Emotionally varying music
June 4, 2010 7:41 AM   Subscribe

I need recommendations for a mid-length piece of instrumental music which varies a lot in expressive emotional content to be used in a neural imaging experiment. Please provide links to listenable extracts (i.e. amazon mp3 clips or you tube).

* It must be significantly emotionally varying.
* It should ideally be around 10-15 minutes long.
* It cannot have lyrics.
* It cannot be too obviously associated with a film or other obvious meaningful content (like a national anthem).
* It should ideally contrast significantly with a Schubert string quartet movement we are also using.
* It could be popular/contemporary classical/folk/electronic/whatever.
* It should ideally be something with a strong sense of power at least in parts.
* It should ideally not be too obscure.
posted by leibniz to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
For something with strong sense of power, expressive, and significant emotional variation, you can't do much better than the finale of Mahler's Symphony No. 1. Part 1, Part 2. You can also download the entire symphony here. The only issue is that it's probably longer than ideal — the last movement is about 20 minutes.

The finale of Mahler's Symphony No. 2 has (for my money) even more emotional variation. Listen for yourself: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. However, it's even longer (about 35 minutes) and contains solo voice and choral parts (albeit in German.)
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:10 AM on June 4, 2010

Dirty Three - Authentic Celestial Music (which I discovered via AskMe!)
posted by pised at 9:00 AM on June 4, 2010

If I may make a bold suggestion, the first movement of John Adams's symphony Harmonielehre is fantastic, and moves from sweeping, triumphant vistas to soulful, wistful romantic lines, to calm, restrained textures, all in about 15 minutes. It is tonal, somewhat melodic, and most of all will be completely unfamiliar though very listenable to your subjects.

Two versions for download here and here. Hope you enjoy.
posted by LooseFilter at 9:00 AM on June 4, 2010

M83 have raised the ambient-intro-into-soaringly-powerful-midsection to something of an art form, though their tracks are generally a bit shorter than your ideal. Check out Gone or Moonchild.

Also, have you checked out this thread? Tons of possibilities in there.
posted by googly at 11:10 AM on June 4, 2010

Mahler is a really good suggestion. I'd be hard-pressed to think of something more fitting.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:26 AM on June 4, 2010

Response by poster: Yes I've considered Mahler. All 10 of the symphonies have the right kind of power and emotional variation. The difficulty is finding a self-contained section of about the desired length.
posted by leibniz at 12:19 PM on June 4, 2010

Maybe this will trigger some ideas from other people: movie scores? They're often very emotional, quick-moving to follow the vagaries of the plot, and not too long.
posted by Quietgal at 12:46 PM on June 4, 2010

Ooh, ooh, ooh! Richard Strauss tone poems! How about Don Juan (Part 1, Part 2, approx. 17 minutes) or Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks (Part 1, Part 2, approx. 15 minutes)?
posted by Johnny Assay at 2:34 PM on June 5, 2010

One last post and then I'll stop. I went through my classical music collection and found all the pieces I had between 10 and 15 minutes long that might possibly satisfy your criteria. Here's what I came up with:
  • Mussorgsky, A Night on Bald Mountain. Massively strong, but only really has two "mood sections".
  • Tchaikovsky, Marche Slave. Contains Serbian folk songs and the old Tsarist anthem, so it may not satisfy the "no national anthems" criterion.
  • Rimsky-Korsakov, Scheherezade, movt. II.
  • Berlioz, Roméo et Juliette, "Romeo alone — Grand feast at the Capulets" (Part 2, first section.) The larger work does have choral parts, but this section doesn't. Very expressive, but again only really two "mood sections".

posted by Johnny Assay at 7:41 AM on June 6, 2010

Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra might also work. Especially the first or third movements, perhaps.

As far as self-contained sections of Mahler - the opening of the first, mid first-movement of the fourth would work well, i think.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:06 AM on June 7, 2010

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