Classical Music Is So Relaxing!

March 8, 2016

relaxing-to-musicOr maybe not! Maggie Stapleton, a member of the Seattle ‘new music’ community, has two degrees in flute performance and is the Assistant Program Director at Classical KING FM 98.1 in Seattle.  Maggie also writes a blog called NEWMUSICBOX.  Her February 28th post THE CASE FOR RADIO highlighted an important topic from the perspective of The Discovery Orchestra.

“Research shows that the #1 core value for classical radio is ‘to relax.’  Does this apply to you? If not, what is yours?”

People frequently say to me: “I love classical music.  It’s so relaxing” and I always inwardly cringe a bit, because this may likely be indicative of a ‘hearer’ of classical music, rather than a ‘listener.’  And Maggie continues:  “And to clarify, this (the #1 core value for classical radio is ‘to relax’) applies to audiences of major market classical radio stations which typically play mostly Baroque through early 20th century repertoire from the Western canon.”  Again, Maggie relates: “For me, classical music can be relaxing, but I don’t listen to it to relax.  I listen with intent, focus, and…hope to feel something, whether it’s good or bad. If I don’t feel anything, I turn it off.”

Maggie reports that most of the participants in a weekly ‘new music’, Sunday 9PM Twitter conversation called Musochat firmly answered ‘No’ regarding the #1 core value for classical radio is ‘to relax’ question: “Does this apply to you?”  And, in fact, it makes a lot of sense that individuals adventuresome enough to listen to newly composed classical music would say that the #1 core value for classical radio are things such as: “to engage, to get pumped, to think, to discover, to be thrilled, stimulated, and excited.” One listener even offered: “to ponder new sounds in a more solitary setting (i.e. radio) than at a concert.”

This attitude of ‘engagement’ from listeners is certainly music to our ears here at The Discovery Orchestra.  As we noted in our new 8-part American Public Television series Fall in Love with Music, it may occasionally be the intent of a composer of classical music to relax us – but frequently it is not.  I think it is fair to say, and to quote Maggie again, that composers invariably intend for us tofeel something’ when listening to their music.

Just another reminder – don’t miss an episode of Fall in Love with Music!  Check your local listings, and if you live in New York/New Jersey metro area, tune to NJTV on Wednesday, March 30th at 8:30 pm for Episode One – Our Musical Focus.  Hope you’ll join us then!

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Rick Robinson March 14, 2016 at 9:29 pm

Actually, I go with empowering and motivating.
Keep up the great work!


Alan Yu March 18, 2016 at 3:01 pm

Muzak is perhaps more appropriate for relaxing. I listen to music to learn, to discover and to explore…


Julian Adams September 24, 2017 at 12:08 am

At the age of 14, I discovered classical music (totally on my own). I became mesmerized by the closing bars of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3. After that, I listened intently to every bit of Beethoven I could get my hands on. I could not stop listening to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3. And then to his Symphony No. 5. I suppose it is fair to say that I have “memorized” all of his works as well as all of the 27 piano concertos of Mozart.

I, too, am annoyed by people who say “classical music is so relaxing.” I always found it to be exactly the opposite of relaxing. I agree that so many persons who say they find classical music relaxing really is not listening. It has been my experience that they are merely using it as as background music. Which, for me, can be terribly annoying.


George Marriner Maull September 26, 2017 at 3:44 pm


Amen! Thanks so much for your comments!



Julian Adams September 26, 2017 at 6:02 pm

In my comment above, I had meant to say “I became mesmerized by the closing bars of the 1st movement of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3.” I read many years later that Beethoven greatly admired Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 and had remarked that he wished he had composed it. The closing bars of both concertos, it seems to me, have structural similarities. Some consider Mozart’s 24th piano concerto to be his finest–I would agree.


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