Brittney, please meet Ottorino.
August 23, 2007 6:14 AM   Subscribe

Interesting discussion on classical and pop music, and two related older articles on the Pulitzer nomination process from Greg Sandow.
posted by Wolfdog (19 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Motivated by a perusal of the wikipedia page on the Pulitzer for music.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:14 AM on August 23, 2007

Sometimes music is just music! We don't need no stinkin
scholar's badge to know what's what.
posted by doctorschlock at 6:55 AM on August 23, 2007

1)Define 'music'
2)Assert 'purpose' of music
3)Define 'pop' music
4)Define 'classical' music

Wolfdog can start.
posted by Gyan at 7:03 AM on August 23, 2007

I always get confused when people separate things into 'classical' and 'pop'. When this guy says 'pop', does this guy mean any popular music, a la Beyonce and R&B type stuff that makes Top 40 nowadays? What about rap? Emo? Dragonforce? What about stuff like Secret Chiefs 3 and Mr. Bungle, or things that defy all sorts of genre classification, like (my favorite band ever) Estradasphere? There is so much diversity and genre-blending nowadays, the line as they see it is pretty much gone, and this argument becomes silly.
posted by Mach5 at 7:05 AM on August 23, 2007

That is indeed an interesting discussion—thanks for the post.
posted by languagehat at 7:15 AM on August 23, 2007

I wouldn't ever argue that a hard and fast dividing line exists, but as with so many loose dualities, you can often feel quite comfortable putting particular works on one side or the other. I don't have any problem saying Def Leppard and Britney are pop, and I don't have any problem saying Elliott Carter is classical. Sure, there plenty of fence-straddling examples, but that's what makes it interesting to think about.

I've said it before, but I have a lot of respect for, and fascination with, the craft of pop music. Writing a catchy, memorable, tightly wound pop song that can penetrate a wide range of minds and nearly instantly insinuate itself into the musical consciousness - it's nothing to sneeze at, man, it's its own special knack, art, challenge, whatever. I'm pretty sure that Carter would have as hard a time writing a 3-minute, hooky hit as Desmond Child would have writing an acclaimed string quartet.

The pop hit and, say, the Carter quartet do differ in the amount of analysis they can withstand, or reward. One of them is like a big intricate piece of architecture, that was built, rather painstakingly, in such a way that encourages thought about its structures and mechanisms and processes. That's fun for some people. One of them is more like a gem, something that's not so much built or engineered, but extracted and polished a bit, and can be terribly attractive and even show different aspects when seen from different angles. That's also attractive.

I thought the linked articles were pretty decent about acknowledging the depth and merits of music outside the classical/academic world. Particularly the Pulitzer commentary comes down rather hard on narrow-minded categorization, though you can get some of the opposite perspective if you follow the Hartke link.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:29 AM on August 23, 2007

Also, "Define 'music'. You start." is a lame gambit. You don't have to solve all the world's problems at a stroke to talk about interesting bits of them.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:45 AM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

I prefer Jazz, and the current Free Jazz is the new classical, plus getting a ticket is easy.
posted by caddis at 7:49 AM on August 23, 2007

Gambit? It's helpful to elucidate what you're talking about, before you start talking about it.
posted by Gyan at 8:20 AM on August 23, 2007

Did you start this post with formal definitions of "tune", "music", or "language"? Would it have helped if you had?
posted by Wolfdog at 8:28 AM on August 23, 2007

Gambit? It's helpful to elucidate what you're talking about, before you start talking about it.

You wrote lots of words without providing any additional information, ande still appear like you know what you're talking about!
posted by roll truck roll at 8:47 AM on August 23, 2007

these discussions often seem like they're missing something ... it's a listener/consumer driven viewpoint they seem to consider, but as a consequence they miss important questions -

why aren't more composers working in the western compositional tradition instead of writing pop, rock and jazz?

why aren't they attempting to refine or improve upon the traditions and conventions of the romantic era? ... sometimes, for art to advance, it has to look back

why isn't there a mozart or a beethoven in our generation who's working in the same tradition?

in short, people still feel compelled to listen to this music, but they don't seem as compelled to write it ... instead, they deal with the various innovations of the last 100 years, not too many of which have really touched people in the way composers from the 18th and 19th centuries have
posted by pyramid termite at 9:11 AM on August 23, 2007

Art can't be effectively moved into seperate folders, but it can be tagged.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:39 AM on August 23, 2007 [3 favorites]

I like how the "miniatures" discussion about the lack of complexity and depth inherent in 3-minute pop songs completely ignores the entire body of work that is the concept album in popular music. As if every pop song written in the last 45 years or so was meant to be heard in isolation on the radio. What about Pink Floyd's "Animals" as but one example? It's complex, beautiful, cerebral, develops themes, creates tension, and has a structure integral to the art itself. Mozart would have dug it.

of course, 3 minute isolated songs can have depth and complexity as well, but that's a different discussion.
posted by SBMike at 9:56 AM on August 23, 2007

Classifications are difficult, like Mach5 said. Even in what is called "classical." A lot of what is called "classical" isn't even classical, but baroque, romantic, etc, etc - each having VERY different characteristics and qualities.

Why do people feel like they have to choose between one or the other. I have never understood identifying with only one genre.

Why can't dvorak live right next to Tribe Called Quest in my car?

Sometimes, one is more appropriate than the other.

What "classical" music absolutely does not do is appeal to youth in sexy marketing way. Not that it has to. People of all cultures who are OPEN can enjoy anything that resonates with beauty. Whether it's Pink Floyd or Mahler.
posted by weathermachine at 10:14 AM on August 23, 2007

Isn't the bulk of the original post on that topic in fact arguing to give recognition to the possibilities inherent in short forms?
the first problem might be the assumption that a three-minute song has to have modest artistic goals, simply because it lasts only three minutes. Tell that to Hugo Wolf! Tell it to Webern. Tell it to Schubert.
So then why do pop songs have to be long? Why should we assume that they have to be judged by the standards of classical music?
Look at the end of Schubert's "Erlk├Ânig," the two sharp, devastating chords in the piano that bring the song to a close, and aren't like anything else in it. The song is just a few minutes long, but isn't this ending one of the most chilling moments in all classical music?
I'd also cite the start of the development section in the first movement of Webern's Symphony, Op. 21, the long Es and Gs in the clarinets. The whole movement must be shorter than many pop songs, and still those Es and Gs stake out unmistakable new territory, in the most profound and calm way. Or, for a pop example, how about Bob Dylan shouting, "How does it feel?" at the start of each chorus in "Like a Rolling Stone"?
In any event, I doubt that anyone's saying that large-scale, intellecutally engaging "pop" works exist; they just weren't the jumping off point for that particular discussion.
posted by Wolfdog at 10:14 AM on August 23, 2007

Who do you know, weathermachine, that has ever expressed the idea that they do have to choose between one or the other? Anyone?
posted by Wolfdog at 10:15 AM on August 23, 2007

why isn't there a mozart or a beethoven in our generation who's working in the same tradition?

Because they are working in the currently popular tradition. Just like, if Mozart or Beethoven had been born today, they'd also be working in pop/rock/rap/hip-hop/whatever.

They were writing the popular music of the day, just as today's geniuses mostly write the popular music of today,
posted by Justinian at 6:57 PM on August 23, 2007

Justinian typed "They were writing the popular music of the day, just as today's geniuses mostly write the popular music of today,"

There are a number of things wrong with this statement, but you probably know that. For one thing, classical music has always been fuddy duddy. The contemporary classical music scene is classical at its most egalitarian.
posted by roll truck roll at 7:39 AM on August 24, 2007

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