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Old 11-09-2007, 08:08 PM   #31
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Quote:
Originally posted by onebloodonelife
I also find this to be a very intriguing topic, mainly because I'm taking a class right now that deals exclusively with analyzing rock and pop music. My professor is a brilliant musicologist who has spent a good chunk of his career studying pop music, but he also studies European classical music as well. In fact, each class period, he usually relates some happening in a pop song back to a classical term. So, it's not like pop music is completely thrown out as garbage by all serious musicians or people who study music for a living.

I also don't see why it's such a big deal for pop music to exist; it's already a part of our culture, and I'd say because of our short attention spans, pop music has flourished. Would classical music and traditions be more productive to listen to and better for society? Possibly. But, anyone who has taken a mass media class, or even just read about mass media, knows that there has always been a battle between populists and elitists about what should be seen and heard. And, the populists usually win.
wow i'm in a class exactly like that...it's called "From Rock to Bach", and its great fun i love it
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Old 11-09-2007, 08:09 PM   #32
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Originally posted by yolland
Is the survival of (some) classical music really the best analogy for the shelf life of pop/rock, or might the survival of (some of) the various folk musics native to certain regions of the Western world make for a better comparison?
That's another interesting point. Certain music isn't going to reach certain areas of the world as easily as others, so I think that's something else to factor in. Had classical music only been restricted to one specific area, would the argument still stand about how it's "better" or has more of a lasting impact?

Quote:
Originally posted by yolland
I would add that at least in my experience, classical music fans aren't any more likely to be cliqueish or dismissive towards fans of other types of music than rock music fans are, and actual classical musicians in particular definitely aren't.
Oh, yeah, definitely. Every genre has its "snobs" of sorts, but for the most part, you're right, people are generally pretty willing to give any sort of music a chance. Which is good.

Quote:
Originally posted by yolland
In many ways I think it's even more impressive when an artist incorporates influences from another genre into his/her work so seamlessly that while a listener highly in the know about both might smile in recognition, another listener unaware of the outside influences simply hears something that sounds familiar yet intriguingly different at the same time and loves it.
Totally agree with this. One of the many reasons why I love music so much. The rest of your post was excellent as well, and I'm glad you got what I was trying to say with that one point of mine, too. I wasn't sure if I was explaining it as well as I wanted.

oneblood, I love your song list there, as well as the topic you're dealing with-sounds like fun. I look forward to hearing how that all turns out.

Angela
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Old 11-10-2007, 05:25 PM   #33
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In many ways I think it's even more impressive when an artist incorporates influences from another genre into his/her work so seamlessly that while a listener highly in the know about both might smile in recognition, another listener unaware of the outside influences simply hears something that sounds familiar yet intriguingly different at the same time and loves it.
That's a great point. When we were talking about early rock and roll, such as Buddy Holly, Little Richard, and Elvis, my professor brought up that those records took 12 bar blues, tweaked it a little bit, but not much, and that became the basis of their bass lines. It's something that I never would have seen myself, mostly because I'm not familiar with the structure of blues music at all.
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Old 11-11-2007, 06:02 AM   #34
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It's basically another type of IPod thing. I dunno, it's all new to me, too *Shrugs* .

Yeah, I figured. Brings up another interesting point... for me my iPod (mp3 player) etc is mainly for running, or use in the car. I'm much more likely to use it for fast, loud, upbeat music, which brings up another point that rock, hiphop, pop, etc are much better for running, dancing, etc, and classical is much better for studying, reading, relaxing, falling asleep (haha). Just one more reason that it's ridiculous to view them in an "either//or" sort of way.

Quote:
Originally posted by Moonlit_Angel


Those are great questions you've posed there. I wonder if part of it doesn't have to do with the time period a lot of these people lived in-sometimes music is very connected to important times in history, and so when you talk about those time periods, those artists and their work have to come up because it was so integral to everything else. For instance, would people still remember a lot of the musicians of the '60s if that decade were quiet and uneventful?


Very good point. I think that is in part why 60s music is so clearly remembered- it is connected to very important and unique events or attitudes that have really shaped the course of recent history. It's hard to think of this happening as much with 80s and 90s music, probably partially because it is that much more recent, but also because there seem to be fewer "watershed events" where music is closely tied in with those two decades. Events like LiveAid, and the general infusion of electronic and synthesized sounds into pop music are the two things I'd pick out as representing those decades, (80s and 90s) at this point.



