Timeless Music: Why Does a Song Become Timeless?

We have all heard the expression that certain music is timeless. While this may be true, there are many different reasons.

The oldest “timeless” songs retaining their original forms are probably Gregorian chants. Back in circa three hundred A.D. Pope Gregory sat down and organized all the church music as well as the Catholic church in general. Seventeen hundred years later, we still sing and hear Gregorian chants during high masses. During the baroque period, Bach wrote “timeless” church music for pipe organ which is still performed today.

Outside of the church music flourished with the advent and development of what we think of as orchestral instruments. Baroque composers like Handel and Vivaldi also wrote great “timeless” pieces that many appreciate today. It wasn’t ’til the early seventeen hundreds when Strativari perfected the violin which played a role in launching the Classical period led by the father of the symphony orchestra, Franz Joseph Haydn.

The four note motif in Beethoven’s famous 5th Symphony is so “timeless”, we still use it one liners. Ex: “When Beethoven told his wife that he was going to write his fifth symphony, she responded with “Ha-ha-ha-haaah” or “What was Beethoven’s favorite fruit? Answer…the Ba-na-na-naaah”. Any 5th grader can sing that melody! A kid’s song “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, popular in kindergarten classes today was made into “Theme and Variations” by Mozart, but existed long before him.

Everyone today knows the Lone Ranger theme that was composed during the Romantic period in the 1800’s.

Let’s fast forward to the 1940’s on to present day. The Toys, a singing group in the 60’s, took Bach’s “Minuet in G”, added words, and a rock n roll beat and it became a popular song in a new genre, A Lover’s Concerto. Sounds “timeless” to me.

What we usually consider to be “timeless” songs though are songs that were popular 50 years ago but manage to have a comeback in present day. One you might hear as I speak is “A Little Less Conversation” by Elvis Presley. It is currently use daily in a commercial on television. You can find older songs in classical scenes of movies and TV shows as well.

Actually that is my modus operandi. When I hear an old song in a new venue, I see the generation connection. If the younger generation sees what they think is new and relates to it like we did decades earlier, then that song has risen to the status of “timeless”. If I feel the song excites me, I add it to my performing repertoire.

A perfect example is: “The Way You Look Tonight”. The scene in the credit card commercial was how you can use your rewards points. A beautiful young woman walks into a room wearing an exquisite, slinky dress she purchased with her points. Her husband is so moved by her appearance that he gets all these exotic ideas of where they can go using the same points. She replies “we can’t” as she looks down at her super expensive dress. All the while in the background the 1940’s romantic song set the mood perfectly. It was so perfectly effective that I almost went out and got that credit card. Now “Just The Way You Look” has become “timeless”. When I perform it, both old (70 year olds) AND young (25 year olds) relate to it.

Another classic I use is “Sway” from the 40’s. You might not know it by name, but you would recognize it from the final scene of “Let’s Dance” with Ja-Lo and Richard Gere.

These are but a couple of the dozens of timeless music examples we hear daily and think nothing about.

Yes, some music is “timeless”. It’s fun to think about what songs of today will withstand the test of time to join the ranks of “TIMELESS”