Tuning the Concert

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Classical music: a definition? June 23, 2010

Filed under: 1D: issues — concerttuning @ 6:55 pm
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During my last post I realised that using the term ‘classical music’ was problematic. I originally posed the question of how could we attract audiences to ‘classical’ concerts, but I am considering whether this is too restrictive. Not only does it feel exclusive to only include classical music, the term in is self is so vague it is hard to judge what music is classical or not.

There are many definition of classical music:

  • Classical music is the art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 9th century to present times.”Classical”, The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Music, ed. …
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_music

However, could the definition of classical music just distinguish between art music and popular music rather than music from a  particular era or location? For example, there is classical music in other cultures other than Europe. Then again, this raises equally problematic questions of the divide between high and low art.

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6 Responses to “Classical music: a definition?”

  1. Nic Says:

    I would like to say a few things. First of all, Classical music, as Bernstein said here ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmeOPAwMtqE ), it’s just the period that goes from the finals days of Bach > Mozart > Haydn and mids Beethoven (lot’s of composers in between). It’s a very formal kind of music, with eyes staring at the form and it’s architecture (I would say the highest point in “written formal music”, so high with beethoven that the crack in the climax led to romanticism and the future deconstruction of the form until atonalism and further).

    So talking about “Classical” music is a bit misleading.

    And another thing, I don’t think there should be at all a division between high or low art. Music is unique in many ways, as humans, as art. Dividing art is dividing the universe, which is the same as dividing by zero. Not good hah.

    Nice blog BTW 😀
    Cheers

  2. Michael Says:

    The word Classical Music is used by different people in different ways- sometimes words have multiple meanings and when this happens it is confusing. So some use it in a musical sense – as the comment above suggests. Others use it as a social definition – i.e., the kind of music ‘high brow’ people listen to. The word is particularly problematic in that many people are perfectly happy with ‘film music’ but wouldn’t count it as classical music – even though such music appears on classic FM. My guess is the word is more of a barrier than a help

  3. suzukichan24 Says:

    I have no real way of describing it either. Honestly when I think of classical music, I think of music during the Enlightenment in Europe like Baroque. And of course, when I think of Baroque I think of Mozart, Vivaldi, and any other composers with a very elaborate style.

    (Of course I love all the music prior to that, and a bit afterwards.)

    I always loved classical music since I was small, but I just now realized I’ve been playing, listening and whistling to music my whole life.

    Music is just my life.

  4. V.H.Belvadi Says:

    I agree when you say it requires developed taste in music. I also think an elaborate, intricate build in the rhythm is central to such pieces.

  5. Ralph Says:

    I agree. These definitions are problematic. Especially when you consider that there are ‘classical composers’ composing orchestral music in a popular style like Michael Torke or Michael Daugherty. You are not alone in your confusion as to how to categorize these things.

    American Composer Ralph Kendrick


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