The streets of Oslo (and other European cities) are filled with beggars. Only a decade or two ago they consisted of ninety-nine percent drug addicts, because I am lucky enough to live in a country where it is almost an impossible task to die from starvation or other consequences of extreme poverty. The system catches you long before it comes to that.

Now though, a great portion of these beggars are Eastern European immigrants, also known as Gypsies, Romani people or Roma, all depending on how politically correct one wishes to be; the term Gypsy is by many Romas considered discriminating (like the n-word), as it often contains negative connotations connected to thievery and crime.

Traditional gypsy caravan
Traditional Traveler’s caravan

First, a little history. Most countries have their own branches of Romas, as does Norway. Those however are few and even fewer still practice their traditional traveling lifestyle. In Britain, a big part of the nomadic people call themselves Irish Travellers, and are of Irish origin, unlike the Eastern European, who descend from India.

As you may or may not know, along with the Jews, (all branches of) the Roma people were also victims of ethnic cleansing throughout WWII. During these years between 220 000 and 1, 500 000 Romas were executed by the nazis, – quite an unclear number, which again, in my opinion, demonstrates the general lack of knowledge on the Roma genocide.

However, the seemingly endless mistreatment of the Romas did not stop in 1945. Governments in Czechoslovakia, along with those of several Scandinavian countries (Norway amongst them) initiated a systematic (and obviously forced) sterilization of Roma women in order to reduce their population. In Norway specifically, people of Roma ethnicity were denied entry by law until 1956. Since then the Norwegian government also systematically removed Roma children from their families (estimated to between two and three thousand children) and placed them in orphanages and foster care, up until the late seventies. The practice was not officially abolished until 1986.

In 1951 a law was passed that forbids any branch of the Romas to own horses, effectively robbing the travelers of their traditional way of living. According to the Norwegian Holocaust center, there are well-documented cases from Norway’s most famous psychiatric hospital, that prove the sterilization, castration and lobotomization(!) of people of Roma descent.

Romas waiting to be deported to concentration camps (Germany, 1940)
Romas waiting to be deported (Germany, 1940)

Still, it continues. In a society that no longer puts up with racism and discrimination, the hatred towards the Romas never ceases to exist. Unfortunately, we no longer see them as musicians and craftsmen, like they once were (and often still are), but as an annoying burden, giving our perfect welfare state a filthy stain. You don’t have to look far. Read the comments on social media. Raise your eyes to see how people talk about (and to!) the beggars that are not Norwegian drug addicts. Why are the Romas the last minority it is socially acceptable to discriminate solely based on their ethnicity? (Enhancing the last sentence, as it is the most important message in this article.)

In early 2017 the Norwegian state broadcasting channel, NRK, launched a documentary claiming to prove that the Roma beggars on our street corners are massively involved in drug and prostitution crimes. The documentary was later proven to have used several photographs from unrelated sources, showing these off as “evidence”, until the public learned the truth.

Yet, the documentary once again kindled the debate on whether or not Norway should make begging a crime. Or, as I like to put it, if we should make it illegal for the poorest to burst our perfect bubbles of wealthiness with the presence of their misery. If we should force them to take their misfortune elsewhere.

The absolutely amazing Russian Roma trio, Loyko
Amazing Russian Roma trio, Loyko

It is an utter mystery to me that Norway, with its exceptionally ugly history regarding this minority, still lacks the decency to treat them, like anyone else, like human beings. This does not only apply to the government (actually, the current prime minister officially apologized to the Romas in 2015, praise her for that), but to the general public.

A common argument is that the beggars don’t get to keep the money they earn, that they are part of organized begging circles where the bosses control them and end up with the profit. I have no evidence to show whether this is true or false, but I do know the following;

– No matter who gets the money you earn, you have to be beyond desperate to endure Norwegian winters, sitting on one spot in temperatures way below zero, day after day for hours at the time. Apply the fact that most people who pass by despise you. Does it still sound attractive?

– It makes no sense what so ever to glance upon the most vulnerable minority in our society and think that the solution is to push them down even further. I cannot think of any other group where this is being done, or even suggested.

– Nobody is asking you to contribute. If you don’t believe in it, let it be, but be civilized about it. Take another look at history, and ask yourself if you really want to continue that history in the same manner.

