I once heard that classical music was better for the heart than rock ’n’ roll. It didn’t make sense at the time—isn’t it better to get the blood pumping with rock’s insistent 4/4 beat than with the same beat played in a relatively gentle way by an orchestra string section? The answer is both nuanced and logical, just like the timeless music itself.

For centuries, classical music has evolved and undergone many variations. From the parallel voices of plainchant in monasteries, to the dance music of the Renaissance, finally sweeping into courts and concert halls as the glorious Baroque, masters both known and anonymous fused notes, instruments, voices, and beats to create extraordinary aural art. Classical music takes cues from math, ...

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