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If relaxation leads to lethargy and sleep, I wonder if any composer actually wrote his/her music in order to "relax" someone. Classical music, especially, I suggest, is full of tensions and surprises: modulations, cross-currents, pauses, dynamic changes .... The list goes on.
Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" is relaxing, of course. Or is it? Maybe that opening movement has a quiet, ruminative nature, but there are delightful tension causers throughout. And, importantly, the first movement was never meant to stand alone. What follows that Adagio sostenuto is anything but relaxing music.
Classical music is generally based upon contrasts. Even as someone suggests that second movements tend to be "relaxing" we realize that they are but a part of the larger whole, and a part of the contrast. Few, if any, relaxing second movements are free of their tension elements.
In any case, I, for one, do not turn to classical music for purposes of seeking a state of lethargy or sleep. My wife once remarked that much of the music I listen to tends to be "noisy". Indeed, I prefer music, and my art in general, to be a spur to emotional and intellectual reaction. I don't attend the theatre in order to fall asleep, I don't promenade through art museums with any fear that I might collapse in a fit of sheer somnolence, and I certainly don't listen to music seeking to deny those forces of life which make living so exuberant. Heavy metal rock music tends to bore me. I suspect that it would well serve to put me to sleep, though I've never prescribed it to myself as a sleep agent. And there remains a certain Iron Maiden album I purchased years ago which I have never been able to listen to completely through, sides A and B. I recall my first listen took me into about the middle of track 2 on side A before I became totally frustrated by the crappiness of what I was hearing that I halted the record in mid-play, and every so often (every several years or so) I take down that disc and pop it onto my turntable, convinced that it could not have been as bad as I remember it being those previous times when I attempted a hearing. But, to date, I have never been disappointed about the accuracy of my initial judgment, nor have I yet managed to listen to the entire disc through once. I suspect I will continue on this mission, but I now wonder: if I do ever get to the end of the Iron Maiden album in a single listening session, will I still be awake when the needle hits the runout groove?
With classical music I have no such concern. It's music to stay awake with, no matter what the instrumentation, the tempo, the dynamics, or the "relaxation" level.
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