– However, sharing a little of what we have might contribute to less crime. Desperate people will act accordingly, and I think we can all agree that begging is better than theft. (This is just one of my own reflections, but it can be applied to everything from the need of drugs to the wish to feed your child, regardless of ethnicity.)

Infamous picture of three fingered Roma guitarist, Django Reinhardt
The infamous picture of three-fingered Roma guitarist, Django Reinhardt

For some reason, the Romas fall outside of the common moral rules on how to treat one another. It is not a matter of giving them money or not, but a question of what level of integrity we want to have as a country and as individuals. Still there are Romas that keep their origin secret in fear of the consequences, and we are living in 2018.

It also saddens me deeply that the Roma culture and talent always have been overshadowed by the prejudice and fear of people living life in a different manner. There are countless Roma musicians out there with skills that match any so-called professional, that never receive the recognition they deserve as a part of Roma culture in the eyes of the general population. The loss is ours, and it is a perfect example of how we blindfold ourselves and hence rob ourselves of what could also be enjoyed by “us”.

I would like to finish with this beautiful Roma saying that has stuck with me for one and a half decade; Bury me standing, I’ve been on my knees all my life.

(Below you can find links to a few of the most amazing music pieces by Roma musicians)

Rosenberg Trio – Gipsy Summer

Loyko – Brahms

Django Reinhardt – Honeysuckle Rose

Gipsy Kings – Bamboléo

Sources: Wikipedia.org, Aftenposten.no, Spotify

Let me drop the bomb, – stereotyping is fun! BUT, just as long as the writer (and preferably the reader) is aware of what (s)he is doing. Then you can call it ironizing, which is somehow making fun of people who stereotype for real, although lots of stereotypes have some truth to them; after all that is how they establish.

To get away with stereotyping, it is always a good idea to start with your own kind. Self ironizing is (at least in my opinion) one of the greatest inventions there is, although not appreciated by everyone. It does however give an innocent touch to the ugly phenomenon of ~generalization~; one of today’s society’s biggest sins.

So obviously, I have chosen to stereotype musicians. After all, I am one myself, and thus I hope to be forgiven.

#1 Violinists

Let me start with the strings (I know them the best). Violinists are serious, socially awkward and often Chinese. They have spent most of their childhood years practicing, which explains both their skills and their short social antennas (they have simply spoken more to their instruments than to humans). They are also ambitious and their identity and self-esteem are totally dependent on what they do. They are usually looking to be soloists, and God forbid they ever have to play the second violin. Establishing quartets can hence be a challenge, as the two violinists will constantly battle to play the first.

#2
Viola players

Remember the violinists that didn’t want to play the second violin? Well, the level even after this humiliating position, is playing the viola. Viola players themselves like to make other excuses, like having too long arms for the violin or preferring a deeper sound, but we all know the truth. The viola quite often has the most insignificant part in the piece and is therefore not as technically advanced as the parts of its fellow strings. But they could play super impressive stuff. If they wanted to.

#3
Cellists

Brace yourselves for what will possibly be a less objective characteristic, since this article is written by a cellist. Cellists are a somewhat complex group, where they (we) on one hand are known to play the most beautiful and melancholic instrument (no, not just in the opinion of cellists), and at the same time often receive comments about their slightly sexual position while playing, at least that is the case for women. As one of my teachers once put it (in a jokingly, not creepy way!); Karina, you are going to make a living from what’s between your legs! He was in fact wrong, but none of us knew back then. In general, cellists are known to play overly loud and the cello is absolutely an instrument that makes you feel appreciated, being that also pop-musicians have wet dreams about adding cello solos to their songs. The con is all the carrying. And the fact that like zero point one percent of the population can distinguish a cello from a guitar.

#4
Bass players

These guys are laidback. They are the ones you will find dragging their huge instrument through the corridors, wearing sweatpants and wool-socks (especially if they are jazz bass players). Maybe they have realized that since no one can see them when they play, it does not really matter what they look like. Bass players also tend to have very big cars, and a supernatural ability to make things (instruments) fit into places that to others seem physically impossible.

