Harvard professor Stephen Malinowski has invented a visual aid that makes classical music easier to appreciate. (Illustration by Kayla Rader, Savannah College of Art and Design)

Make Your Music Better with Stephen Malinowski Music Animation Machine

Forget ASMR: These visually artistic and musical masterpieces will help you unwind and understand music in a deeper way.

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Forget ASMR: These visually artistic and musical masterpieces will help you unwind and understand music in a deeper way.

“Classical music can help you relax and fall asleep.”

Sounds pretty cliché, right? You might picture a pregnant woman with headphones around her swollen belly playing Mozart for her baby and think “big whoop.” What’s the deal with classical music anyway?

For many people, classical music remains inaccessible and, therefore, boring, and for good reason. Contemporary music seems so far out of reach of the likes of Beethoven, Bach and Mozart. We have beats now, as well as amplifiers and noises that are synthesized on a screen. Who cares about some piano player, unless it’s Billy Joel?

Whether you’re someone who struggles to connect with classical music, or someone who feels their passion is always overlooked, you’ve probably never heard of Stephen Malinowski and his Music Animation Machine. The artist identifies himself as a musician, inventor and engineer, and his projects illustrate exactly why. His artistic graphic scores run in synch with classical pieces in order to illustrate the various parts of these pieces. They are both simple and complex, but more importantly, they offer an entryway into the classical music scene that’s never been more necessary than in the current digital age.

Here are some reasons that you’ll love Stephen Malinowski’s work.

It helps you relax.

ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) videos make up some of the most popular relaxation tools on YouTube. The idea is that the static and whisper sounds created in the videos produce a kind of “brain massage” that tingles down the spine.

As someone who has never relied on auditory tools to learn, let alone relax, ASMR just doesn’t do much for me. But as a visual person, Malinowski’s videos are the best way to watch a video and relax.

One of my favorite videos, Debussy’s “Deux Arabesque,” provides a moving picture of circles, almost like bubbles, that stretch and move in time with the different parts of this piano piece. The effect is simple, but soothing, and can help someone focus on a piece. Sometimes listening to classical music for relaxation can be … not so relaxing.

Without a visual aid, classical music can just become noise that doesn’t stimulate your mind in any other way. Through animation, Malinowski allows audiences to focus on a piece and understand the aesthetics visually, in order to understand the piece’s auditory feeling.

It helps you understand classical music — and all music, really.

To an especially untrained ear, classical music doesn’t sound all that special.

It can just sound like a random collection of notes that don’t have any meaning. But the truth is, classical music oftentimes revolves around specific feelings that are meant to be illustrated, whether it’s happiness, dread, sadness or joy. Classical music may be very abstract at times, such as in Vivaldi’s composition, “Four Seasons.” Yet even in a piece like the “Four Seasons,” one can understand the sentiment conveyed by each season’s song.

It can take a little extra visual help to understand all of the parts of these classical pieces. But once you see everything going on in them, you can appreciate their complexity and even the thought that went into creating them.

And in many ways, this can help you grow an appreciation for any kind of music. Oftentimes in contemporary music, especially music more suited for parties, the importance of composition can be lost. However, the way that rhythms are put together still matter a lot, even in the simplest pop songs.

The use of up-beats in a song like Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean” make the composition of the piece interesting, in ways not so different than a piece like Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” It’s a strange comparison, but the use of visuals helps illustrate that the basic tenets of good music haven’t changed much over the years.

It’ll help improve your music performance skills.

You might think this only applies to those taking up guitar or piano lessons in their spare time, but if you’re any music enthusiast at all this applies to you.

Malinowski’s videos help illustrate the precise timing that goes into a song — any song — whether it’s a classical piece or an Aerosmith song. These days, people covering songs on the internet is extremely popular, and yet these covers oftentimes ignore the precise discipline that goes into creating a song. Instead, people play at whatever pace they hear a song being performed, instead of the actual timing of the song.

Even if you’re just someone who likes to sing in the shower, it’s important to understand the complex rhythms that can even a part of our favorite pop songs. When you sing or perform a song as you think it sounds, it never really sounds quite right. But when you take the time to focus on the timing of a song, you can see the intricacies that you overlooked before. Malinowski’s videos help by offering a visual that allows you to trace the beat of a song as it’s being played.

You might not perform pieces as complex as a Debussy composition, but Malinowski’s videos can still teach you the importance of hitting all the right notes in the right place. At the very least it’s a sure-fire way to impress your audience next time you hop on the karaoke stage.

The best way to appreciate what Malinowski’s work offers to the world of music is to watch them for yourself. Who knows, you might even become a classical music junkie.

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