I was reminded of this wonderful side effect of some classical music--its ability to relax us and offer respite from the world--while reading There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz. Published in 1991, it's a portrait of two brothers growing up poor in Chicago's Henry Horner Homes, a dangerous public housing complex where mothers feared their children might not live to see 18. As depicted by the eloquent Kotlowitz, the younger brother, 9-year-old Pharoah, whose childhood is under threat from his surroundings, "clutched his childhood with the vigor of a tiger gripping his meat. He wouldn't let it go." He also "listened to classical music on the radio because, he said, it relaxed him."
Over the years, many have asked Kotlowitz what became of Pharoah and his older brother, whose lives he chronicled over a two-year period, and whose futures matter to readers before they've finished the second chapter. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune makes it plain that like many who grow up poor in violent surroundings, their lives have been difficult. But I hope that wherever Pharoah is, he continues to take solace in music, and that it brings him some peace.
Inspired by this moving book and by young Pharoah's appreciation of classical music, I updated a CD list I created a few years ago called Relax to the Classics. You can access the list here and then check out a little respite from the world yourself. And feel free to chime in with your favorite piece of music to relax to--classical or otherwise.