#5
Percussionists

Percussionists usually take the laidback-ness one step further. These are the guys that might show up for rehearsal wearing pajamas and still being tipsy from never really having gone home from yesterday’s party. They still do their job though, although no one really understands how. In addition, percussionists spend their breaks (and probably spare time) looking at inappropriate youtube videos, telling nasty jokes, and watching porn. Do not enter the percussionist rehearsal room unless you can handle this. It is however worth the risk, because getting to know them will make you understand that deep down they are just a bunch of soft-hearted little puppies.

#6
Flutists

Flute players are usually women or effeminate men. It sounds like a stupid myth, but there is a great deal of truth to it. Flutists are usually well prepared for rehearsals, for the simple reason that it is difficult to hide their sound. They are also the forever victims of jealousy from cello and bass players, and other musicians that are incapable of carrying their instrument with even a small amount of subtleness.

#7
Clarinet players

These guys are the violins of the woodwind gang and tend to aim for ambitious positions such as soloists or first clarinet players. They spend their rehearsing hours making funny faces, playing as smoothly as possible, while despising gypsy clarinet players and their sharp timbre. Clarinets also have a kind of secret society where they all know each other, and they frequently attend clarinet parties. God knows what they do there. (Do we want to know?)

#8
Oboists

Being the underdog of the wind section, oboists are very easily offended, and whatever you do, do never (NEVER) address them as clarinetists. They also cling to the idea of the greatness of using double reeds, and rumor has it that they push so hard while playing they all end up in the deepest corners of the psyche ward. In other words; expect some eccentricity (the degree will depend on when they started their oboe playing career.)

#9
Bassoon players

There is little to say about them because they are so few. That results in significantly fewer difficulties regarding job opportunities, and because everyone always lacks a bassoon player, a bassoon player is always welcome.

#10
Horn players

The total outcast of the brass section. There is nothing in between what the horns play, – either they are all ompa ompa (or just – pa), or they are playing something beautiful and slow, that they never really get credit for, since they’re so far back in the orchestra that the audience can’t see them properly. Horn players also tend to practice so much that their mouth position gets stuck to their lips and they go around with a constant duck face.

#11
Trumpet players

These guys love their instrument, and they prefer playing it as often and as loudly as they can. When the brass has a solo fanfare, the trumpet players sometimes look like they are going to throw their instruments away and bang their chests with their fists. They also love to stand up after their soloes.

#12
Trombonists

If the horn players are the brass outcasts, the trombonists are the underdogs. They stay in place and do their job without making too much of a fuzz about it. If you however give them a glissando passage, they will light up and actually look like they love playing the trombone. But that doesn’t happen a lot. The trumpet players usually steal their thunder.

#13
Tubaists

These lonely creatures are the kings and queens of making sounds that to most people sound like farts of cataclysmic scale. They also tend to have a lot of rests, so they are usually well-read, being classic literature or comic books. Tubaists are usually alone on their instrument in the orchestra, which means they remain unaffected by the trends that dominate other instrument groups. Instead, they do their own thing, giving absolutely no fucks.

#14
Jazz musicians

Jazz guys are a species of their own, being almost unable to read music, but great at playing duba duba duba and then applaud. Socially they are usually more capable than classical musicians because they often practice together and actually listen to their co-musicians when they play, instead of just looking at the guy with the stick.

Bonus
Composers

Being extremely focused on coming off as intellectuals, most of these guys chose their specialization because they were too lazy to choose an instrument to practice so much it eats up your entire social life. Composers like to boost their egos by reading French poetry (and making sure everyone notices) and knowing words that most people don’t. Composers do not like to seem materialistic, so they are usually sloppy looking, but make no mistake; the look is carefully planned. They also sometimes make music.

Greetings from your favorite cynical and materialistic composer!

I suddenly got in a crazy classical mood and felt like tidying up in my own head in the only way I know how to; by making a list.

Said list ended up being longer than first anticipated, but I have tried to divide the music into clear sections where one can easily find the right genre.

The point of this list though is to provide some starting points for people with ambitions to listen more to music by classical composers (AKA ~my heroes~). In the current ocean of pieces it can be difficult to know where to start (I know I would feel that way about let’s say, rap), and it is always good to follow recommendations from experienced listeners before finding one’s own path.