Quote:
Originally posted by Moonlit_Angel
[B]
Could also have to do with the fact that the artists are dead-that whole unwritten rule that people praise artists only after they're gone. I dunno, just a couple theories, I could be totally wrong.
I see where you're coming from, though I think that "unwritten rule" applies less today than it has in the past (albeit very recent past), for some of the same reasons that "trends" and "fads" are now so layered or passe (depending how you view it) - the changes in technology, particularly the internet and personal computers has dramatically increased the speed and accessibility to information, news, music and pop culture info, so that artists can be much more 'relevant' and 'remembered' during their lifetime, especially if they or people they work with are very tech-savvy. There will probably still be times when that "unwritten rule" applies, (Ian Curtis and Joy Division come to mind) but increasingly it seems less "the rule" and now just one route to fame among many.


Quote:
Originally posted by Moonlit_Angel
[B]
As for U2...I'd love to think they'll still be remembered 300, 400 years from now. But I honestly don't know if they will. I've noticed that a lot more newer artists are mentioning them as an influence before the Beatles or the Stones, because they grew up more with U2 than those other artists, and as time goes on, I imagine the same thing will happen with U2. They'll probably be replaced as an influence by something else that's closer to the current generation's time period (unless, thanks to Bono's activism, that helps with that theory about being part of the times). I hope I'm proven wrong and they still get talked about all that time later, though.
Of course it's impossible for us to know, but I do think they'll be remembered for a long time, probably as much for Bono's activism as for their music. I think he's right when he says this moment in history will be remembered for 1) the internet and 2) the AIDS epidemic. (Among a handful of other things such as the "War on Terror" debacle, but I don't really want to get into that). I do think U2 will be remembered more or less as the Beatles of the 80s, 90s, 00s, ??- and their influence will be marked by longevity, integrity and activism, rather than the originality, mania, and drama of the Beatles.

Skipping ahead to a point Yolland made, it is more apt to compare U2 to the "pop" "folk" (whatever you wish to call it) music of other centuries than to the classical. I hadn't been thinking of it that way, but it is a great point. From that perspective there may be a handful of U2 songs that get remembered and re-made for a century or so, as we can see in people like Cole Porter, Arlo Guthrie, Nat King Cole.
Beyond that I can see events like LiveAid, Live 8 and the consequent G8 decisions being remembered for a longer period of time, and U2's music continually surfacing as theme music for these events, similarly to Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, CSN&Y and the Grateful Dead's work becoming musical shorthand for Woodstock, Neil Young's "Ohio" for Kent State, etc.


Quote:
Originally posted by Moonlit_Angel
[B]

Yeah, I've heard a lot of people complain about that. That's not a genre that I'm overly well-versed in, but I do understand the general issue-it's like when I hear, say, a rock artist just spend 10 minutes doing nothing but playing some guitar solo or something. It sounds good, sure, but unless they've got a great ability to hold my interest that entire time, after a while I'm usually like, "Can we get on with the rest of the song, please?" (and I'm generally pretty good at being patient!). It's not as easy for me to connect with music like that.
Improvisation seems to be a big part of the issue, and that is more highly valued in Jazz than in any the musical genre that I'm aware of. It also tends to be more interesting live, and even then, for an audience that understands what the musicians are doing, and the skills involved in doing what they're doing.

I think U2 offer a subtler version of this in their live shows- constantly reworking older material to present it in different ways. Rather than their audience being a relatively small group of musicians or music aficionado, they have large audiences who are familiar with the recorded versions of their songs, and can appreciate the live differences from that foundation.



Quote:
Originally posted by Moonlit_Angel

Glad we're agreed on the issue of elitism as well. Seriously, every time I hear people get all clique-minded about music, I always wind up feeling like I'm back in high school-this group of people hangs out together, that group hangs out together, and god forbid anyone mix!

Yeah. It's really lame.

Angela
Haha, well said.
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Old 11-11-2007, 07:13 AM   #35
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That's another good point, about subgenres and whatnot. Other than choral conductors and fellow singers in my vocal ensemble/choir, I don't have interaction with classical musicians. I didn't know if I went up to someone who was a composer these days and asked "so what kind of music do you write," if they would answer plainly "classical," or go into a long spiel about "contemporary symphonic modal counterpoint with harmonic convergence" or some such thing.
Wow, you sing in a choir, that's cool. I love singing but generally prefer it in a group as I'm decent on my own, but nothing incredible. Your "Madrigal" comment let on that you know something about all of this!

