To our modern ears, classical music can sometimes seem like somewhat of a snoozefest. The rigid accuracy, the overly-pedantic obsession with tradition, the long pieces; all these make for an experience very much at odds with what a modern audience tends to gravitate to. Yet, the world of classical music is vast and, at times, surreal. These are some of the weirdest pieces of classical music we know about.
György Ligeti: Poème Symphonique
Instruments, as we all know, are an overrated nuisance. That is, we can only imagine, what the Hungarian composer György Ligeti had in mind when he thought up this symphony, which is composed of 100 wind-up metronomes ticking away up until their inevitable halt. We’re not quite sure what to make of this work, but the idea of using an apparatus whose sole purpose is to keep time in order to compose a tempo-less work of music is intriguing.
La Monte Young: Piano Piece for Terry Riley
La Monte Young was a 20th-century avant-garde composer known for his eccentric compositions and purple titles (such as the oh so concise The Tortoise Recalling the Drone of the Holy Numbers as They Were Revealed in the Dreams of the Whirlwind and the Obsidian Gong, Illuminated by the sawmill, the Green Sawtooth Ocelot and the High-Tension Line Stepdown Transformer), but one of his highest achievements was this strange piece, in which the musicians are instructed to push a piano into the wall as hard as they possibly can and to keep pushing until their exhaustion gets the better of them.
John Dowland: My Lord Chamberlain, His Galliard.
Apparently (and despite his reputation for being an eternal downer), Dowland was quite the romantic, not to mention humorous, devil. My Lord Chamberlain, first published in 1597, is a duet for two lutenists, that is – a person who plays the lute. What’s so funny about that, you ask? Well, here’s the kicker: the two musicians must play the piece on just one lute. This makes for quite the spectacle seeing as that one player must sit on the other’s lap and fall gently into the others’ bosom in order to reach the strings. Oh Downland, you were quite the cupid weren’t you?