What is important to remember when listening to classical music, is that it is not like listening to a pop song. You do not instantly know if you like it or not, and the more you get to know it, the more of the details you will notice. Classical pieces get better by the times you explore it, but will reward you even more in return.

This list contains what is in my opinion some of the greatest music ever made. There, I said it. Ready to roll. (Click the titles to access the Spotify or YouTube link.)

Piano music:

Often enjoyed mainly by piano players themselves, I seem to represent the exception. There are thousands of piano pieces out there, and many of them make even me yawn, so I can see why people without much knowledge of piano repertoire might get lost looking for something brilliant. The masterworks do however exist, and in my opinion, they represent some of the most magical pieces of the Romantic era.

One cannot avoid mentioning Franz Liszt, and although many listeners would go straight to Chopin, I have always preferred the former. I used to have a relationship to FL like a fourteen-year-old to Justin Bieber, and I dare say I could sing through the melodies of all these ten minute plus pieces.

#1
Franz Liszt – Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2

Not only was this my first love within FL’s music, but within classical music overall. I have since then (around 2002) come to realize that this piece is a bit of a cliché in the classical music environment, which is exactly why it’s a great starting point for untrained ears. It’s playful, yet utterly dramatic at times, and being a rhapsody it changes mood and motives all the time, so it’s difficult to get bored. If you still worry about drifting off, there’s always the possibility to put Tom & Jerry’s Cat Concerto, where the piece is (almost) played in its full version, not adding any tones that weren’t there in the first place. One of my personal favorites!

It’s also worth noticing that the rhapsody has been arranged for symphony orchestra, so if you prefer a fuller sound, you have the option. I tend to prefer originals, but this piece is definitely worth listening to in both versions. To the fourteen-year-old me, Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2 opened up a whole world of music to me, which basically made my music interest flourish. I don’t know if I would have been a musician today if it had not been for this piece. (Then I would have been a failed and desperate writer instead.)

#2
Franz Liszt – Polonaise Melancolique

When I discovered this piece I got so excited that I made my own arrangement for full orchestra, putting down every single note of the piano into everything from flutes to double basses. (How did I have any friends when I was a teenager?)

The piece is extremely virtuous and dominated by a deeply tragical mood, and is on top of that a bit peculiar, as polonaises are usually happy and light sounding. It is also one of the composer’s less famous pieces, and I still have not managed to listen to it live.

Without stating this as a fact, I seem to get a kind of Russian or perhaps Hungarian folk music vibe from the motives, and the melodies easily carry their listeners into the mysterious twilights of the Eastern Europe of the 19th century, handing us images of gypsy caravans and snow-covered steppes.

#3
Franz Liszt – Ballade no. 2 in Bb minor

Don’t be fooled by the lack of creativity title wise; think of it as Levi’s 501, – good products sometimes sell themselves. The ballade is somehow what I would call heavy, and starts off in the deepest register of the piano, putting the main theme in a range where melodies are very rarely put. I have always thought this piece sounds much more modern than it is (which is one of the reasons I think FL is generally underrated), and it goes from threatening, dark and fast to tender, slow and almost completely silent.

I addition the ballade is extremely virtuous and watching it live is like watching a miracle. Just make sure to sit on the side where you see the fingers of the performer.

#4
Franz Schubert – Ständchen

I somehow have an attraction towards composers called Franz, and this piece is actually arranged for piano by the Franz above, making it one of my obvious favorites. The piece was originally written for piano and vocals, but FL must have found the melodies so intriguing that he made it into a solo piece for his own favorite instrument.

The title means Serenade and there is even a version in English with the same name, by the absolutely amazing 50s band The Platters, really making it one of the 19th-century pieces that has managed to survive even commercially throughout two hundred years. Quite an achievement.

Ständchen is quite simple musically and basically repeats the same motive time after time but without ever sounding repetitive. It is (as most of the music I enjoy) very sad, kind of romantic, and ends dramatically, after having been built up through all of its six minutes duration.

As a fun fact, I will add another level to my own nerdy-ness and include that I once learned the whole piece by heart, basically jumping over three levels in piano (which is not really my instrument). I still remember my piano teacher’s comment; I don’t understand how you manage to play that piece with that technique. Luckily he understood that the only way to make me practice was to let me play pieces that I loved. Bless him for that.

