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Thread: Is classical music really better than popular music?

  1. #1
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    Is classical music really better than popular music?

    I am reading a book written by an author who criticizes popular music for "its constand reversion to the tonic, the insistent repetition of its rhythms, the inevitability of its melodic lines, its extreme harmonic poverty."

    (Bachmann, M-L. (Parlett, D., transl) [1991] 2002. Dalcroze today: An education through and into music. Oxford: Clarendon Press: 186.

    But does this generalization really apply? If my musical memory serves me right, "Surfer Girl," sung by the Beach Boys, begins with a phrase which surprisingly ends on measure 7 instead of measure 8. During that 7-measure phrase, we are treated to a wealth of substitution chords and secondary dominant chords.

    On the other hand, Lully's well-known song, "Au clair de la lune," is erected on the overworn AABA blueprint. The A phrases end predictably on the tonic and the B phrase ends predictably on the dominant.

    http://www.rassat.com/page1/partitio...de_la_lune.gif

    The Mozart sonata in A major, K 331, begins with a 4-measure antecedent and a 4-measure consequent which end, lo and behold, on the dominant and tonic, respectively. The first two measures of the two phrases are exactly the same. Furthermore, there is only one chord besides the tonic and dominant.

    Next is a 4-measure B phrase ending on the dominant, just as in Lully's song. In the restatement, Mozart finally surprises us with an extension.

    http://mto.societymusictheory.org/is..._ex2_small.gif

    Because of the perfect symmetry of the first 8 measures, those 8 meaures have been acclaimed as "the most perfect melody ever written." Yet Bachmann condemns popular music for the very same trait. Let us be consistent!

    What do you think?
    Does Bachmann have a valid criterion for good and bad music, or not?
    Does Bachmann's generalization about popular and classical music really apply, or not?
    Last edited by tomato; Sep-22-2007 at 11:30.

  2. #2
    Ensign, Principal Oneiros's Avatar
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    Whilst I really dislike pop music, I think that person's criticism misses the point. Pop music is not meant to have the same harmonic depth, or melodic inventiveness of classical music. There are many other factors involved in what makes a good pop song. Holding up the values of western classical as absolute and applying them to other musics is silly. It's like saying an Indian raga is bad music music because there's no harmonic movement...

    I think you get my drift.

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    Ensign, Principal Deeru Piotr's Avatar
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    Harnoncourt said something like the categorization between classical and popular music is artificial, there is only good and bad music (among both genres I assume)

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    Vice Admiral Virtuoso methodistgirl's Avatar
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    I kinda like both. Because both can be classics like pop songs of the
    seventies or further back or later. Classic music some of it I like because
    I can sing some of it in church or play it while practicing.
    judy tooley

  5. #5
    Commodore con Forza Sybarite's Avatar
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    To start with, are we talking about classical music or serious music?

    Oneiros is right, in that popular music – whether a Gershwin song or Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody – is not written to do the same things that a serious piece of music does (or attempts).

    To attempt to compare them is a little like trying to compare a Shakespeare play and an episode of a soap opera or proper food and a MacDonalds 'meal'.

    Not that there's anything wrong with 'pop' music – and there's good and bad in the popular realm too, with some really innovative writers and artists (as well as some tat – see my comments about Britney Spears elsewhere).

    One doesn't have to be a relativist in terms of music to enjoy Beethoven's ninth symphony and Pulp's Different Class. Personally, I distrust snobs who simply damn all popular culture.

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    Admiral Honkenwheezenpooferspieler Corno Dolce's Avatar
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    I really don't care for popular music but I can listen to it. Phil Collins, Dan Fogelberg, Cat Stevens, Reo Speedwagon, and yes, even Prince has been on the CD player a few times. Now Jazz is a different story altogether. Like Classical, I enjoy Jazz at anytime of day and in all instrumental and vocal combinations.
    *If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he prays for anything else, even his own soul, when he stands and stretches out his hands towards God, he must pray with all his heart for his enemies. Through this action God will hear everything that he asks* -Abba Zeno-

    *Protagoras: "Truth is subjective. What is true for you, and what is true for me, is true for me. Your opinion is true by virtue of its being your opinion."

    *Socrates: "My opinion is: Truth is absolute, not opinion, and that you are in absolute error. Since this is my opinion, then according to your philosophy you must grant that it is true."

    "Improvisational Art": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSxVO3EoCRM

  7. #7
    Lieutenant, Associate Concertmaster
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    I am reading a book written by an author who criticizes popular music for "its constand reversion to the tonic, the insistent repetition of its rhythms, the inevitability of its melodic lines, its extreme harmonic poverty."
    Nevermind the reversion to the tonic, The last three are why most Pop music of the 20th Century bores me. I am not saying it is better or worse but it usually bores me. When I hear the same damn guitar hook over and over with someone talk singing over it... ahhhh!

