The Influence of Classical Music

"With Rachmaninoff, Lizst, and Chopin, there’s a mystery to the music, it’s much more abstract and much more able to stimulate your imagination."

"There are two ways of making music : You can come up with something totally new and refreshing or you can work on already existing concepts, try to make it better and add things to it. The first thing is really difficult to do, actually that's only possible with making new sounds with computers. The second way is just correcting things... Actually there's also a third option which is doin a little of both... That's what we are doing, looking at the past and trying to do a little of both"

"Some people will think its a load of pretentious wank, and some people will like it because its different."

"I prefer music that invents a universe"

Matt Bellamy

Drawing influences from various Classical Maestros and modern bands such as Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, Queen, and many others, MUSE launched into the 21st century with a bang, disrupting the flood of girl-pop and boy-bands that dominated the late 90s. Muse mixes sounds from genres such as electronic, progressive metal and art rock, and forms such as classical music, jazz, and rock opera.

Many Muse songs are recognizable by lead vocalist Matt Bellamy's use of vibrato, falsetto, and melismatic phrasing (influenced by Jeff Buckley). Muse often uses arpeggios and fuzz tones in keyboards, guitar, bass (Arpeggiator and pitch-shift effects to create a more "electronic" sound, citing Jimi Hendrix and Tom Morello as influences. On the other had, "fuzz bass" is an overdriven, distorted bass tone.)


As a classical pianist, MUSE's lead songwriter and keyboardist Matt Bellamy would pick up from Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Lizst, and other greats, reinvent the sound and incorporate them into their songs. He would also play other classical pieces from the greats during live concerts, pay tribute and in doing so introduce the classics to a new generation of music fans. 

This can show how complex and grand compositions do stand the test of time. For artists, it can be worth it to learn from classical music, to experiment with unique, abstract, and complex compositions.

Below are some hits from Muse that were influenced by classical music, side by side.

Can you spot the similarities?

MUSE SONGS AND THEIR CLASSICAL INFLUENCE


PLUG IN BABY & BACH'S TOCCATA AND FUGUE IN D MINOR



Muse's first worldwide hit saved rock music from Britney Spears in the dawn of the 21st century. The early 2000s prog-rock revivalists broke through with the lead single from their second album, Origins of Symmetry, which demonstrated all the musical bluster and histrionics for which they’ve become known: operatic vocal flourishes in the vein of Freddie Mercury and ambitious instrumental noodling. Matt Bellamy’s lead guitar riff was inspired by Bach’s austere organ work, Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Readers of Total Guitar magazine voted it the number one riff of the 2000s.(BBC)

UNITED STATES OF EURASIA + COLLATERAL DAMAGE & CHOPIN'S NOCTURNE E FLAT MAJOR OP.9 NO.2


USoE is a song influenced by the Operatic vocals of Queen and of Chopin's classical piece, which was played at end of the song and entitled "Collateral Damage" in Muse's album "The Resistance".


SONGS INSPIRED BY RACHMANINOV

"Rachmaninov has some kind of weird dark edge to his music which I don't think I've heard with any other kind of music before." Matt Bellamy

Several of Muse's songs have been inspired by Rachmaninoff. In fact, according to this article, you can't believe how much Rachmaninoff influenced popular music. Sweeping arpeggios and dramatic chords are a staple of the Maestro.

The song "Butterflies and Hurricanes" takes its name from a common mathematical chaos theory. The theory is that if a butterfly beats its wings in China, the force could create a hurricane in the United States. According to Matt, "It's about hope, about trying to find the strength to get through any given situation, I was trying to find a classical type of piano style that would be heavy and work with bass and drums. It had that sort of mechanical paradiddle thing all the way through, and then it breaks down into this kind of romantic, flowing weird bit in the middle"


"Exogenesis: Symphony" is the last song on the album "The Resistance", and is split into three four-minute tracks, each separately named. It features an orchestra of "about 40 musicians" throughout, being described by Matt as "almost purely classical in style....This is influenced by Rachmaninov, Richard Strauss, Chopin and Pink Floyd. It is a story of humanity coming to an end and everyone pinning their hopes on a group of astronauts who go out to explore space and spread humanity to another planet."



Specifically inspired by Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto, "Space Dementia" starts with a piano introduction and heads into a heavy verse, with hammering piano and bass, the chorus is introduced by a looping synth keyboard, followed by a delicate vocal show, before hammering piano introduces the next verse. However, the chorus vocal line (from "... and tear us apart", until the end of the chorus, and chords are an exact reduction of part of Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto 1st Movement at about 1:30. (Muse Wiki)


I BELONG TO YOU & SAINT-SAENS' "MON COEURS S'OUVRE A TA VOIX"


In the end of this song, Matt Bellamy once again performs a classic opera piece and reintroduces it to a new generation, using a new style.


THE GLOBALIST & ELGAR'S "NIMROD"



In the end of this song, Matt Bellamy once again performs a classic opera piece and reintroduces it to a new generation, using a new style.


HOODOO & TCHAIKOVSKY PIANO CONCERTO NO.1


The melodic lines of Hoodoo are similar to Tchaikovsky's piano concerto No. 1, though slowed down a bit. You will also see similar piano technique.


MEGALOMANIA + RACHMANINOFF'S THIRD PIANO CONCERTO



"Megalomania" is a track specifically ifluenced by Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto, as you can hear right from the start of the track.


INTERLUDE & SAMUEL BARBER'S "ADAGIO FOR STRINGS"



"Adagio for Strings" plays behind the fuzz guitars at the start of the song "Interlude" and influences of the melodic lines of the classical piece are also present in the same, in faster tempo.


INTERLUDE & SAMUEL BARBER'S "ADAGIO FOR STRINGS"



"Adagio for Strings" plays behind the fuzz guitars at the start of the song "Interlude" and influences of the melodic lines of the classical piece are also present in the same, in faster tempo.


REDEMPTION & BEETHOVEN'S "MOONLIGHT SONATA"


Upon listening, you would hear similarities in style and melody, between the two tracks above.


OTHER CLASSICAL PIECES





"When I listen to symphonies, or long pieces of music, there are so many different moods and movements, and things that are really beautiful going to something with a lot of tension. Also, something that's very simple, you know, in the same song, there can be something very technical or intense. And all of those classical musicians need to be able to do all of that within this one song, and it takes you on a journey..."

"Music doesn't have to sit within the confines of pop structure, you can really make stuff that's more visual...That kind of mentality, that you're telling a story, you're painting a picture with music, and it's not within the confines of a certain time limit or structure or form."

John Petrucci 


THE TASK

Do you have a song inspired by classical music? Ever tried picking up melodic pieces from classical songs, and making something entirely new out of them? If so, please send your song here. Please also name the classical piece that influenced you, right down to the exact melody. 

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