From Bach to Wagner: Why more students are tuning in to classical music

Three out of four British students listen to orchestral music to help them study. — AFP

THE FIGURES speak for themselves: 75% of British students say they listen to orchestral music during their revision sessions, according to a recent report by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO), relayed by the Classic FM website.

Symphonies and concertos are particularly popular, although the top choice is film scores. Some 44% of the young people surveyed said they listen to "soundtracks" to improve their concentration in class. A third of them also turn to music from video games to give themselves a little boost when studying.

If classical music suffers from having a reputation as old-fashioned in the collective imagination, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's survey shows that young people of today are much more attuned to it than those of previous generations. For example, only 68% of students who took school exams in the 1980s listened to such music during their revision sessions.

For James Williams, managing director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, this shift in young people's attitudes towards classical music can be explained by the prominence the genre gained in the lives of music lovers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Indeed, an RPO survey from 2020 found that classical music helped them relax and keep their spirits up during this time of uncertainty. "We saw in lockdown – another stressful time for many – how young people, in particular, relied on orchestral music for their wellbeing, relaxation, and happiness. The support that music can offer during tough times forges a relationship for the long term," James Williams told Classic FM.

Forget about lyrics

This enthusiasm for classical music has benefited specialised radio stations, as well as music streaming platforms – whether niche or more general. With this in mind, Apple Music launched an app dedicated to classical music at the end of March to differentiate itself from its competitors and to dominate in a segment of recorded music that is still under-exploited.

But is classical music more conducive to scholarly revision than other musical genres and, more generally, to intellectual work? The question is subject to debate among music fans as well as among scientists. Scientists posit that music helps boost concentration and reduces stress or anxiety.

But for that purpose, music that is neutral, calm and, ideally, without words seems to function better. The benefits of music at work also depend on individual tastes and listening habits. For example, individuals who play an instrument may be distracted by the classical compositions they listen to, due to their expertise in this area.

As a general rule, it is advisable to select pieces with a slow tempo and no lyrics to focus one's cognitive functions and give the brain a boost. – AFP Relaxnews

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