In my limited experience conversing with classically trained musicians, it seems like most things: the depth and detail you're looking for will come out in the conversation. If you don't know anything about classical music, it all depends on how willing you are to learn and how willing they are to tell you what you want to know.

again could make some U2 analogy but I think you know what I mean.

Quote:
Originally posted by corianderstem

As a former music major and classically trained pianist, I'm familiar with the eras of classical music ... not sure if I could still tell you the differences off the top of my head. I'm a bad music major - I blame rock and roll!
Wow, hey you really should be teaching us more in this thread then! (joke) (sort of) ;-)


Quote:
Originally posted by corianderstem

I don't listen to a lot of classical music. There are a handful of pieces I absolutely love, and a few composers I can name that I can honestly say are "favorites" (Mozart, Debussy, Chopin's piano works, a good chunk of choral masterworks) but I rarely set out to sit down and listen to classical music.
I can relate to that. As I said in my reply above to moonlit_angel, I tend to like classical only at certain times and places- ie reading, studying, but I've always loved music as a whole and been resistant to seeing music as something that should be so compartmentalized and fragmented by labels.

My starting point in getting back into it has been this 6CD set I kept from a college course- it introduced me to Debussy, some others I like are Musorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" (Russian, 1870s),
Mozart's "40th Symphony in G minor" (Austrian,1780s),
Aaron Copland (Appalachian Spring" (American, 1940s),
Beethoven,
Moonlight Sonata (German, 1801), Ravel "Bolero" (French, 1928)
also interesting to note that an early version of "Ave Maria" (which many of us know Bono covered) is included- apparently the earliest version of that composition dates from around 1500 (!)

I'm also a bit intrigued by Moby's classically-leaning work.

I've been a casual fan of him for about 10 years now. His music seems really schizophrenic to me at times- he seems to have three very distinct sounds-

1) Electronica with sampled blues vocals- ie "Honey", "In My Heart", "Natural Blues", "One of these Mornings", "Find My Baby" etc

2) Dance- (some combination of Electronic//Raver//Punk//Hip-Hop) "Southside", "Feeling So Real", "BodyRock"

3) Simple Ambient, Classical (Strings and or Piano), usually with a subtle electronic undergirding of bass and//or heavy beat - "God Moving over the Face of the Waters", "First Cool Hive", "Porcelain", etc

This third category interests me as one of the very few artists I'm aware of bridging classical and modern pop//electronic music...

"God Moving over the Face of the Waters" is a beautiful piece of music, that's been in several movies.
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Old 11-11-2007, 07:20 AM   #36
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Quote:
Originally posted by Salome
all in all I do think pop and rock can be ccused with a dumbening down of music
I would also add country music to that list

from a pure musical point of view it seems a lot less interesting to me than classical music, jazz, soul/funk and blues
though blues music tends to be very basic its use of musical patterns intrigues me a lot more than can be said of pop and rock

pop and rock musically just seem to aim at getting a physical response or to set a mood
it can be interesting to see whether the artist manages to create the mood he/she aims for
but it doesn't really seem to have any goal apart from that

personally I think setting a certain can be as interesting as playing with musical patterns
to me jazz music would be the genre most likely to combine the 2

I don't think pointing out some bad lyrics proves much of a case
of course there are some poor lyrics about
but it actually is a strength of pop and rock that the lyrics can add to the mood
it makes it less meandering than other genres can be
interesting points.

a couple questions to ponder-

1) Is simplicity always the opposite of sophisitcation?

2) Since the vast majority of classical music is instrumental, and the vast majority of pop music has lyrics, could it be that the lyrics are what lend good pop music it's value, moreso than the music (at least relative to classical music)

3) Jazz is a good crossover point between classical and pop, I think it really stands out as a true hybrid in the course on musical history.