#5
Øystein Sommerfeldt – Vals til Hege

Gotta include a Norwegian composer on the list, and this short and exercise-like piece is perfect for feeding your general, everyday sadness. It is so insignificant in regards of piano repertoire that it is difficult to find a recording of it, which is an absolute shame, as the melodies are so beautiful that they basically make you want something sad to happen to you so that this can be the soundtrack of your life (I know, I need help).

#6
Eric Satie – Gnosienne no. 1

Having written a bunch of weird, atonal stuff, ES also had a talent for composing beautiful melodies. The Gnosienne has been made famous among non-musicians through movies and series, and provides the perfect background mood for whichever sad situation. The motives are almost banally simple, but even more effective. The piece has also been arranged for classical guitar and works equally well for that.

#7
Louis Gottschalk – Souvenir de Porto Rico

I discovered this lesser-known piece while studying music, as the pianist playing beside me spent months practicing it. I ended up eavesdropping outside his door a whole bunch of times before I finally gathered the courage to knock. I was not sorry. The piece is somehow Romantic-sounding but has a touch of American and Latin folk music, which gives the listener a kind of Chaplin vibe. There are still wonderful Romantic climaxes, but all over this piece is both dramatic and playful at the same time.

Concertos

The definition of a concerto is a piece with one or more solo players, usually with the orchestra (or alternatively the piano) as a secondary function. Concertos exist for more or less all instruments, but the most famous ones are usually for violin or piano, closely followed by instruments like cello and horn. In my opinion, the best concertos have orchestra parts that play an active role, but there is obviously no truth regarding this. What concertos have in common is that they are virtuous, and therefore often enjoyed by listeners that are not bothered by so-called “show off phrases”.

#8
Edgar Meyer – Violin Concerto, First movement

Being written by a somewhat peculiar composer, EM did not disappoint when Hilary Hahn commissioned this piece from him. EM spent years of his career writing and playing bluegrass-inspired music along with legendary banjo player Bela Fleck, EM himself with his double bass. It seems though as this extraordinary bass player finally decided to show the public the tricks he had up his sleeve, resulting in a beautiful violin concerto for talented HH. Although the concerto is tonal it is obviously from modern times and has a dramatic and film music like atmosphere. The orchestra is far from passive, and its parts are beautifully put together with those of the soloist. Definitely a good choice for listeners requiring a newer sound.

#9
Max Bruch – Violin concerto in G minor, First movement: Vorspiel. Allegro Moderato

This piece is extremely established in the concerto repertoire, and with good reason. I for one wait patiently through the slow and in my opinion boring intro, before the tension increases with three hundred percent when the strings start their plucking motive in the background. As mentioned this concerto is as virtuous as most concertos, but instead of just playing scales up and down, MB has been creative with his virtuous parts, making the soloist play several strings at the same time, sometimes aggressively articulated with sharp accents.

The orchestra is quite active through the whole movement, and during the highlight, the soloist is completely absent, which is somewhat rare in a concerto. Also, instead of ending with a Eurovision-like fanfare, the end of the first movement is also the beginning of the second, and you will have problems telling exactly where the transition is if you don’t already know the piece. This one is probably a good choice for listeners that enjoy very slow music, but since that is not me, I won’t recommend it.

#10
Jean Sibelius – Violin concerto in D minor, First movement: Allegro Moderato

A good choice for listeners who have already found themselves enjoying the previous concerto, as I think the two movements have a lot in common. But, JS’s sound is naturally more Northern and less German-Romantic and has more folk music-like tonality.

The virtuous parts are definitely what picky listeners would refer to as show off, but still not what make the movement special. The main motives and melodies give associations to nature and forest and provide vivid and visual images as if one were listening to a movie soundtrack. There are also several off-key tones here and there, that create a tension that the former piece lacks, and adds another level of profoundness.

#11
Ludvig van Beethoven – Triple concerto for piano, violin and cello in C major, First movement: Allegro

Not really being one for piano concertos, this piece has something inexplicable to it, making it one of my concerto favorites. First of all, there are not many concertos involving three soloists, and one of them being the piano, it is quite an achievement to put these three instruments together with a full orchestra.