  8. #8
    Captain of Water Music pnoom's Avatar
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    Perhaps some of you are merely listening to the wrong music. While I enjoy and respect both popular music and classical music, I will say that I have heard pop/rock songs as complex as classical music, but I have never heard classical music that rocks.

    Of course, I might be listening to the wrong classical music.

    And little of the music I listen to is really "popular..."

  9. #9
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    there is no "wrong" music, music should be music of all kinds. Classical music is a sophisticated "Art" form, don't expect your common average Joe to grasp the intricacies of classical music.

  10. #10
    Captain of Water Music pnoom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gustav View Post
    there is no "wrong" music, music should be music of all kinds.
    Absolutely correct.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gustav View Post
    Classical music is a sophisticated "Art" form, don't expect your common average Joe to grasp the intricacies of classical music.
    Rock music is a sophisticated art form. It is the classical elitism like what that sentence just showed that has kept me away from classical music for so long.
    "Did anybody see this snowman
    Stand there with the lord
    With proper get up, hang his hat
    Only you're feeling sleepy-eyed"

    -Damo Suzuki

  11. #11
    Ensign, Principal
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    I don't think anyone has an authority to divide music into good or bad. Music is supposed to touch you in my opinion, and since people are different, music affects us differently.
    It is true that "popular" (yikes, that term is bad!) music can be much simpler than "classical" (and this term is worse!) music, but often simplicity is effective. I don't like the many genre names either, let's just say music and we like it or we don't.
    Like Duke Ellington said: "Only two kinds of music exist; good and bad. And the individual person decides which is which."
    P.S. I listen to almost all kinds of music and enjoy it.

    Cheers Peter

  12. #12
    Captain of Water Music pnoom's Avatar
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    Udyret has the right idea, but I disagree. Genres are helpful in the search for new music. I try to enjoy all sorts of music, but it is inevitable that there are some types I don't like and some I do. Genre-tagging allows me points of reference I would not otherwise have.
    "Did anybody see this snowman
    Stand there with the lord
    With proper get up, hang his hat
    Only you're feeling sleepy-eyed"

    -Damo Suzuki

  13. #13
    Admiral Honkenwheezenpooferspieler Corno Dolce's Avatar
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    Hi Gustav,

    Welcome aboard. You spoke of the average Joe - I am he and I don't understand popular music. Music, for me, has never been elitist or something that has to be pidgeon-holed into different *classes* e.g. wealthy class, upper class, working class, or no class. Maybe I'm missing something here or I am hopelessly stupid but music has to be democracy in action. Since there are so many styles and genres of music, there is bound to be something that appeals to each and every individual but to impute *class rhetoric* to music will, imho, do a dis-service to music and to the music performer, music creator, and music consumer.

    Cheers,

    Corno Dolce
    *If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he prays for anything else, even his own soul, when he stands and stretches out his hands towards God, he must pray with all his heart for his enemies. Through this action God will hear everything that he asks* -Abba Zeno-

    *Protagoras: "Truth is subjective. What is true for you, and what is true for me, is true for me. Your opinion is true by virtue of its being your opinion."

    *Socrates: "My opinion is: Truth is absolute, not opinion, and that you are in absolute error. Since this is my opinion, then according to your philosophy you must grant that it is true."

    "Improvisational Art": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSxVO3EoCRM

  14. #14
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    Thank you.

    You see, i understand what you are saying. Of course, even an average Joe can appreciate Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert or even Mahler. But, sometimes, it takes little bit more to appreciate classical music, and this is not "elitism". Let me be an example, I don't just listen to classical music, I study it (on the side) too. I read scholarly journals about the music i am listening; i take lessens in basic music theory, so i understand more on the technical aspects of music making; i even borrow books from libraries to learn about the composers... These actions simply can't be expected from an "average" Joe. The average Joe might find Beethoven's music 5th interesting, or take a keen interest in Mozart. But will he be able to grasp the essence of Music? So many people today only understand music (classical music in this case) on a superficial level. e.g. to listen for the lyrical melodies, and "loud" parts. But, there is so much more to it, and to fully grasp that aspect of music, one must put a lot of more efforts into listening music, as matter a fact, listening classical music for me, at least, has been a tremendous Learning Experience.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Corno Dolce View Post
    Hi Gustav,

    Welcome aboard. You spoke of the average Joe - I am he and I don't understand popular music. Music, for me, has never been elitist or something that has to be pidgeon-holed into different *classes* e.g. wealthy class, upper class, working class, or no class. Maybe I'm missing something here or I am hopelessly stupid but music has to be democracy in action. Since there are so many styles and genres of music, there is bound to be something that appeals to each and every individual but to impute *class rhetoric* to music will, imho, do a dis-service to music and to the music performer, music creator, and music consumer.

    Cheers,

    Corno Dolce
    LOL, I have no class, i am a lowly, poor college student.

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