In some ways I'm tempted to categorize "classical" as instrumental and "pop" as having lyrics. In this way, instrumental Jazz would seem to be more classical, and lyrical vocal Jazz to be more pop. An awkward way to categorize maybe, but I think it's useful and logical on some levels.
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Old 11-11-2007, 07:52 AM   #37
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Originally posted by onebloodonelife
[B]

Well, when I was talking with him, he said that he prefers people like Cole Porter and Carole King, who sit down with a sheet of music and craft each and every note to perfection. I can understand where he's coming from in that respect; U2 obviously doesn't do that, and they prefer to come up with a guitar part or melody, and they build a song off of that. It's just different ways of going about the same process. Honestly though, I don't believe that many, if any at all, artists from oh, 1970 on, write songs in the vein of Cole Porter and Carole King.
Very interesting. I'll admit I don't know a whole lot about either of those artists, but after a brief look I see that a number of Sinatra's well-known numbers are actually Porter songs, so that in itself suggests I need to learn more about him. ;-)


Quote:
Originally posted by onebloodonelife
[B]
Well, to be honest, my professor likes pretty much everything we're listening to, and he readily admits that.
By that do you mean everything you're listening to in the class, or the personal tastes of the class, as a whole?


Quote:
Originally posted by onebloodonelife
[B]
But, he did agree with us that most of the points we made about "classical rock" being pompous and over the top.
Hahaha

Quote:
Originally posted by onebloodonelife
[B]

I don't think it's about the musicianship for him; for example, this week we listened to The Bangles, a band that he admits aren't that great of instrumentalists, but he loves them anyway. Mainly because he listened to their album, "Different Light," throughout his sophomore year of college exclusively, but nonetheless, he still likes them.
Haha, I think that fits with the idea of pop music being more about personal and emotional connection than technical excellence. (He's probably also realized that if he dismisses all pop music out of hand he's not going to succeed in teaching most of his students much at all.)


Quote:
Originally posted by onebloodonelife

Thanks, I'll be sure to keep you guys updated on the class. Right now, we're coming up with proposals for the content of the last three weeks of class. I've chosen to focus on music as a political venue, and have a few songs picked out: "Take a Bow" by Muse, "Final Straw" by R.E.M., "Meat is Murder" by The Smiths, and either "Please" or "Bullet the Blue Sky".

I have actually discovered some music that I have a much deeper respect for now, like James Taylor, Buddy Holly, '60s girl groups (Martha and the Vandellas especially), Joni Mitchell, and I really got into Bruce Springsteen after listening to "Empty Sky."
Great, I'll look forward to hearing more.

One of the frustrations with pop music is that there's so much of it, one could never get into it all. I'm sure I could get into Bruce Springsteen and probably most of those others if I took the time, but there's so much out there, and to me Springsteen bears a lot of similarities to U2, who I'll probably always like more, and see as more interesting.
I caught an interview of Joni Mitchell recently and was interested to hear her talk about the difficulty of moving on with her music in the 80s and 90s as she's more drawn to Jazz and classical music now, but the industry keeps wanting to fit her in the 60s and 70s folk singer slot. Seems to have made her more recent albums very difficult to release.

Even for U2, I've noticed a lot of the radio stations that really "should" be playing music off their last two albums, will tend to play their older stuff in preference over their new singles. Pretty d@mned annoying.
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Old 11-11-2007, 09:06 AM   #38
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Originally posted by yolland
[B]That 'nomuzak' website is hilarious, but I think worrying about defending pop/rock to people of that 'worldview' (to put it charitably) is probably a lost cause, and more to the point, treating that site as somehow representative of how classically trained musicians, or fans of classical music, in general view pop and rock seems pretty baseless.
Very well said. I'm not someone that has extensive contact with classically trained musicians or even classical music fans. Not to say none at all, but that page just seemed like a jumping off point for the "stereotypical case against pop and rock music" moreso than a view representing classical music and its fans in general. Thanks for pointing that out though, it's a very good and important observation in context of this discussion.

The page is pretty ridiculous, probably why I really couldn't bring myself to read that much of it in detail. I do however tend to agree that "muzak" is a scourge and from that perspective it's interesting that someone from such a different perspective has a strong point of agreement with most rock and pop music fans.

Quote:
Originally posted by yolland
[B]
Mostly, it read like a lot of half-baked crankster yammering about the bastardization of culture by globalization, the vulgar decadence of the "new proletariat," the evil po-mo "philistinism" laying waste to our universities, blah blah yadda yadda, all clumsily spliced together with pithy quotes from various reactionary academics. The anti-muzak campaign and diatribes about the "deracinated" banalities of pop music seem more intended as illustrations of our supposed collective fall from cultural greatness than as point-specific accusations against anything unique to pop/rock.
Haha, yes I did get the sense from what I read that they were pinning a lot of "problems" and "shortcomings" on factors that couldn't possibly bear that sort of responsibility, and mis-identifying a lot of cause and effect relationships.