This being an earlier piece than most of the others on this list, it absolutely has another expression, and with the risk of stereotyping the era, it is generally happier sounding than the Romantic pieces mentioned above. This said, there is still a dramatic kind of sorrow within it, especially around the ninth minute, where the three instruments get together in a series of arpeggio chords that rip the heart out of your chest (in a good way. Yes, it is possible).

#12
Nikolay Myaskovsky – Sonata for cello in A minor, First movement: Allegro Moderato

Written by a much less famous composer than the former, this piece has somehow not become a part of the standard solo repertoire, unlike the previous ones. It is not a concerto but a sonata and is therefore accompanied by the piano instead of the orchestra, but the melodies sound like they are made with such profound sorrow that they stand just beautifully as they are.

I found this movement so special that I made a song of it, always having thought that the melodies would work absolutely wonderfully with lyrics. The cello is the perfect instrument for expressing sadness, and NM couldn’t have made a better choice on this matter.

Orchestral pieces

The general non-musician audience usually finds these pieces the most appealing within the classical repertoire, perhaps because they are used to hearing their sound occasionally in movies and series (I mean, we all watched the Lord of the Rings and Star Wars).

The best orchestral pieces are in my opinion the ones that really take advantage of all the different sound opportunities, and make me love instruments that I usually don’t enjoy listening to (I won’t mention names).

#13
Jean Sibelius – En saga

Possibly my favorite piece in the whole world. Just like in the violin concerto, JS teleports his listeners into the Finnish forests. The piece is almost twenty minutes long, and possibly a heavy piece to begin one’s classical music adventure with, and I for one had to listen to it quite a few times before I started loving it like I do now. It is built upon three brilliantly put together melodies, each more dramatic and mysterious than the previous, all sewed together in a mosaic-like blanket full of tiny details that can be discovered time after time.

En saga demands a certain amount of patience, but getting through it will give you a lifelong treasure. If there is one piece on this list I know I will never stop listening to, it is this one.

#14
Jean Sibelius – Symphony no. 1 in E minor, Fourth movement: Finale

While not being quite as amazing as En Saga, JS’s first symphony is also wonderful, and a rare finding within the symphony repertoire, as it is one of the few symphonies where all the movements are equally breathtaking (maybe with the exception of the third). The mood is just like any Sibelius piece, and if I were to choose one movement, I would go for the fourth one.

#15
Camille Saint-Säéns – Danse Macabre

This piece is a great one for unexperienced listeners, as it is both beautiful, humorous, playful, and literally diabolic at the same time. There is a small but dominating violin solo appearing from time to time, imitating Mephistopheles himself playing his fiddle. And it certainly sounds like it.

Danse Macabre is quite famous and sometimes regarded light music, but most of all it has a somewhat cartoon-like touch, making it a fun experience for people who connect classical music with falling asleep.

#16
Arnold Schönberg – Verklärte Nacht, First movement: Grave

Most people don’t connect AS with beautiful orchestra music, being that he went insanely experimental at a certain point, and started writing completely atonal music for an even smaller audience than the tonal classical music.

This piece, however, was written before his turning point and is an absolute masterpiece. It has always given me more or less the same feeling as Sibelius’ En saga but in a more modern, yet tonal and deeply emotional suit. I die a little inside every time I think about all the amazing music AS could have written, but decided not to.

Verklärte Nacht was originally written for string ensemble but has later been rearranged for full orchestra, which in my opinion is even better. It is sadly a bit of a challenge to find good recordings of the latter, but don’t despair; the string orchestra version is also amazing.

#17
Franz Liszt – Les préludes

Although FL is mostly famous for his piano pieces, I could not resist putting him on this part of the lis(z)t as well. This is quite a heavy piece, long in duration and very dramatic and huge sounding. It does however contain that very mood that FL always manages to express, – the kind of action like movie soundtrack spirit that makes you imagine someone running from a monster or going to war.

Also, the title is worth explaining; meaning that life is just a prelude to the afterlife. Without debating that subject, it is quite a powerful message.

