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By Rebecca Harrell
Music Journalist

While the world remains hyper-focused on health and personal hygiene, it sometimes feels as though there are no escapes from news, social media and public opinion. You find yourself falling down the rabbit hole of Google, Twitter and WebMD as the voices in your head creep into your sensibilities. At times it feels there is nothing else on the earth to occupy your mind and distract from reality. Thankfully, music has always been a reliable and effective outlet for relief and escape. 

On March 13, Grammy Award-winning cellist and composer Yo-Yo Ma tweeted a video of himself performing a piece titled “Going Home” by Dvořák as part of his new movement, #SongsOfComfort. His goal is to provide relief for everyone during this time of stress by sharing his favorite pieces that give him comfort. 

Though most do not listen to classical music as their go-to genre outside of a study session (unless you are a band kid, maybe), there is extreme comfort to be found in classical compositions. When words can be overwhelming to pay attention to, orchestral pieces allow your mind to wander in the instruments and create a story the composer intended you to. 

While extended studies and science can prove why exactly classical music promotes relaxation and can reduce anxiety, practice makes perfect. Here is a list of composers you should check out to unwind and give your brain a vacation.

Eric Whitacre

As one of my personal favorite composers, Eric Whitacre dips into numerous, varying sub genres of classical music. He composes orchestral pieces as well as choral arrangements. “Sleep” and “This Marriage” are both dynamic choral compositions that take you away from the first note. They are slower pieces almost guaranteed to put you in a trance. If you are feeling a little more adventurous and looking for a story, listen to the four movements of “Ghost Train” to go on a mysterious and exciting journey. “Godzilla Eats Las Vegas” is my absolute favorite, though it may be a bit chaotic to try and relax to.


Famed for his ballet composing, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky produces countless, dare I say, bangers in the classical world. The Swan Lake theme, No. 10 Scène, paints a beautiful, fairytale scene of quite literally a swan lake surrounded by a dewy forest. The Nutcraker, though traditionally a Christmas-time listen, presents elegant stringwork and calming woodwinds to calm any time of year. Op. 71, Act 2: No. 14 starts with the sound of harp strings and violins in a flowing melody, then builds to a full orchestra with brass and percussion to an exciting climax. His pieces always make me feel like I am dancing through the sky, weightless.

Gustav Holst

From soothing choral performances to delicate ballets, Gustav Holst’s arrangements are on the more fast-paced side, but nonetheless beautiful arrangements to make your mind escape from reality. His collection titled The Planets details the individual planets in the Solar System, besides Earth and Pluto, through music. For example, “Mars” is quick and has an angry tone with a constant, pounding beat. It reflects the color red while “Neptune” is much more mysterious and takes its time explaining the piece. Though some of the pieces in the collection are more chaotic and don’t exactly reflect peace, the combination of strings, brass, percussion and winds will still take your thoughts away.

Whether you are an avid classical music lover or have never listened to a song without lyrics in your life, check out these composers to skim the surface of the world of orchestra. In a time of high stress and anxiety, music is always a way we are able to escape from the real world and find peace from worry. 

Featured image by Ralph David.

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