Put these masterpieces on your playlist and you'll never hear music the same way again.
1. “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin
Many musicians draw a line between pop and classical music. Not Gershwin. He blurred classical music and jazz—the pop music of his day—and created one of the most-played pieces ever.
2. “Pachelbel’s Canon”
It’s simple and beautiful—and you hear echoes of it on the radio every day without knowing it. The chord progression is one of the most copied in pop music. (For the music nerds out there, the progression is: I V vi iii IV I IV V.)
3. “Tristan Und Isolde” by Richard Wagner
For a music theorist, Wagner’s opera is one of the most confusing pieces ever written. It’s so tonally ambiguous that you can’t really grasp what key it’s in. There’s no cadence until Act 3—almost five hours into the piece. That kind of ambiguity has influenced hundreds of film scores.
4. “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”
Don’t tell the kids, but something’s happening in the kitchen. Most people leave out the verse, “Someone’s makin’ love to Dinah; someone’s in the kitchen I know. Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah, ‘cause I can’t hear the old banjo.” Back then, the phrase “making love” meant flirting.
5. Hildegard’s Music
Generally, the history of classical music is all about dead men in wigs. It hasn’t always been that way. The first notable composer in western music was actually a woman—Hildegard von Bingen. Not only is she a saint, she wrote some of the most soulful early church music.
6. “She’ll be coming ‘Round the Mountain”
Children’s songs aren’t so innocent. “Ring Around the Rosy” and “London Bridge” are both tunes about death, and “Coming ‘Round the Mountain” is even worse. It’s a riff off an old spiritual called “When the Chariot Comes,” which happens to be about the end of days—the rapture.
7. Symphony No. 8 by Gustav Mahler
Go big or go home! Featuring a full symphony and three choirs, some performances of Mahler’s No. 8 feature over 1000 performers. An ensemble that large is guaranteed to blow you away—it helps that the piece has one of the most powerful finales in all of music.
8. "La muette de Portici" by Daniel Auber
Don’t let anyone tell you that music can’t change lives. Or, for that matter, a country’s borders. Auber’s nationalist opera was so powerful that concertgoers rioted outside the concert hall, sparking the Belgian Revolution. One year later, Belgium had won independence from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.
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