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Thread: Why can't popular music be classical?

  1. #1
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    Why can't popular music be classical?

    Why can't popular music be serious, classical ones just like those ones by Mozart or Beethoven. Theme song for film is as much a form as Sonata. What's important is not style but substance.
    We have to admit that few popular songs today will be remembered after a few hundred years, just as Mozart or Beethoven's pieces do. But what if we have modern Mozart or Beethoven who can compose theme songs that can be called serious and classical?
    I am a Chinese, and there is a kind of art form called by 'Ci'. It was first invented by third-class poets and is slighted by first-class litteratuer. But later this kind of art form was accepted and many great litteratuer wrote an awful lot of Ci which are still remembered by us Chinese today.
    Won't this happen to popular music that is being mocked by music critics nowadays?

  2. #2
    Commodore con Forza Andrew Roussak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wtwt5237 View Post
    Why can't popular music be serious, classical ones just like those ones by Mozart or Beethoven. Theme song for film is as much a form as Sonata. What's important is not style but substance.
    We have to admit that few popular songs today will be remembered after a few hundred years, just as Mozart or Beethoven's pieces do. But what if we have modern Mozart or Beethoven who can compose theme songs that can be called serious and classical?
    I am a Chinese, and there is a kind of art form called by 'Ci'. It was first invented by third-class poets and is slighted by first-class litteratuer. But later this kind of art form was accepted and many great litteratuer wrote an awful lot of Ci which are still remembered by us Chinese today.
    Won't this happen to popular music that is being mocked by music critics nowadays?
    Hi wtwt5237,

    I would say I agree with you generally, and this topic has been already widely discussed in various threads in this forum,and rather likely will be discussed in the future once and once again.

    Actually, if you would analyse the form or the harmony structure of the songs of ( just an example! ) F. Schubert and then compare these to that of the Beatles, or of any jazz composer, you might want to admit that the music of our contemporaries is sometimes ( rather often ) more complicated than classical. One might try also to compare the form of some large-scale works of ELP, or Dream Theather ( there were and are many great prog-bands with classical roots ) to some known classical examples .

    I believe it is more a matter of habit and conservatism - the stuff which is not played by the philharmonic orchestra being therefore not regarded as a serious music. More or less like that.

  3. #3
    Commander, Assistant Conductor zlya's Avatar
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    I think there is a problem of terminology. With regard to Western music, "Classical" does not necessarily mean serious, or even well-written. Many "Classical" works are distinctly not serious (Offenbach, anyone?) while many popular works are very serious both in mood and construction. The word classical is, in fact, extremely ambiguous and misleading; I greatly prefer the term "art music", which distinguishes based on compositional intent.

    So is film music a form of art music? I would say it depends on the film. Most mainstream films are primarily intended for entertainment, but this does not mean that their scores are any worse than art films. I'd say the score of Star Wars will survive many hundred years after we are gone. Is it "Classical"? No. Is it serious, well-written music? Yes.

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    Then another question

    Obviously we have devide music into categories. But why do we classify music? And why we want music?
    My answer:
    We want music because music makes us relax, gives us joy or conveys great feelings to us. So we think we need music. So the intention of music is no more than that. If fan of Beatles can enjoy Beatles' examples and fan of Schubert can enjoy Schubert's works, then this intention is fulfilled. All kinds of music are needed by a certain group of listeners. Then why do we classify music and depreciate some certain kinds? I guess the ruler for measuring a music's value is how long it can be remembered. Most pop music is worth listening to once and most 'classical' music can be remembered after hundreds of years. Why? Because there's a great spirit deep down inside music. It decides how much joy music can bring us, how much music can relax us and how much great feeling music can convey to us. If anyone can fully master this spirit, he can go beyond the boundaries of music style. And let his imaginations soar and make every kind of music 'well written' or 'classical'
    random thoughts and not an expert

  5. #5
    Commander, Assistant Conductor zlya's Avatar
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    Why do you think we depreciate non-classical music? I mean, obviously this is a Classical music forum, so the posters here probably prefer classical, but this does not represent the opinions of the vast majority. If anything, most people depreciate CLASSICAL music, for being old-fashioned and boring.

  6. #6
    Seaman, Mezzoforte Theodor Ulieriu's Avatar
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    Zlya, you`re right. Who could say, for example, that Mozart`s serenades are more "serious" or that they have a very different goal from today`s mainstream pop-songs? And some of the works of pop musicians go deep and pose serious problems, far more relevant than Schubert`s "Trout" .
    Well, firstly everyting that is labelled as classical is old, somehow out of fashion and canonised: time, critics and common taste select this rather narrow corpus of valuable past creations that is called classical. Primarily, this is a destructive process because of the reasons mentionbed above; esthetic options change, but revivals of neglected repertoire are rare - because "classical" is by definition a unflexible and stiff set of values. Calamities, wars and forgetting slowly erodes the works non-included in the canon, consolidating as an effect the "classical ones", which become thus more isolated, out of context and few... This is what happened with the baroque: the authentic revival has unearthed many splendid works neglected by the classical corpus, that engage the taste of the XXIst century after being dismissed by the XIXth...
    What about the pop? {i) that selection hasn`t yet taken place. (ii) pop music is built on a tradition totally different from the classical repertoire, save the influences (afro-american music, blues etc., you name them). (iii) we live in a totally different world from that of the XVIIIth-XIXth c, styles evolve and change occurs too quick, the sought for continuous innovation restrains approfoundation of the musical form, the democratisation of entertainment puts the musician in a different situation, compared to the classical one and his patrons (nobility or the bourgeoisie of the 1800s), mass-media and the circulation of information ... there is much more to be said, but I must put an end to this post now.
    One question then: modern times are able to produce classics, or should we expect a different mecanism of valorisation and selection?