#18
Sergei Prokofiev – Montagues and Capulets

Being one of the most infamous works on this list, this piece will be recognized by non-musicians as well as musicians. It starts off pretty strange, but wait for it; the good is yet to come. The main motive is ridiculously simple but yet manages to stab you right through the heart.

The piece describes the story of Romeo and Juliet and belongs to SP’s ballet with the same name, and is the definite highlight of this work.

Choir pieces

Not being a huge opera fan, I on the other hand find choir music quite magical at times. Even the highest of voices become more pleasant-sounding when they blend together, and there are a few choir pieces that have reached the very top of my list.

#19
Thomas Tallis – Spem in Alium

I first heard this piece in a lecture at the music academy, which was an issue, because I had to hide the fact that I was crying for about its whole ten-minute duration. The piece is by far the oldest on this list and consists of forty different voices. It starts off with a single soprano and builds up to something sounding as close to a choir of angels that one can imagine.

The utter sadness of this piece will have its listeners philosophize about all things greater than life itself, and I dare say it has the ability to put even the most hardcore atheist in a religious mood. I still dream of hearing this piece live in a cathedral.

#20
Hector Berlioz – Te Deum: Judex Crederis

Te Deum is a fantastic and powerful creation, with Judex Crederis as the absolute climax. The movement makes you feel like you are going through the very day of judgment, and an ensemble consisting of a huge choir, full orchestra and organ is being taken to its very limit. Both instruments and voices fill the whole register, all the way from tones so deep they sound like they’re coming from within the earth, to screams of pain and suffering.

I once sang this piece in a choir with hundreds of people along with the Symphonic Orchestra of Oslo, and being a part of performing it is the only thing I can think of better than hearing it live.

#21
Ola Gjeilo – Nisi Dominus

The by far newest piece on the list, composed by the young Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo. OG is remarkably successful and makes beautiful choir music, which makes him considered tacky amongst other, more modern oriented Norwegian contemporary composers.

In my opinion, Nisi Dominus is a great piece, especially the second part, where the basses sing so deeply you can feel it in your stomach, and the music resembles the dramatic choirs often used in fantasy movies.

As a side note, I will mention that I once texted the web administration on OG’s page, asking where I could get a recording of this piece. I received a very friendly e-mail from the composer himself, with a beautiful, professional recording as an attachment. Good to know there are still some down to earth, friendly artists out there.

Chamber music

Being a cellist myself, I obviously have a thing for string pieces. This last part of the list includes some of my very favorite pieces, – pieces that I consider the most beautiful music made for strings.

#22
Franz Schubert – String quintet in C major, Second movement: Adagio

In addition to En Saga, this is my second favorite piece in the world. I got it recommended by a previous teacher, and the first time I played it I cried like an idiot. Both the first and second movement are magical, but the second one has a kind of despair to it that makes me long for something I have yet to identify.

The movement starts off as quiet as it is possible for a quintet to play, and lays down a subtle blanket of soft string chords, leaving the listener totally unprepared for what is to come. When the second, faster part starts, it is in far contrast to the first, and these three passionate minutes consist of what is possibly the most beautiful melody in the history of music.

I don’t really know what else to say.

#23
Jean Sibelius – Impromptu

Although JS is mostly famous for his orchestral works, at times he also rocked the strings, the Impromptu being the best example. The piece has a lot in common with the previous one by Schubert, and starts off with a bell-like chime, completely calmly. The second part is faster and starts off in a kind of half happy mood, but when it changes to minor it is like going beyond a happy face and seeing the sorrow within the soul.

Like in so many classical pieces, there are parts of this piece I don’t enjoy as much as others, but the fast minor part is even better when it comes after a more cheerful introduction.

#24
Antonin Dvorak – String quartet no. 12 in F major (“The American quartet”), First movement: Allegro

Feeling slightly guilty about not having put AD on the list until now, I have to include this piece. As I have already said, few composers manage to make a four-movement piece with equally beautiful movements, but AD must have had a special talent for this (as it also applies to his eight and ninth symphony).

It is impossible for me to choose a single movement in this quartet, as they are all amazing, and perfectly balanced between careful optimism and deep melancholy. All the movements are closely connected and there is never any doubt that they belong together; another unique character of this piece, that cannot be found in a lot of four-movement works.

