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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 7:53 am
by Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed
Many of us tend to look upon "classical music", "good music" and "serious music" as being synonyms for one another. Yet, it's important to remember that many of he works that we consider classical music today were highly controversial when they were first performed. Perhaps the most well known example is that of the Symphonie Fantastique of Berlioz, which resulted in a riot at its first performance. It is now regarded as a truly great work of programmatic music, with orchestration that is often used as a prime example in composing classes.

Probably most of us would say that good music would certainly include much 20th and 21st Century music (jazz, some rock, new age, etc.), but where does one draw the line? Will rap and hip-hop eventually be considered as "classic"? What distinguishes great music that will live on from the fads of the current day? I'm trying to make a distinction here between music that we merely like and that which we think might still be played 100 years from now. Should we try to teach our kids how to be discerning, without trying to change their tastes, per se?

PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2007 1:56 pm
by Dr. Bill Leland
I think the ideal would be to get back to the situation that existed in earlier times when there wasn't nearly so sharp a distinction between 'classical' and 'popular' music. Many of the great composers used familiar "low brow" melodies and folk tunes in some of their greatest works. Haydn's symphonies, for instance, are full of them, and J. S. Bach was roundly criticized for borrowing the tune of a bawdy song for the melody of his great Passion Chorale, "O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded." In the 1930s and '40s there was a lot of borrowing the other way: Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff especially got raided for pop songs, and so did Chopin (remember "Till the End of Time", using the A-flat Polonaise?).

Today some of the leading performers like Yo Yo Ma and Izhtak Perlman are doing a lot of crossover performances, playing jazz, show tunes, and even country fiddlin'--I think it's a good sign.

Then, too, some of our distinctions are a bit arbitrary. Take the song "Summertime", from Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess." Was there ever a more beautiful song written? Is it classical or pop?

Dr. Bill L.

PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 8:32 am
by Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed
Dr. Leland, your comments are very apropos here. There has always been blurring at the edges between genres, precisely because good music is good music all the time and lives on. However, rap music, for example, largely lacks one of the critical elements of music that you discuss in your Nuts and Bolts articles, melody. Either it lacks melody entirely or has an exceedingly simple one which emphasizes rhythm at the expense of other attributes. Does this mean that rap is bad music? Well, that depends on whether or not you like it. Does it mean that some of it will be considered classic fifty years from now? I suspect that a small fraction of it will, but most will be forgotten, with the style co-opted in some ways in other genre.

By the way, another example of "good music" that isn't classical is bluegrass. Some of the music is decades, if not centuries, old and is still played regularly. It isn't high-falutin', but its survival and growth in popularity shows that it isn't a fad. It's classic in the best sense of the term. :)

PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 9:27 am
by Dr. Bill Leland
There is a sort of corollary to rap in the 'classical' genre. In the 1920s, when Schoenberg, Berg and Webern were developing what came to be known as "12-Tone Music", they came up with a style of singing called 'sprechstimme', in which the singer half sings and half speaks. The notation consisted of intermittently placed pitches with lines indicating improvised sliding between the notes in imitation of the inflections of ordinary speech. It sounds pretty weird to most people at first.

My own feeling about rap is that it is much more a social than a musical phenomenon. Like country, it very definitely reflects a social condition or need, and the people it speaks to are angry. Is it music? Well, is Varese's "Ionisation"--written for 24 percussion instruments--music?

W.L.

PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 10:25 am
by Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed
Dr. Bill Leland wrote:There is a sort of corollary to rap in the 'classical' genre. In the 1920s, when Schoenberg, Berg and Webern were developing what came to be known as "12-Tone Music", they came up with a style of singing called 'sprechstimme', in which the singer half sings and half speaks.
My own feeling about rap is that it is much more a social than a musical phenomenon. Like country, it very definitely reflects a social condition or need, and the people it speaks to are angry. Is it music? Well, is Varese's "Ionisation"--written for 24 percussion instruments--music?

W.L.

Interesting. I wasn't aware of sprechstimme, though certainly aware of the works of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern. Some of these works require work to listen to (try a performance of Lulu), but they are still performed with some regularity.

We can argue what constitutes music on another occasion, but what constitutes that subset of aural experience that will survive to be appreciated by future generations? I would argue that one distinguishing characteristic is that good music reveals previously unappreciated or unnoticed aspects each time we listen to it. With most popular music, hearing it a couple times is enough to pretty much understand it (excepting, perhaps, trying to understand the meaning of the lyrics of A Whiter Shade of Pale through a fog of one's college cohorts' marijuana :D).




Edited By Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor on 1186676984

PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 10:48 am
by 108-1121887355
Music is music - some will last and some may not.

I do hope that some of what my granddaughter is listening to, will not! It does reflect the times. Hopefully, times will change. There are songs with words she is not supposed to use or sing, themes of abuse, unfaithfulness, and getting back at the person... ( "I dug my keys into the side of his car" 'he will think twice before cheating on me again') Thanks but no thanks.

My kids listened to Barry Mantilow and Billy Joel (you already know how old I am, so...). My sister was a Frank Sinatra fan and I was a big Al Jolson and Judy Garland fan plus of course, Bing and Perry and all. I loved all the music, as a singer, and also all the B'way shows. I also learned to appreciate opera in my late teens, and did standing room several times to hear "Madame Butterfly".

As a teacher of piano, I introduce my students to every type of music I can and they in turn introduce me to some. I show them the popular music that is based on 'classical', opera, operetta, and all.

I recently have begun to use the term "concert music" instead of "classical". In the days when classical was written, they were consider popular! It is confusing, when I am discussing periods of music with my students, when we come to classical, so concert music works for me.

Oh, and I consider Country music, music, Dr. L. My husband got me into it and I still sing some of the love songs and yes, the sad songs. There are some good melodies!


:p

PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 2:03 pm
by Stretto
I think this is a trick question! :D No matter which way you slice it - hard to come up with " THE answer".

One definition of good music could be: That which appeals to the mainstream public. Those pieces that transcend time being those pieces that appeal to the majority over generations.

My personal definition of what constitutes good music (or that music that I like) is: music that sounds good. But then again there has been the music that may have not sounded good at first but grows on a person or if one gains an understanding of it will be added to one's personal list of good music for example, 20th century music. I could say perhaps I wasn't too sure about Bartok or George Crumb at first but once I understand something about the composer, the style, time period, why they wrote what they did, or where there ideas came from, I can say it's good music.

Good music to some might also mean meaningful lyrics even if the sound of the music isn't that great. Combine meaningful lyrics that the majority can relate to with sound that backs up the expressiveness of the message and you have a classic!

Another personal definition for me would be: good music is variety - life would be boring with all classical, all blues, all country, all rock

But as far as music that transcends time that would still be around for years to come I would stick with the definition: that which appeals to the majority




Edited By Stretto on 1186689848

PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 2:23 pm
by Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed
Stretto wrote:But as far as music that transcends time that would still be around for years to come I would stick with the definition: that which appeals to the majority

By your definition, virtually no music that we consider "classical" would be considered good music, since the overwhelming majority of people in the western societies have never even heard classical music (let alone those in non-Western societies). Even among those that have, only a minority would say that it appeals to them. Non-classical recordings far outsell classical recordings.

I would say that one would have to add some other criteria. For example, I mentioned in another thread (at your request) that I couldn't name "least favorite" pieces because my appreciation changes over time as I become more familiar with a work. Does that mean that, for me, the work was poor music, but became good music as I became more knowledgeable about it? Or would we take the word of teenagers, who only like rap at this point in their lives, that Beethoven or Chopin works aren't worth knowing? I'm not criticizing anyone who likes music other than classical, but simply pointing out that popularity can only be a small part of the equation. A few years ago, Who Let the Dogs Out? was immensely popular, but not many argued that it would become a classic of any genre.




Edited By Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor on 1186751898

PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 3:07 pm
by Stretto
Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor wrote:
Stretto wrote:But as far as music that transcends time that would still be around for years to come I would stick with the definition: that which appeals to the majority

By your definition, virtually no music that we consider "classical" would be considered good music, since the overwhelming majority of people in the western societies have never even heard classical music (let alone those in non-Western societies). Even among those that have, only a minority would say that it appeals to them. Non-classical recordings far outsell classical recordings.

Why would you say then classical music is still around, played and listened to and keeps outliving much of the non-classical pieces and styles that have come and gone since?

PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 5:58 pm
by Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed
Stretto wrote:
Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor wrote:
Stretto wrote:But as far as music that transcends time that would still be around for years to come I would stick with the definition: that which appeals to the majority

By your definition, virtually no music that we consider "classical" would be considered good music, since the overwhelming majority of people in the western societies have never even heard classical music (let alone those in non-Western societies). Even among those that have, only a minority would say that it appeals to them. Non-classical recordings far outsell classical recordings.

Why would you say then classical music is still around, played and listened to and keeps outliving much of the non-classical pieces and styles that have come and gone since?

One of the reasons I have already suggested: that good music speaks to us on many levels that we slowly uncover each time we listen to a work. Thus, the experience is new each time. As I've said, most pop music lacks that kind of depth.

Also, classical music stays around because it is taught by those who know classical music to others of like mind. Rather than say that the music lives out of popularity, I would say it lives because it continues to speak to a part of each new generation in ways that most popular music doesn't and can't. I guess, in a certain sense, that's a form of popularity, but certainly not the kind that sells pop records or turns its performers into idols (all too briefly).

PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 6:54 pm
by Dr. Bill Leland
It's also easy to overlook the fact that the great classics we love and that have lasted for centuries represent only a relatively small fraction of the music that has been written over all those years. Do you ever hear music by Dittersdorf, Raff, Porpora, Albrechtsberger, Dussek, or Salieri? They were all prominent composers in their day. It was Albrechtsberger who said of one of his pupils, "He has learnt nothing and will never do anything in decent style." The pupil's name was Ludwig van Beethoven.

It may well be that a similar percentage of 'pop' music has the same staying power. I'm showing my age here, but it's hard to imagine great songs like "Stardust", "White Christmas" or "Summertime" dropping out of sight.

By the way, Dr. Z., if you've heard Berg's "Lulu" you've heard lots of sprechstimme!

Bill L.

PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 7:10 pm
by 108-1121887355
Much of 'popular' music does continue on. New arrangements come out and my grandchildren think it is a new song. Show tunes continue as schools put on their shows every year and musical theatre groups continue. "42nd Street", "Oliver". "West side Story" were popular here last year. Disney remains a favorite and move themes (again, some remakes).

As a singer, I not only love some of the melodies, but the lyrics are special too.

PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 7:16 pm
by 108-1121887355
I did not read Dr. Leland's post before replying. I could add a LONG list to his. My Mom and I sang many, many songs, including "Star Dust" and Summertime" and "White Christmas". How about "As Time Goes Bye",
"I Love You Truly", "Good Night, Sweetheart", I could do about 100! Want them all?

:D

PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2007 7:03 am
by Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed
loveapiano wrote:Much of 'popular' music does continue on. New arrangements come out and my grandchildren think it is a new song. Show tunes continue as schools put on their shows every year and musical theatre groups continue. "42nd Street", "Oliver". "West side Story" were popular here last year. Disney remains a favorite and move themes (again, some remakes).

As a singer, I not only love some of the melodies, but the lyrics are special too.

I don't consider show tunes as "popular" music. Broadway show music is usually written by people who have real composing ability and training. It is written to standards and for an environment much like opera, albeit in English, rather than Italian or German. Although some Broadway show tunes are much loved and many will live a long time, they show up on the Top 40 once in a blue moon.

A very few Top 40 tunes remain many years after they were written (some of the Beatles songs for example), but the overwhelming majority recede into blessed obscurity, remembered only by those who grew up with them. You (or I) might be able to recite hundreds of popular songs that we remember, but keep in mind that that is a tiny fraction of the popular music that is recorded every year. A Whiter Shade of Pale, the song I mentioned earlier, was a "phenomenon" in the 60's and early 70's, but is nearly forgotten now, except for those of us who grew up with it. I enjoy lots of popular music; a tiny fraction of it deserves "immortality." But, to bring this thread back to where it started, what distinguishes those works that will be performed a 100 years from now, no matter what genre, from the massively greater number that will be forgotten?




Edited By Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor on 1186751769

PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2007 9:31 am
by piano4kids
I love the discussion you are having in an attempt to define true classic verse pop and other forms of music and whether they will ever become classic. Music is a living, changing and evolving entity. We classifiy if for our own uses, but can it truly be classified. I find music is defined in the mind of the individual according to his/her thinking at the time. As the individual grows and life brings changes their classifications of music change. It is wonderful. We as teacher can only work to help our students understand elements that tend to create good music that will have lasting qualities enabling them to live on for enjoyment in future generations. :laugh: