyager Golden Record that’s floating about in space as you read this and is considered a foundation of Western music. 

Clair de Lune – Claude Debussy

Debussy’s piano-led Clair de Lune is one movement of his Suite Bergamasque, inspired by poetry, Baroque-era music and the Impressionist style of the late-19th century. The result of these influences is a beautiful and mysterious song, with gentle passages that are supposedly reminiscent of the light of the moon reflected in water – hence the name, which means ‘moonlight’. It’s also an incredibly romantic song and has been featured as such in several movies and TV shows – notably in the Twilight series. You’ll certainly hear all the delicate subtleties of the piano performance above while wearing your Nura device. 

Kingdom Hearts (Dearly Beloved) – Yoko Shimomura

Kingdom Hearts is a video game series baked in nostalgia, featuring characters from the Disney and Final Fantasy universes. With such a heartwarming cast, emotional storyline and familiar settings, there’s little doubt that composer Yoko Shimomura wanted to transport players back to their childhood in the music. The main theme alone achieves that, particularly in Kingdom Hearts II. A string section and harp accompany a twinkling piano, playing notes that inspire childhood emotions of hope and intrigue. Dearly Beloved has been an integral part of the game’s nostalgic effect. 

Perpetuum Mobile – Penguin Cafe Orchestra

Founded in the 1970s by British composer Simon Jeffes, Penguin Cafe Orchestra is seldom likened to classical music and is more aligned with folk music. But their work is an example of how classical can be a gateway to new genres and styles. Jeffes and his bandmates were classically trained, with the group borne from Jeffes’ boredom of the repertoire of rock ‘n’ roll and classical, taking a more avant-garde route in composing. Perpetuum Mobile is the group’s most celebrated song and builds on the foundations laid by classical music. This song featured in numerous TV ads and was even sampled by Avicii in Fade Into Darkness. 

Canon in D – Johann Pachelbel 

Have you heard Pachelbel’s Canon in D? You probably have – it’s often used in weddings, films, TV shows, and its simplicity makes it a great piece for beginner musicians and schoolchildren to learn. The relaxing, elegant composition usually employs a string section, piano and harpsichord. This ensemble makes for an incredibly calming listen and some gorgeous moments. Put this on at the end of a stressful day, and you’ll feel better in no time. 

He’s A Pirate – Klaus Badelt

Ranked by Classic FM as the best movie soundtrack of the 2000s, Klaus Badelt’s He’s A Pirate served as the main theme of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean. It may not spring to mind when you think of classical music, but it lends itself to the genre brilliantly – as do many movie scores. Co-written by Hans Zimmer, He’s A Pirate does an excellent job of immersing us in Jack Sparrow’s swashbuckling and sea sailing, with tense build-ups and phenomenal climaxes. If you love this soundtrack, you’ll find plenty more to love in the world of classical music. 

The Legend of Zelda – Koji Kondo

Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda has gone down as one of the most iconic video games ever made. And it’s musical elements have been just as memorable and celebrated, from the soundtrack to playing the main character Link’s flute to progress the game. Koji Kondo’s main theme for The Legend Of Zelda gives new players the inspiration to get started in their new adventure with Link, and has ended up being an extremely nostalgic piece of music for gamers. It’s also been likened to the Lord Of The Rings soundtrack and has been performed by many orchestras since. This is a shining example of classical music’s influence on video game soundtracks and how classical elements help us get immersed in the game. 

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