You’re walking down the street. Your notebook in one arm to show off whatever you’re studying, with your BlackBerry proudly in your other free hand, pretending to fiddle with it just so people think you have a social life. You’re wearing the sunglasses, your favourite shirt and just generally feeling epic. Yet, fiddling around on your iPod, it is rather difficult to find the exact sort of music to simply express that feeling. Sure, AC/DC would feel epic, if you were currently dispatched in Afghanistan that is… Likewise, The Rolling Stones would be awesome, but this is simply not the mood for them. This isn’t a relaxed occasion – it’s your moment of grandeur as you’re walking down this street. And you’re just looking for the right track to express that grandeur.
Searching through the classical music section on your iPod, if it even forms a significant part of your music library, comes at almost a pain. It seems like the sort of music your grandparents would listen to. After retirement, that is. This could not, however, be any farther from the truth. For no other style of music can quite express the grandeur and magnificence that classical music has to offer. So you quickly browse through your iPod and select O Fortuna, by Carl Orff. And suddenly, the whole world around you seems to change. You feel grander than ever before. You feel like standing on the end of the pier and just splitting the sea into two parts, as Moses did. The sheer power, the sheer dynamics, the sheer life in the music is amazing. You quickly adjust your sunglasses (just to remind how cool you look in them) and realise that, the moment you enter the lecture hall, O Fortuna as a backing track will definitely make you the most badass kid in town.
A lot of classical music can simply be described as grand, and that brand of grandeur rarely exists in other types of music. Mozart’s Requiem, for example, is not just a simple funeral march but instead a complex, intricate collection of dozens of voices, instruments, all of them at times seeming like they couldn’t get any louder and any more powerful. Imagine being buried to that. Imagine the sheer shivers that would be sent down the funeral goers spines’ as they are slowly drawn into what seems like its own universe of a funeral mass. Likewise, Handel’s Hallelujah has been performed with five hundred singers at the Royal Albert Hall in a concert that sounded truly like the heavens would be crashing down on earth. Elaborate metaphors aside, I have never seen this sort of grandeur be replicated anywhere else, since it feels like you can simply not overcome the sheer size of a massive orchestra fully focused on a piece.
On STAR, there is a show by the name of “Music to Listen to While Wearing a Sweater”. Classical music could often instead be described as “Music to Conquer A Small Pacific Island Country To”. Just imagine how your huge armies would be arriving whilst Ride of the Valkyries is playing in the background, how the people would vote in a democracy with Beethoven’s Ninth as a backdrop and how you would march through the streets triumphantly (of course, still wearing the sunglasses) whilst the military bands would play Dvorak’s New World Symphony. And, if you have Cecil Rhodes syndrome and think you’re conquering for the British crown, what better musical backdrop than Land of Hope and Glory? All I can say whilst walking back home, looking at the Scottish countryside with Elgar playing in my headphones, is that classical music has a certain sort of epic-ness, there is no better way to describe it, that is simply timeless. It has the capability of making you feel grand in nearly every situation (imagine entering an exam to Beethoven’s Fifth) and for anyone, Napoleonic complex or not, it provides the perfect musical backdrop for the exaggerated grandeur of everyday life.
A Sample: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRgXUFnfKIY