Hello there! This is Molly, flute instructor and one of the owners at the Perfect 5th.
As a music therapy student at Temple University, I was a participant in a few “Guided Imagery and Music” practice sessions that masters and doctoral level Music Therapy students subjected me to. After my first session of progressive muscle relaxation I was listening to Wagner, and with the help of therapist verbal prompts, I found myself flying around in outer space with my cat, Willow! I was laughing out loud and feeling quite giddy, thinking how cute my cat looked in her astronaut suit! I did not want to stop listening to the music and still remember how powerfully the music held me there, floating in outer space.
Currently, I often travel around the country to the national and regional flute conventions, as I am sometimes a presenter at flute pedagogy workshops and work with the Blocki Flute Method and at my own Fluteplace booth. While there, I like to take the opportunity to attend concerts and workshops. I always want to attend the concerts of some of the greatest flutists around the world at these conventions. I have to admit, I experience some listening fatigue, as I am exposed to whirlwind of flutes, flutists, music, noise, and flute information almost 24/7!
Finding myself in San Diego a few summers ago at a fabulous piccolo concert, followed by another concert of newly composed music, I became increasingly sleepy and had trouble concentrating. I did not want to “check out” and lose focus, so I thought back to my experiences with guided imagery and began making up a story. Soon, in my imagination, the unfamiliar classical music that I was hearing suddenly became alive, and each new section and new key became a new part of a story. I found myself running along a river and I had birds flying along with me. I jumped in the river, swimming at lightning speed, and suddenly was in a race with another person. I jumped out of the river and was running again until I came to a tree! The tree was beautiful and majestic and reached up to the sky and animals were all drawn to it. The music I was hearing suddenly became alive again, and each new section and new key became a new part of my story.
The wonderful thing about being to imagine while listening to classical music is that it can take you out of your present moment and bring you joy that was intended by the composer. Sometimes you can hear angst, anger or sorrow in a composer’s music, which you can also explore through your own imaginative storytelling while listening. You can help identify and express to yourself your own feelings, perhaps leading to your a needed resolution for yourself.
Another positive result of storytelling while listening to classical music, is that the storytelling becomes a way for you to organize what you are hearing and begin to identify the musical structure of the song. The song can be remembered and recognized later on if you made up a story to it. Many people start to tune classical music out if they are not given a way to focus on the music and relax.
Next time you are at a concert and find your self beginning to tune out the music and not focusing, try using your imagination. Or, you can simply lie down on your couch at home, turn on some music and practice listening with imagination.
For parents who want to expose kids to classical music, try putting classical music on at dinner or in the car, and have your family actively make up stories to the music together. I do something similar in my KinderFlute classes, where I pull out capes, scarves, balls, jump-ropes and other toys, and let my kids run around the room to a piece of classical music, making up a story as they go along! They love it and they later remember the music when I play it for them again. This activity is especially helpful if they are to be playing a portion of that same music that they are hearing in a method book or for a recital. While this is so useful as a teaching tool, I ultimately simply want the kids to love the music and realize that they can use it for their own expressive purposes throughout their lives.
Don’t know where to start? Here are some great pieces of music that you may want to try:
Masquerade Waltz by Kachaturian
Pines of Rome or Fountains of Rome by Resphigi
Morning from Pier Gynt Suite by Grieg
The Hall of the Mountain King by Grieg
Spring (or any of the seasons!) by Vivaldi
Water Music by Handel
Royal Fireworks by Handel
The Hebrides by Mendelsohn
Night on Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky
O Fortuna by Orff
La Mer by Debussy
Die Moldau by Smetana
The Swan by Saint Saens
(Tips brought to you by Molly Shortridge, Flute Instructor at P5)