In my preteen/middle school years, I was very into classical music. Like any middle schooler, I was frequently confused of what was going on in my life. But, unlike most “normal” 13 year olds, I can honestly say that I was plagued with anxiety. From what exactly, I can’t ever remember. Possibly the idea of failing, the idea what I wouldn’t be good enough, the idea that no one truly liked me for who I was. I was a 13 year old girl who struggled with her self-image, who did not have one confident, healthy minded bone in her body. Classical music was used as a way to soothe my nerves, to allow me to set a moment aside to breathe. While I never played any instrument or knew what I was even ever listening to, the sounds of piano concertos soothed my ears and mind, helping me sleep when sleep would not nip at me, helping me focus when it was dire. Classical music offers so much to the ear; there are perky melodies, where the pianos jumps and sings, where the piano releases sounds of spring and summer, chirping, allowing you to look forward to your day. There are songs where the piano hums softly, soothing the listener, allowing sleep to cover them softly. There are songs that will break your heart to pieces, the pain and lament behind every stroke of ivory. The period of my classical music listening in middle school was short, but it was memorable.
Now, in college, I find myself turning more and more to classical music. I find myself tense, full of anxiety over this paper or that paper, over what a certain professor may think of my work, over the grade I will receive at the end of the semester. Sleepless nights are common now. There are times where my mind does not rest until 1 or 2 in the morning, and that’s if I’ve got no work to complete at home. Some people are ashamed of admitting their mental illness. I believe that admitting and coming to terms with it aids with learning how to get better. In the past few months, I’ve once again started to attend weekly therapy sessions. Talking to a professional helps, of course, but the sounds of piano aids me in learning to calm myself, to bring myself to a still moment where my thoughts don’t race so quickly, so anxiously.
One of my favorite composers is Franz Liszt, though, ironically, he came after the classical era in music. Liszt was part of the Romantic period of art and music, and his works are testimony to that. His music is amongst some of my favorite. There is one song, though, that I frequently go back to, no matter the mood. Liebestraum No. 3 is the most famous of the Liebestraum trilogy by Liszt. The song’s title translates to “love dream” or “dream of love” and the song truly shows that. It begins softly and slowly, strokes of the keys gentle. The song carries into a romantic melody, the piano singing to the listener, both lifting and breaking the heart. Liszt understands art, understand the soul; he wrote a piece that has the opportunity to bring the listener to tears if they are broken enough. He also gives the listener an opportunity to become still, to listen, to watch all beautiful things that happen around them. I have listened to this song a multitudes of times, and every single time I notice something different about it, something different about the way I feel about the song. There is never a moment where I grow tired of the song, never a moment where I wished I hadn’t played it. It heals just as much as it breaks; Liebestraum soothes me like nothing ever has. It drives me to breathe, to calm down, but it also drives me to work. When I play it, I feel calm enough to work my thoughts out, to finish the work I have been given.
Liszt is a gift to my work ethic. His songs, in all their variety, give me soundtracks to live to. Scherzo and Marsch is a hoppy tune, something I listen to when I desperately need to get work done. Consolation No. 2 is a gentle sound, the sound of the city as the sun rises, as life wakes from sleep to greet the morning. Un Sospiro is, quite literally, a sigh; it floats over the body, weaves in and out, fills you with relaxation and serenity. Feuille D’Album is the sound of the city at it’s height; when the sun is high, and the people are out; the piano sings to travelers of all types, counting their steps, the jogs, the dashes across streets and from train car to train car. These pieces are gorgeous in every right, and don’t even scratch the surface of the greatness that Liszt has composed. He was truly a talented man, and I am one of many that adore his work.