I hereby present two of my most common traits; I tend to personify things. I tend to have some level of insomnia.

Insomnia might not sound like such a big deal for those who have not had it. But in addition to messing up your nights (hence also your days), insomnia is both a cause for and an effect of mental diagnoses like anxiety and depression. Believe me, I’ve had it all, but I still don’t know if the chicken or the egg came first.

Well, all of these things can be cured one way or the other, but the trauma of insomnia is what still haunts its victim, even in the healthiest of times.

I love sleeping, and if nobody wakes me up or if I don’t put my regular three alarms, I can still sleep like a fourteen year old full of raging hormones. This would be a good time to mention that I have checked my vitamins, changed my diet, and so on. So, sometimes, being more than averagely spaniardized, I take a nap. A good old siesta.

And I fall asleep within minutes. I sleep deeply and heavily and I struggle with getting up. When you remove the pressure of going to bed at night, the thought of the consequences of failing, I’m a sleeping machine. More than I would like even, I tend to think most people live years longer than me, counting only waking hours.

When you have or have had insomnia, the bed is your enemy. No matter how comfy it is, no matter how expensive your silky bedsheets are, your bed is a monster, and it tortures you and gives you the feeling of performing an impossible task. You go on stage in front of a million people with an instrument you have never played before. You know you will fail and you know that it will make you desperate on surviving it and that it will ruin your day. Tomorrow too, probably even the next one.

My body becomes alert. If I go through every part of it, I can feel how my mouth is twitched in a grim, how my forehead is wrinkled and my fists closed. When I go through each one of them, they have twitched again as soon as I reach the starting point. The feeling of lying down doesn’t feel relaxing anymore, instead, it feels like rays of lightning inside my body are making me want to change position, only to change again and again.

I sleep on the bus. On the train, on the tram, and on the subway, even on cheap Ryanair flights with absolutely no space for my way longer than average body. In fact, I may relax so deeply that I start drooling on the shoulder of my neighbor. Most of the time it’s my husband’s, but not always.

So I have started imagining my Zs as evil little bastards that for some reason despise my bedroom, and live to mess me up. They make up for it by showing up at absolutely any other opportunity. In class. When I read. And don’t even get me started on mornings. It’s like they return after a hard night out partying, only to have invited a hundred more of them to an afterparty above my head. They’re physically holding me down. Tired is just not descriptive enough. I feel sick. I feel depressed. I feel like I’m dying. And the world is just not made for my kind of folks.

On the bright side, my asshole Zs make me sleep very lightly when I actually do sleep, which results in a number of vivid and complex dreams every single night. I remember them in detail, and I very much enjoy having my slightly overly developed imagination go wild, bringing me new stories every time I beat my enemy and actually drift off. It is indeed a useless and energy-consuming (oh, the irony) kind of sleep, but it is definitely interesting. Being a creative person, I often find them inspiring, and I try to write them all down.

I have of course found several tricks to beat my Zs. For some reason, these things seem to keep them where they should be for long enough to let me relax;

• Meditation apps, – but not all of them, and if I listen to the good ones too long, they stop being Z magnets

• The music from the original Blade Runner movie, – mostly successful, but the same goes here, – do not listen to it every night! If you learn every musical gesture by heart, the Zs will leave

• Counting, – not sheep, but breaths. Listening to one’s own breath can be very soothing and it’s difficult to get higher than about five hundred before you a) fall asleep, or b) get desperate and go nuts

• Staring at the inside of your eyelids, – this tends to work, but beware! Doing this for too long can make you see some weird and potentially scary LSD-like shit that might wake you up and leave you even more nervous and tense. This could definitely be something that just happens to me, I might be insane or possessed or something, but there is a chance I am not alone, right? Just say yes.

So, those were my tricks. Do them stealthily, so the Zs don’t realize that you’re putting them in a cage. Seriously, whistle unsuspiciously or something. Don’t underestimate them. They’re mean. At least mine are.

Ok, time for bed. Good night. Or, enjoy never getting those wounds that paralyzed people that lay still for too long get. While getting to know every little detail of your ceiling, accompanied by the snoring beast beside you. Every insomnia victim has an anti-insomnia sidekick.

Unfortunately, I’m the main character in this story.