Listen & die: 5 classical music orchestra pieces to avoid while behind the wheel
Isn't it adorably ignorant when someone claims that classical music, as a genre, is relaxing? That's like saying all Jews have cash, all Asians are good at math and the gays can decorate. Surely there are some examples of such characteristics in each stereotype, but asserting generalities like these is senseless.
It was at a Houston Symphony performance that I overheard one listener explain to her companion that Mozart puts everyone to sleep and that Bach is a perfect choice when needing to concentrate. My reaction was to let out an inward snicker. How charming it is when others attempt to profess about things about which they know just a note or two? Darling. Just. Darling.
But can classical music be good for driving?
A recent article in the Daily Mail reported on a study using MotorMate, a mobile app that recorded driving behavior as aligned with music playing through the speakers, found that "Both a male and female driver who listened to classical music drove more erratically than when they weren't listening to any music at all." The author went on to explain that a London University psychologist concluded that music by artists like Coldplay, Elton John and Norah Jones provided better driving environments than the Black Eyed Peas.
His findings had more to do with tempo and not with affect, recommending that music trudge along at the same pace as the human heart, roughly 60 to 80 beats per minute.
As a commuter city, we should care about our moods during routine travels to and fro, as when tempers flair or when our attention is distracted we can get into serious trouble, get injured or worse, expire like most parking citations in my glove compartment.
As a public service, I've compiled a list of five classical music orchestral compositions that you should avoid at all costs while taking on the streets of Texas.
Dmitri Shostakovich'sSymphony No. 10, Second movement
While this is a piece that I listen to when I need to get fired up about something — like when needing to summon one's inner nastiness for an all out face-to-face screaming combat — it's hardly recommended for a leisurely jaunt to the grocery store. You run the risk of overdoing a watermelon spanking test into fruit abuse, lose your marbles at someone who doesn't abide by shop cart rules (stroll on the right, pass on the left) or behave irrationally when getting carded for booze.
Sergei Prokofiev's Symphony No. 1 "Classical," Finale
Under no circumstance should you listen to this light and fluffy bloodbath of a finale while behind the wheel, especially on your way to a destination or activity that may demand a bit of burly manliness. Unless you are wanting to turn into a frolicking happy-happy-joy-joy persona who annoys everyone because of their upbeat, ceaseless energy, it's best to leave Prokofiev at home — particularly if at any point in your life you played a woodwind instrument.
Your voice may just go up a few octaves, too. Listen with caution.
John Adams' Short Ride in a Fast Machine
About the title, the composer writes: "You know how it is when someone asks you to ride in a terrific sports car, and then you wish you hadn't?" Plus if the Houston Symphony felt it was the right tune for the take off sequence in Orbit - A Space Odyssey, that means it's not safe for the Texas road.
Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, Sacrificial Dance
Like everyone out there, I delight in seeing a virgin dance to her death. That's what happens at the conclusion of this controversial ballet, which was met by riots at its 1913 Paris debut. There are two problems with Le Sacre. First, the dynamics go up and down like a yo-yo, so chances are that an unexpected forte section will scare the bejesus out of you. Or that the gimpy, asymmetrical meters will make banging against the steering wheel impossible, something that pisses off anyone with rhythm.
Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5, Adagietto
If you don't shed a tear while listening to the fourth movement Adagietto of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5, you have no soul and deserve to die alongside the aforementioned virgin. Watery eyes are no good, and neither is the slower-than-slow motion. Because driving too slow on a highway can be just as dangerous as driving too fast. Someone will kick your ass.