I never particularly liked pop music either, falling into an eclectic mix of rock that ranged all the way from Enigma and Billy Joel to Metallica.  Some of my friends listen to classical music on occasion, but I just never really "got" it.

After seeing The Rock, I loved the instrumental soundtrack (Hans Zimmer is an evil genius) so much that I went out and bought it pretty much on the way home.  Ditto for Crimson Tide a little later.  For some reason, though, I never really made any sort of connection between that and the classics until people who walked into my room while I was playing a track from one of them started asking if it was Beethoven or Mozart.

Finally, I was watching a special interview with Billy Joel on PBS a few nights ago.   Joel was mentioning how much he was influenced by classical music, and they played a clip of a Bach piece that had a theme very similar to one of his rock n' roll songs.  What really struck me was the fact that I liked the Bach piece more than I liked the Billy Joel song.

So, I broke down last night and started downloading some Bach mp3s from Napster.

Surprise, surprise...I really like it.

Whether I always liked it and just never discovered it, or, whether I just wasn't mature enough to appreciate it until now...I may never know.

Many people find themselves in this situation. Though they've never thought of themselves as "the kind of people who like classical music" (as if this were somehow a separate breed of humanity, "Not people like us, dear"), they suddenly realise (often through movie soundtracks or some other sneaky, underhanded trick) that they really do like it.

So what is a beginner to do? After all, classical music is, within its area, as varied as rock'n'roll or country music. People who like the Sex Pistols don't necessarily like Billy Joel, and, likewise, Holst is quite different from Vivaldi.

Therefore, in the spirit of cautious guidance to the newbie classical music enthusiast, let me offer a few tips. They are completely subjective, I must warn you, and they aren't necessarily exhaustive. However, they are based on a lifetime interest in classical music and in most other types of music (though I will freely admit that country music is not my cup of tea).

If you liked the Star Wars theme, you'll like Gustav Holst's "The Planets", from which it was plagiarised which inspired it.

If you like heavy metal, chances are you'll like Johann Sebastian Bach, Gustav Holst, Carl Orff, Modest Mussorgsky and Ludwig van Beethoven. Have a look at Richard Wagner, too.

If you like soft instrumental pieces or ballads, you will probably like Antonio Vivaldi, Bedrich Smetana and Frederic Chopin.

If introspective or gloomy music is your style, it is safe to assume that you will like Richard Wagner, Modest Mussorgsky, Gustav Mahler and Edvard Grieg. You will probably also like Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni, particularly the so-called Albinoni Adagio (which isn't really by Albinoni at all - since it is a reconstruction, from a manuscript fragment, of an Albinoni piece, by Milanese musicologist Remo Giazotto ).

If you're into techno, check out Philip Glass or György Ligeti. You may also find yourself liking Arnold Schönberg and Alban Berg, though these are definitely acquired tastes.

Everyone likes Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. If you don't, there is probably something wrong with you, requiring therapy.

As I said before, this is completely subjective, and I am sure there are plenty of styles of music not represented here. The intent here is merely to kickstart your interest.


If you feel that your particular taste in modern music is not represented here, feel free to msg me, and I will amend this writeup
to cover your interest, if I can.

Thanks are due to proj2501 and Oneiromancer for suggesting addenda to this list.

For a more extensive list of classical music, by styles and composers, sockpuppet has recently created a fine writeup: Classical Music Starter Guide. Highly recommended for somewhat deeper dives into the fathomless depths of classical music.

Final disclaimer: Make your own decisions. Don't expect my tastes to reflect your own. Go with what you like, and ignore public opinion. Never worry about whether it is "right". Think for yourself. (etc., etc.)


sideways says try mentioning that if you dig industrial, glitch, or drill 'n' bass, you'll dig stravinsky. stravinsky is some good shit. (I couldn't agree more)

If introspective, gloomy, angry, dramatic verging on cacophonous, the audio equivalent of every human tragedy, disaster and stroke of violent idiocy - not to mention the feelings of alienation and resentment of Authority found in so much of heavier popular music - are your thing, I wouldn't recomment that much of Mahler. Or Bruckner, or any of the other heavier, more florid romantic Germanic compsers.

Rather, try something with a little more attitude, a little more craziness and a little less melodrama. Shostakovich's later symphonies, particularly numbers 8, 10 and 11. Prokofiev's more inane works. In my experience the Russians do this stuff a lot better than the Germans, and often more noisily too. Admittedly they are often a challenge to listen to, they completely defy the "Oh, isn't that nice and relaxing, like a brain massage, it makes me sleep" line spouted by so many people who've never listened to any classical with balls.

I was raised on classical music from birth and love a lot of it, but I admit that much of it does waffle on in the pretentious manner that those who don't know its glories associate with its stuffiness and frilly old-people conservatism. To escape that, if you don't like the violence of the 20th century Russians, what I cannot reccommend enough are Bach's solo works for piano or violin.

These pieces have a purity, an austere elegance verging on almost mathematical minimalism. More than anything, the most perfect piece of classical music I have ever heard is the Ciaccona from Bach's Partita No. 2 for solo violin. A few other people have also stated this view, including Yehudi Menuhin, who declared in one optimistic conversation that it was capable of curing most evil in the human mind. The best recording I have heard is by Itzhak Perlman, but there are no doubt many other excellent versions out there, I come from a family of cellists and our collection of violin recordings is sadly lacking.

By and large, though, I am disheartened by the number of people who honestly try to get into classical, but only listen to the fluffy, light, well known to the point of cliched stuff. Particularly that which comes on those discs that are my greatest hate: "The Best of Beethoven!" "Popular Classical!"< rant > NO! YOU FOOLS! Don't break a symphony or a sonata into bits! It just DOESN'T WORK! It's not finished! You can't put half a song on a CD, don't put half a concerto! I can't listen to those CDs, they lurch from snippet to snippet with no conclusion of any of the pieces, hopping illogically from key to key and style to style until your brain gives up and runs out of your ears if you try and listen. No wonder it puts people to sleep. No wonder they look at me pityingly when I say I like classical. All I can say is: buy the whole damn piece. And buy at least one thing a little more hardcore than "The Swan" from Carnival of the Animals or "The Less Interesting Movements of the Four Seasons." < /rant >

A list of what I have found non-classically inclined friends have considered cool:

As for John Williams, I've found in the music for Star Wars: Episodes 1 and 2 a quite astonishing degree of similarity to so much of Prokofiev's better stuff. Ah, geniuses think alike, eh? Actually he gets more Russian as he gets older, he was verging on Shosty on some of the score for Minority Report.

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