(Click on the blue links in the text to hear the music we talk about below.)
Continuing our suggestions about music for a work environment, there are times when you want to encourage a more energetic mood in yourself and in staff. As we noted in the preceding post on calming music, choosing music that is complex and instrumental (without lyrics) seems to stimulate the brain to perform well at work.
Let’s begin with the andante, which literally means “walking tempo.” This tempo naturally speeds up your body’s internal rhythms. Here’s a brief example from the start of the second movement of Mozart’s “Prague” Symphony. Listen to the gentle pulse of the andante, filled with warm caressing lyricism. No wonder Mozart was so popular in Prague!
For livelier rhythms you might also look for movements marked allegretto or scherzo. Here, for instance, is the beginning of the second movement, marked allegretto, of Schubert’s Symphony #3. There’s a wonderfully sweet, childlike innocence and zest in this music.
For something with really bubbling energy, it’s hard to beat the following two pieces. First, listen to part of the scherzo (which literally means “joke”) from Felix Mendelssohn’s “Incidental Music to a Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Mendelssohn could be called the Genius of the Quicksilver Style.
This music was inspired by the opening scene of Act II of Shakespeare’s play, where Puck asks one of the woodland fairies: “How now, spirit! Whither wander you?” The reply is “…over hill, over dale…I do wander everywhere/Swifter than the moon’s sphere.”
Second, for an example from the symphonic master of the scherzo, listen to the opening of the third movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. Its cascading line, built on a descending major scale, is filled with gentle hints of laughter and mischief. For the historically curious, it’s worth knowing that in his many scherzos Beethoven transformed the rather staid, generic minuet of the rigid pre-French Revolution social order into something much more lively and distinctively his own.
To find other examples of energy-producing music, Beethoven is a very good place to start. The third movements of all his symphonies except the Ninth (there it comes in the second movement) have vibrant, sometimes amusing scherzos. One of Josh’s favorite scherzos appears in the third movement of the Fourth Symphony, where the scherzo rhythms remind him of the way the car lurched when he first learned to drive a stick-shift. Talk about music and memory!
What music energizes your brain without interfering with concentration when you’re working? Please write in and tell us.