Originally Written July 10th, 2021
I have made a certain observation that out of all of today’s music genres, not one of them is designed or meant to inspire wonder. Sure, military music (like the Star Wars Theme) does inspire great awe, though its greater effect is to either strike fear or to call people to attention. Classical music is very enveloping, but it’s intended to be simple and intriguing to the mind. New Age music sometimes does a nice job, but it can be extremely dreamy and aimless.
Why then, is there no “genre of wonder”? Maybe because wonder is one of the most magnificent achievements of human thought, rarely focused on by those who are obsessed with what is popular.
Most songs are written to satisfy some other want or demand of man. Military music, as mentioned before, is written for a very specific purpose. Informal tunes, such as love songs, are almost always composed to display passion or to show feelings of lost hope. This limiting aspect of supply and demand has created a bottleneck in the types of music written. If nobody wants wonder-filled melodies (even if they are needed!), no one will market them.
Examples of Wonder Music
However, while musical pieces that express wonder are rare, they can still be found throughout a wide range of styles. Just because wonder music isn’t common or popular does not mean it is devoid of all existence. There are a plenitude of priceless treasures scattered throughout history.
Pieces such as the soundtrack from The NeverEnding Story; Anne’s Theme from the classic film, Anne of Green Gables; and the theme song from the recent PBS episode series, All Creatures Great and Small, are all excellent examples of wonder-filled songs. This is because the movies they were based on were wonder-filled. Oftentimes, the content of the show the songs were written for generally determines how they will sound.
Interestingly, the amount of wonder in each of the songs listed is proportional to how much wonder was incorporated into the stories they go with. The NeverEnding Story is a tale from the world of the imagination, which is made of pure wonder, so songs like the Ivory Tower Theme are almost incomparable. Anne, from Anne of Green Gables, is a girl obsessed with her imagination, wondering at everything, thus making Anne’s Theme a melodic marvel.
Lastly, All Creatures Great and Small is a song of wonder because the episodes it came from take delight in the beautiful parts of creation. The reason it’s not at the top of the list is because wonder was not the dominant theme of the film, making the flavor of the song a little more relaxed.
As you can see, the music of wonder is not impossible to find. Rather, it is hiding all around us.
Music from places other than movie soundtracks are also filled with wonder. Morning, by Edvard Grieg, is a fantastic piece. A depiction of the sun rising is clearly visible in the mind while listening to it. (The song was written for a moment in a play where the African sun was rising.1“Commonly assumed to invoke Norway’s iconic western fjords, the prelude in fact sets the stage for Ibsen’s eponymous wanderer, washed up on the Moroccan coast.” –“In the Mood:” Peer Gynt and the Affective Landscapes of Grieg’s Stemninger, op. 73 But since the song fits so well with the landscape of Grieg’s homeland, some say that he had a Norwegian sunrise in mind when he wrote the song.)
Hymns such as Behold our God and This Is My Father’s World are wonder-filled because they describe God, who is more wonderful than can be imagined. And they speak of His creation, which contains more wonder than can be comprehended.
Wonder-filled music is a genre that transcends all other genres. Just in the pieces listed throughout this short article, genres such as Light Jazz, Orchestral, Worship, Romantic, Contemporary New Age, and more have shown that they are capable of expressing great wonder, only if the composer is willing to do so. Though not as plentiful as other kinds of music, the wonderful music that exists is a treasure that should be cherished and shared with many.
A Collection of Wonder Music for Your Enjoyment
- 1“Commonly assumed to invoke Norway’s iconic western fjords, the prelude in fact sets the stage for Ibsen’s eponymous wanderer, washed up on the Moroccan coast.” –“In the Mood:” Peer Gynt and the Affective Landscapes of Grieg’s Stemninger, op. 73