Belles in the Sky: Tranquillo


As students struggle through multiple exams on one day as a result of the two-day online and two-day offline system, we have seen an overall increase in students’ stress levels. For better health and academic achievement, it is important that students find an outlet to alleviate their stress. This is where we come in, as our music selections for this issue can help with stress management. 

Skylar’s Pick

Edward Elgar – Enigma Variations: IX. Nimrod

A Romantic-era composer from England, Elgar was best known for his orchestral compositions. Among these are the renowned Enigmatic Variations, a series of variations on an original theme composed in 1899. The ninth variation, entitled Nimrod, spans just about four minutes, yet within such a short time frame the piece is emotional enough to induce a tear-jerking effect in the audience. Although it is set in E-flat Major, the piece is solemn and is even played at events such as funerals. Despite the piece’s heavy ambiance, however, it helps soothe the listener’s feelings, as it has a consistent, slow tempo ideal for winding down as you listen. The piece starts out quiet and hushed, but as the main theme repeats itself, the mood gradually grows to introduce a slight catharsis. Each repetition is intended to elicit a different feeling in the listener, and toward the end, as the brass section takes over the melody, you will find it easy to alleviate all your stress due to the melody’s purgative tone. Most of the piece is played in legato (tied together) with no unusual techniques, adding to the tranquil feel of the piece. Many stressed students would enjoy this piece due to not only its calm-inducing nature, but also its repeated theme that captivates the listener. Although students often assume classical music is boring since many pieces are repetitive and do not have lyrics like pop songs do, the theme of Nimrod is repeated in a manner that evokes a different emotion in the listener every time, and its lack of lyrics allows the listener to destress without having their mind be interrupted by words.

The rendition of Nimrod I selected is a 2014 performance by the Suwon Philharmonic Orchestra. I felt that this rendition was especially emotional, particularly due to its historical context: this was performed in the days following the tragic incident of the Sewol Ferry in South Korea. Because this performance is a tribute to those who passed in this occurrence, the audience does not clap before and after the performance. This version of the piece results in frequent fluctuations of emotions in the listener, which will allow you to release any repressed emotions through listening. I would like to encourage those reading this to lose yourself in the music as you clear yourself of stressful thoughts.

Isabelle’s Pick

Frédéric Chopin – Nocturne in E-flat major, Op. 9, No. 2 
It comes as no surprise that Frederic Chopin is considered one of the most notable figures of classical music, considering his collection of extraordinary works written for the piano. Chopin has a multitude of masterpieces, from “Fantasie-Impromptu” to “Barcarolle.” However, his most renowned works are his 21 nocturnes that he wrote from 1827 to 1846. The “Nocturne in E-flat major, Op. 9, No. 2,” is not only one of the most acclaimed Chopin pieces, but also one of the most significant piano pieces to ever be composed. Written by the musical genius when he was just 20 years old, the piece is dedicated to the Belgian pianist Madame Marie Pleyel. The nocturne I have selected for this issue is written in the key of E-flat major and is in the rounded binary form of AABABA and coda. This means that the piece consists of two repeated sections (section A), followed by a different section (section B), followed by section A, section B, section A, and finally a new ending section called the coda. The piece is written in 12/8 meter, with 34 measures. It begins as Andante, and maintains the same tempo throughout the entirety of the piece. During the piece, the legato is accompanied by a melody played in rubato, which allows the performer to stretch or compress the notes. The piece is generally melodic and the notes glide off emphasizing the beauty of this piece. Furthermore, the light-hearted and piano ambiance of this piece makes it perfectly suited for a stress-packed situation where one is simply trying to blow off steam. The relaxing melody of the piece engages the listener in a calming situation and enhances the ability to concentrate as well as let go of certain emotions. Ultimately, the beauty and majesticness of this piece will surely captivate you and ease the tensions that you possess within your mind. As always, since classical music is perceptible to various interpretations, I selected the version that I believe is most fitting for stress relief. Played by Dmitry Shishkin, the piece offers a calm, healing experience that helps its audience, especially students, escape the raucous realities of life.