One of the only things I remember from history class in elementary school is learning about classic composers. Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and many more were as popular as rock and pop stars are in modern times. However, there are still some extremely good modern composers out there that aren’t recognized very well for the amazing work they do. The most well-known of these composers have written pieces for movie franchises like Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter and Marvel, but people still don’t know who they are and don’t really pay attention to the music that is in movies. Pop and rock songs may be more popular, but I think that music that is composed for and played by symphonic orchestras is just as good, if not more so.
I have a very broad taste in music, so I don’t think it was a surprise to any of my close friends or family when I joined band class in fifth grade. Yes, I am a band nerd. I’m proud of it. I played flute in school bands for six years, and playing symphonic music brought out in me an appreciation for it. It is so much hard work getting so many different instruments to play one simple two to three-minute piece. It would take us weeks, even months to be able to play a piece well enough to perform. Professionals have one practice together and that’s it. It takes years of individual practice to get to that level, a conviction which I deeply admire.
Symphonic music isn’t just hard work, however. It has more layers of different melodies and harmonies than more modern music because more instruments are involved. In my high school band, there were over 10 different types of instruments playing and that didn’t even include the strings. One good song where all of the layers can be picked out is “Prince Caspian Flees” from the movie “Narnia: Prince Caspian.” As the music builds and more and more instruments are added, the tension increases, making the listener feel tense as a result.
That’s another thing about symphonic music that I find so amazing: It can shape a listener’s mood. Listening to songs like “the Avengers” from the movie with the same name can make someone feel like they’re going on a mission, while songs like “I am the Doctor” from the show “Doctor Who” are light and lilting, making a person feel lighthearted and happy.
Additionally, good movies wouldn’t even be half as exciting or funny or scary without the music playing in the background. For example, when a character in a horror movie is walking by themselves through the forest or down a creepy hall, the music starts to get louder and louder, building tension and making the viewers more scared than the character because they are anticipating the eventual jump scare or chase scene. During a chase scene, fast music can put a sense of urgency into the viewing audience. However, more tender parts of a movie are shown with softer, calming music in the background. All of this music is played with symphonic instruments.
Even songs that are not associated with movies or TV shows can have these profound effects on people. My middle school band played a piece about monsters. It had three acts: “Quasimodo,” “Sasquatch” and “Nessie.” “Quasimodo” was fast and light and I could always picture Quasimodo swinging around the bell-tower delightedly. “Sasquatch” was loud and abrasive and made me and my classmates think of the actual Sasquatch stomping around in the woods and even nearly getting caught by people. “Nessie” started out low and mournful, as though the actual Loch Ness Monster was lonely, but then changed to light and happy, as though the monster had realized how free it was in the lake swimming around. All of this I could think of from a piece that I myself played in. Pop and rock music simply tells people what they should think about it, but symphonic music lets the listener interpret what’s going on. Listening to this genre can deepen one’s understanding of music.