    Regards, Theo

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by wtwt5237 View Post
    Theme song for film is as much a form as Sonata. What's important is not style but substance.
    Style is related to substance. By your argument, a really good Britney Spears song should replace Beethoven. No thanks.

  8. #8
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    The main difference I see between popular and classical music is that classical music is more likely to be absolute music. When we do hear popular music which is entirely instrumental, it is usually an instrumental arrangement of a song which has already become familiar to the public.

    The general public may tell us that they "hate classical music," yet they never complain when classical music is used in movies and TV commercials. What they really hate is absolute music.

    Whereas trained musicians can keep busy listening to technical details with no other familiar reference points, most people cannot.

    Hence, programmatic favorites in music appreciation class, such as the Peer Gynt Suite and the Persian Market scene.

  9. #9
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    no offense to anyone, But I dont understand Rap music. It has no substance or soul and I dont even like calling it music. I am 20 years old and I cant stand any of this new music. All it is an easy way for Music Corporations to make money. How anyone can like it, I dont understand. It just bores me.

    I grew up listening to The Beatles and other 60's/70's rock and I love it, but after hearing the same songs over and over I want something more complex.

    btw not calling Beatles and 60s/70s Rock boring.. just 80s through todays pop music.

    btw Tomato absolutley agree. I have a friend who hates anything old

    I asked him if he would like the music he listens to now in 20 years.. he had no answer

    Also agree about the technical bit.. After playing bass for a year and now learning Piano i appreciate it a lot. Probably why all of this modern day pop bores the hell out of me.

  10. #10
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    I'll second your opinion on Rap-crap ... it, at least imo, isn't music at all - at least in the US, it's just some pounding sensless bass notes (that everyone can hear 2 miles away) with some moron reciting words, so fast that the average person can't understand, in a monotonous monotone voice.

    Now then, fully respecting my fellow MIMFers in foreign countries, for instance, Germany, Rap, at least to my ears, seems more tolerable for some reason - maybe the US influence on the genre of musical expression hasn't yet been incorporated into that particular "music form" in those countries.

    I would be curious to know if others in non US countries shares this same viepoint.
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  11. #11
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    I think there is sometimes a mess between symphonic music (or music performed on "classical" instruments) and classical music. I would say The Beatles is a real classic while music for films is not.
    -----------------------

  12. #12
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    There's no real way to differentiate between classical music and pop music. The only real guide is context: did the composer study music theory? Is it created with the perceived intention of being 'classical' music, and received as such? Is a recording of it packaged in the 'classical' format: i.e. with greater emphasis on the composer rather than the performer? Of course this becomes difficult when the performer is the composer. However another thing to note is that the work itself is usually emphasised more than both the composer and the performer. I know this is silly because it shifts the burden of the question from the listener to the person who designs the packaging, but s/he is usually more likely to know what the composer's intention was.

    The 'musical' context is a way of thinking about it too: does its musical 'heritage' lie in the western 'classical' tradition? Or is it in a folk or pop tradition? This isn't really helpful either because there is a long history of adopting folk tunes, or folk idioms into 'classical' music (way before Bartok) and really, the first secular classical music was essentially folk music written down.

    So really there's no way to distinguish between the two as far as I can work out and I generally just like to ignore the question and play and listen to music that I like to listen to, for various reasons. Other people are happy with saying 'I know it when I hear it' which doesn't really help other people but such people are usually not too interested in helping others out.

  13. #13
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    I think there are some very beautiful songs by The Beatles - Fool On The Hill, Norwegian Wood - possibly madrigals in themselves and what sets them apart is their melodies can stand alone.
    I rather like the thought that less is more - and "classical", whatever that means, does not mean things have to be complicated, or analyzed or even academic. I remember Tony Bennet was once asked what makes a singer an artist? He answered: it's what they leave out. Tony Bennet is correct. The French call this depouillement- I think! - which literally means to strip away to only what is essential, like a phrase in a Chopin mazurka, or a single melody played by a violin, the artwork of our prehistoric man (how powerful is that!) or just the sound of a bird singing. Manifestations of human spirit and to each his own. There are some moments in music so fragile they can move mountains - Jeff Buckley intoning Lilac Wine, Bach's Bb minor Prelude, Mozart's B minor Adagio, etc etc.....Debussy.

    Anyway, I would like to share my website with you if I may:

    www.phillipwilcher.com

    I hope you enjoy it!

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