London: The turbulent weather with its wind and the storm has always been the favourite of classical music composers. Scientists at the Universities of Oxford and Reading have catalogued and analysed depictions of weather in classical music from the 17th Century to the present day to help understand how climate impacts our thinking.
Wagner, for example, referred to 'bad-weather unemployment' and wrote: “This is awful weather. My work has been put aside for two days, and the brain is stubbornly declining its services.”
The most popular type of weather represented is the storm, as an allegory for emotional turbulence, such as in Benjamin Britten's Four Sea Interludes from the opera Peter Grimes.
Wind was found to be the second most popular type of weather to feature in music, the journal Weather reports.
Wind can have a variety of characters, from a gentle breeze rustling the trees, as in the beginning of the third movement of Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, to a full-blown Antarctic gale, as in Sinfonia Antarctica by Vaughan Williams, according to an Oxford statement.
Karen Aplin, physicist at Oxford University and Paul Williams, from Reading University's meteorology department, both combine careers as atmospheric scientists with a love of classical music.
Aplin was inspired by the regular portrayal of weather-related phenomena in orchestral music she has played, she said: “As all music lovers know, the hint of a distant storm from a drum roll can be just as evocative as the skies depicted by Constable and Monet.”
The researchers were so convinced that classical music is influenced by climate that they pursued this pilot study in their own spare time.
Williams said: “We found that composers are generally influenced by their own environment in the type of weather they choose to represent.”
The research showed British composers easily lead the way with musical weather, followed by the French and the Germans.
Strauss needed both sunshine and the Alpine landscape to inspire him. Several other composers, such as Berlioz, Schubert and Wagner, were also dependent on fair weather conditions, associated with high pressure, for their best output.