Contemporary Classical Music and Our Brains | INFJ Forum

Contemporary Classical Music and Our Brains


Captain Obvious
Retired Staff
May 8, 2008
Type me.
I ran across this article today, and, being a morbidly curious person, promptly looked up some contemporary classical music to hear it for myself.
I've often wondered whatever became of classical composers in the modern era, and I have long assumed that they got absorbed by the film score industry (which does produce some wonderful instrumental pieces). But it turns out there actually is plenty of classical music being composed; it's just predominately atonal, and since people find it hard to listen to, it doesn't get a lot of credit.

Here are a couple of pieces by a fellow named Arnold Schoenberg, one of the first "modern" atonal composers. I found this first clip enjoyable to listen to, but it turned out that it was one of the man's earlier works, before he really composed atonally. It's somewhere in-between what we're accustomed to hearing, and truly modern style.


While it was good from moment to moment, I was left slightly dissatisfied, because there was no major refrain that I could reproduce in my head
It just sounds so goofy! (referring to the second youtube video). I was actually laughing through much of it.
I really like having them as background music, but not something to sit and listen to

Actually the second song, I think there is a name for this type of music.. It is purposely 'out of place' , There are several artists doing this and I think the movement originated several decades ago. It's also reflected in 'popular' music and fine art at the time

Funny I've been noticing this appearing more and more in present music too, esp in electronica.. It's what's being used in the fashion shows esp in Paris -the music is all mixed and chaotic, or in short experimental films etc ..but interesting in the end if you try not to focus too much on the music and see it just as a backdrop to the clothes.. or if in a movie, backdrop to what is happening there.
Last edited:
I liked it.

Although, I have been trained to this style, so that may have something to do with it.

Also, this s**t's HARD to play! Trust me, it sounds one hell of a lot more fluid than its written!!
I liked it. The piece as a whole seemed like it fit together. Then again, I have never felt quite in sync with other classical artists such as Mozart and Bach.

..but interesting in the end if you try not to focus too much on the music and see it just as a backdrop to the clothes.. or if in a movie, backdrop to what is happening there

It always seems like we are mixing different media more and more these days.
I have a hard time with todays contemporary classical music. The lack of an easily remembered tune, I think, is a major part of that. Though there is some great music out there.
Being a classically trained musician myself, I love to hear it all.

One of my favorite exercises when teaching music classes (I like to sub) is to play a piece of music for the group and allow them to compose a story to go with it. Because that is the purpose of music, isn't it? To evoke a response, an emotional response, or depict/reinforce a scene or story. But music can be different for so many people. I did one of my final papers based on my findings and experiences with this exercise. And it is remarkably soothing.
1. listen to piece of music
2. jot down the imges that come to mind
3. share

or, as I do, just enjoy the story it tells me.

This is one of my favorite pieces. I was part of the All New England Young Professionals Band when we performed it. Done with a big group it is a very powerful piece.

A contemporary work for band by John Paulson, "Epinicion," is an aleatoric piece that takes its inspiration from an epinicion, which is a victory song in the Greek games or in war.spoiler, highlight to read.
Performed live, it is a powerful and moving piece; deep, loud, riveting. Unfortunately all i can find is a tinny utube rendition.....

[ame=""]YouTube- Epinicion - FBA District III High School All-District Band[/ame]
Last edited:
I actually meant individual parts, but that too. Playing this stuff solo is hard even.
I only like it as a thought experiment. Because it makes me think and surprises me. Like a very difficult non-standard math problem. This music is not random or chaotic. It has patterns, very clear and powerful. Compare with jazz also.

It is not very pleasant, most of the times, I agree. Yes, the human brain struggles through, almost entirely. But every now and then there are these "sweets". And this release brings pleasure to the mind, which can be higher than other more "tasty" forms, especially if one already got very used to all of their patterns.

A close relative of mine was a professional classical musician, with long and successful international carrier. This person's opinion was very negative of all modern forms of symphonic music, and I used to be influenced by this opinion, but I'm not so influenced anymore. While I agree that many works sound unnatural and unpleasant, I wouldn't completely write them off, because of it.

I think even a musician with great practice might not always be able to understand that. Because such a musician may not be a composer, and may refuse to think like a composer. The creative musical mind listens while creating on its own, and thus is interested in unexpected patterns. The musician's mind is trained in years and years of daily repetitive routine of practicing performing skill, so this mind might happen to dislike extraordinary illogical patterns. Both types of minds have needs, which should be respected; variety is the key.
Last edited:
Sorry, I just don't like this (the second piece). It's disjointed and out of key. I was a classical violin player for 8 years when I was younger. I'm very familiar with Old school classical music. There's a reason you still hear Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach so long after they originally wrote. People still connect with that music. It still moves us. This stuff has very limited appeal. I can't warm up to it; most people wouldn't either I suspect. And that woman playing the piano looks like a spider trying to have a bowel movement!
And that woman playing the piano looks like a spider trying to have a bowel movement!

Oh, my god! ROFL!!! I can't get this picture out of my head! I think i am going to cry i am laughing so hard!
Glad to brighten your day! I was laughing too as I was writing that!!:rofl:
QuestingPoet said:
And that woman playing the piano looks like a spider trying to have a bowel movement!

LOL! I can TOTALLY see that!
Meh, I didn't think it was that bad.

Sure, I couldn't hum any of it back to anyone, but I thought it was pretty entertaining. I've played atonal pieces before and I found them to be rather engulfing when you're a musician playing them. I can see why audiences wouldn't be extremely receptive, but what ever floats your boat.