How and Why I’m Listening to Classical Music: A Micro-Essay

Eric Scheske
2 min readJan 20, 2023
Photo by Dolo Iglesias on Unsplash

I long ago studied great contemporary writers. I remember one (Joan Didion?) commenting that she only listens to classical music, at least when she’s in her creative stages. She said something along the lines that it helps with rhythm and flow in her prose.

At the end of The Master and His Emissary, Iain McGilchrist noted that music is the province of the right hemisphere (the “good guy,” if you’re curious):

Music is, of all the arts, the one that is most dependent on the right hemisphere; of all aspects of music, only rhythm is appreciated as much by the left hemisphere.

McGilchrist then speculated that, because of the left hemisphere’s usurpation of the right hemisphere’s proper role, modern pop culture only appreciates music with a heavy beat (Exhibit A: Rock-n-Roll; Exhibit B: Rap).

One of my main purposes in writing these days is to help people restore the proper role of the right hemisphere, which entails shrinking the left hemisphere. The best way to do that: stop feeding the left hemisphere. Stop entertaining it, stop fostering it, stop doing things it enjoys.

I like really like rhythm (guilty pleasures: “California Love” by 2Pac and “Damn It Feels Good to be a Gangster” by Geto Boys). I decided I needed a lot more classical music in my life.

I hear 2Pac used a Steinway (Gryffindor, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

So I started a Spotify playlist with the handful of classical songs I already liked, then added to it with the help of a pianist friend and Spotify recommendations. If you have a Spotify account, you can find it at “Classical” under “eric.”

Here are a few recommendations from the list (full titles not provided):

Ravel, “Bolero” (Unfortunately, the song makes me think of Bo Derek in “10,” which doesn’t help my mental equilibrium)

Strauss, “Long Live the Magyar!” (this New Criterion article alerted me to its virtues)

Brahms, “Hungarian Dance №5” (and “21 Hungarian Dances” . . . Long Dance the Magyar!)

Bach, “The Well-Tempered Clavier”

Debussy, “Clair de Lune, L. 32”

Nikolai Kapustin, “24 Preludes” (an entire album; my pianist friend’s recommendation; it’s great, but I’m not sure whether it’s classical music or piano porn)

Bach, Italian Concerto, by Janos Sebestyen (for that matter, any of the Bach piano collections . . . I’m in the process of assembling a playlist of peaceful Bach piano music)

Spotify’s “Peaceful Classical Piano” playlist

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Eric Scheske

Former editor of Gilbert Mag and columnist for NC Register and Busted Halo. Freelance for many print pubs. Publishes here every Monday+. Paid Medium Member.