The World’s Loudest Classical Music

Arts & EntertainmentBooks & Music

  • Author Alexander Belsey
  • Published September 10, 2021
  • Word count 845

Rock and metal fans get a lot of flack from classical fans for their noisy rabblerousing that can reach frightening levels of sound. But believe it or not, classical fans have a few antisocial tracks of their own - and they’ve been playing them for a lot longer.

Here, we’ve gathered some of the loudest examples of classical music, so get your earplugs ready!

The Instruments

While many people (rightly or wrongly) associate loud music with electric guitars and drum kits, classical instruments can make a considerable amount of noise too.

For example, consider the following records they have set:

The Instrument With Furthest Travelling Sound - The Carillon

The carillon is perhaps better known as 'church bells', and comprises 23 bells that are played using a keyboard or by manual ringing by church bell ringers. The noise is audible from as far as 11km away!

The Loudest Recorded Instrument - The Boardwalk Hall Auditorium Organ

Documented in the Guinness Book Of World Records as the loudest instrument, the Boardwalk Hall Auditorium organ is composed of 33,112 pipes, 7 keyboards and 1,439 keys, and plays a noise that is six times louder than a train whistle. The organ is also known as one of the largest instruments, weighing over 150 tonnes.

Composing A Cacophony

Many composers have created bombastically loud classical music! Here are some of the noisiest examples:

Battle Of Vitoria - Beethoven

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_C-3yJAmcK4

Beethoven is known for creating loud and raucous works. His Battle of Vitoria used 100 musicians and was described by critics as a ‘sonic assault on the listener’ and the ‘beginning of a musical arms race for ever louder…symphonic performance’.

Interestingly, the piece was not originally composed for an orchestra, as per Beethoven’s usual compositions. Instead, it was composed for the panharmonicon, a mechanical orchestral organ - which never really caught on.

Beethoven’s piece was redeveloped for the orchestra, and was very popular throughout Europe, although he himself had little attachment to the piece, and it was not well-received by the English prince regent, who made no comment on the arrangement.

Beethoven is a fascinating example of a classical composer because of his famed deafness. And while many people have speculated throughout the ages that he composed his music despite his deafness, it has recently been suggested that it was precisely deafness that lent itself to some of Beethoven's signature trademarks.

In a letter dated 1801, Beethoven described his difficulties with hearing music; 'In the theatre, I have to get very close to the orchestra to understand the performers, and that from a distance, I do not hear the high notes of the music and the singer's voices.'

Beethoven’s deafness was attributed to bilateral tinnitus in his left ear. By 1818, Beethoven was communicating by writing in a notebook. And by 1825, he was completely deaf.

A review by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has found that Beethoven’s music lowered in pitch throughout his musical career - likely due to his worsening ability to hear high pitched noises.

1812 Overture - Tchaikovsky

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbxgYlcNxE8

Tchaikovsky famously hated his piece the 1812 Overture and slammed it as being 'very loud and noisy and completely without artistic merit'.

And while it is not without all artistic merit, the 1812 Overture is certainly noisy! The symphony was written to include five cannon shots,

Like Beethoven’s Battle Of Vitoria, the 1812 Overture was a militaristic piece, composed to commemorate the Battle of Borodino against Napoleon. Although the Russians had, in fact, lost the battle against Napoleon, the piece was designed to reflect Russian nationalistic themes, and show victory in the face of war.

However, this almost delusional retrospective view of history backfired; in 1881, Tsar Alexander II, for whom the composition had been commissioned, was assassinated.

The 1812 overture was finally first heard with no cannon shots or brass accompaniment, nor cathedral bells as it was originally written.

Mars, Bringer Of War – Gustav Holst

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0bcRCCg01I

Holst wrote Mars, Bringer Of War in 1914 before the start of WWI, but it was not released until 1918.

Mars was highly effective in communicating the violence of war, and although many have assumed that the piece was written to commemorate the tragedies of mechanised warfare, the piece was actually composed before WW1 even began, and critics have speculated that Mars was more of a musical exercise in using clashing notes and crescendos for Holst than a political statement.

The piece is composed in a minor key, which emphasises the feelings of terror and tragedy attached to the music, with a strict, militaristic rhythm using harsh instruments such as trumpets and horns.

This is in direct contrast to Holst’s other work, Venus, Bringer Of Peace, which is a calm and serene composition, using harp and flute to invoke the Roman Goddess of peace and love.

Mars, Bringer Of War was also the inspiration for the main riff for Black Sabbath’s Black Sabbath, as well as the theme song for Star Wars, among other movies.

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