In My Feels – Music for When I Feel CALM

Sometimes it can be hard to identify certain feelings, let alone experience them! But did you know that listening to music is a great way to experience our emotions fully?

“Where words fail, music speaks.”

— Hans Christian Andersen

Music offers a safe space to explore joy, sadness, excitement, anger, contentment, fear, and everything in between without judgment. Music can paint an even richer and more comprehensive picture of how we perceive emotions by using sounds rather than words to describe feelings.

Think of music as a friend accompanying you on a ride at a theme park. Sometimes the ride looks fun; sometimes, it seems terrifying. But no ride lasts forever, and often, you learn something about yourself from the experience.

In this series, we will explore emotions and use music as our guide.

Music for When I Feel CALM

Music is a powerful tool both for experiencing and creating feelings of calm. Many people use music to self-soothe because it transports us to new worlds, expresses what we cannot put into words, and invigorates our imaginations. Sometimes there is nothing more comforting than being enveloped by a gorgeous, relaxing piece of music.

Like all emotions, calmness can emerge in a wide spectrum of colors. If the word “calm” isn’t quite resonating with you, here are a few other ways to describe the feeling:

  • Peaceful
  • Serene
  • Content
  • Laid-back
  • Tranquil
  • Relaxed
  • Soft

The next time you’re feeling calm, or want to find a little more calmness in your day, put on this playlist and snuggle up in your coziest, most comfortable spot available.

Mirror in the Mirror by Arvo Pärt

Estonian composer Arvo Pärt is famous for creating a new musical language called Tintinnabuli (meaning “little bell” in Latin). Tintinnabuli pieces are characterized by two musical voices, one being a series of arpeggios and the other a simple stepwise melody. The resulting sound is often meditative, inspired by the composer’s study of Medieval chants. Spiegel im Spiegel (“Mirror in the Mirror” in German) is an excellent example of Tintinnabuli and offers a harmonious landscape to embrace your feelings of calm. 

“Exquisite Hour” by Reynaldo Hahn

Reynaldo Hahn was a Venezuelan-born composer and singer who lived most of his life in Paris. As a composer, Hahn gained notoriety for his beautiful French art songs, such as “L’heure exquise” (meaning “Exquisite Hour” in English). Using words by French poet Paul Verlaine, Hahn created an incredibly graceful, lyrical piece of music to depict the tranquil scene. You can follow along with an English translation of Verlaine’s poem here.

The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams

English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams was, in addition to being a prolific composer, a great lover of literature. One of his most famous pieces, The Lark Ascending, is based on a poem by George Meredith. The poem describes a skylark as a source of joy as it wonders at the world below. The skylark can express more wholly and eloquently what humans cannot, just as music does for us. Can you hear the lark’s movements and joyful singing as you listen? Read the full poem by Meredith here.

Summerland by William Grant Still

William Grant Still was a man of many musical achievements. He was the first African American musician to conduct a major orchestra, the first African American composer to have a work played by a major American symphony orchestra, and the first African American composer to have an opera premiered by a major opera company. In his contemplative piece for piano, Summerland, Still envisioned “Summerland” as a synonym for heaven. The lyrical melody exudes serenity and calm, creating a musical portrait of the afterlife.

Wind Quintet in E-Flat Major (2nd Movement) by Ludwig van Beethoven

Chances are that you’ve heard of German composer Ludwig van Beethoven before, but probably not this particular piece. Beethoven scored this wind quintet for an unusual ensemble of three horns, an oboe, and a bassoon. Interestingly, he never finished it. Scholars completed and published the score decades after Beethoven’s death. Beethoven was still early in his career when starting the quintet, so the piece more closely emulates the lighthearted, classical-era traditions of Mozart and Haydn than the turbulent Romantic innovations he would later become known for.

You can revisit all these pieces, plus a few extras, on our Spotify playlist – Music for When I Feel CALM.