Quote:
Originally posted by yolland
[B]
I don't think there are any easy answers to questions like why certain classical composers remain widely appreciated and performed centuries later, or whether the same might someday be true of certain contemporary popular artists. It's basically the musical version of the "Great Books" debate...will Nobel-prize-winning Toni Morrison still be widely read and appreciated in 400 years, the way Shakespeare still is now? Is the survival of (some) classical music really the best analogy for the shelf life of pop/rock, or might the survival of (some of) the various folk musics native to certain regions of the Western world make for a better comparison?
Thanks, that's really an excellent point (pop/rock being more akin to various folk musics, rather than classical) and has changed the way I think about this topic since first starting this thread. I also refer to this point you made in my reply above to another poster (moonlit_angel, I think) if you care to look for it.

Quote:
Originally posted by yolland
[B]
Probably the 'soundtrack-to-an-intensive-cultural-growth-period' theory Moonlit_Angel mentioned has something significant to do with it--I thought that was a really interesting point, and often when works attain that status it becomes self-perpetuating, as succeeding generations of musicians and listeners then rediscover the old through a tipoff from the new.
I think there's a lot to that point as well. However as we seem to be evolving the importance of distinguishing between 1) "classical" and 2) "folk (pop/rock)" in this discussion, let me ask you-

do you think one of the two general forms better lends itself to that sort of 'soundtrack-to-an-intensive-cultural-growth-period' than the other? if so, why?

Quote:
Originally posted by yolland
[B]
But I do also think there's something to the idea that an exceptional level of refinement, sophistication, complexity, whatever you want to call it can enhance the endurance of an *already widely enjoyed* work. I never took any kind of music appreciation course in college (though I did play viola and piano for 12 years each, so I have some 'classical' background), and I own much more rock music than I do classical, but if I had to take a music appreciation course today, I think I'd probably see one focused on classical as my 'safest' bet. Not because I'm confident I'd 'like' all or even most of the works studied--classical music fans have their druthers just like anyone else--but because I'm confident that the level of sophistication to the music, as well as the historical background on the relevant period(s) I'd get studying it, should at least be enough to maintain my interest. Whereas with a rock-focused course--unless perhaps it had some specific theme, roots of rock or music theory through rock or something--I'd worry that if the teacher didn't share my 'tastes,' then the whole thing would be an unmitigated drag from beginning to end.
The issue of complexity or sophistication in music seems to be a tricky one for me. Most folk/pop/rock songs could have their melody taken and dressed up in any number of arrangements for a full orchestra. At that point I suppose we'd have to credit the composer who adapted it as much as, if not more than the original pop//rock writer. It's definitely more interesting to listen to something with variations and complexity in the music, but honestly I can get that from a lot of U2's music in the layering of instruments and tracks that is easily done nowadays in the studio.

As far as live U2, they make a great effort to offer variations of their material in concert as opposed to their records, which I think lends a lot to the quality and compelling nature of their live shows.

Somewhere on an intuitive level, it seems that varying arrangements forces the listener to be more involved on a mental level, and is therefore "of more inherent benefit" to the listener than some simple one-or-two instrument melody repeated ad nauseum.

I guess what we're really getting at has been described as "The Mozart Effect", which I've heard about in passing for a long time, but never specifically read up on or discussed with anyone. If you're game here's one (of many, I'm sure) places to start reading:

http://skepdic.com/mozart.html

Quote:
Originally posted by yolland


I would add that at least in my experience, classical music fans aren't any more likely to be cliqueish or dismissive towards fans of other types of music than rock music fans are, and actual classical musicians in particular definitely aren't. It's nice, I guess, when you get the occasional work that truly has 'crossover' appeal, but I don't really think it's necessary. In many ways I think it's even more impressive when an artist incorporates influences from another genre into his/her work so seamlessly that while a listener highly in the know about both might smile in recognition, another listener unaware of the outside influences simply hears something that sounds familiar yet intriguingly different at the same time and loves it.

Again well-said. Sometimes as a U2 fan, I find myself most "proud" of the fact that they've collaborated with other musicians from as broad a spectrum as they have - BB King, Sinatra, Pavarotti, Robbie Robertson, Johnny Cash, Mary J. Blige. That may not be exactly what you meant, or seem like a broad range in the context of this conversation, but I think it represents the sort of thing you mention. IE I find it easier to develop an interest in Sinatra or Pavarotti knowing U2 (Bono) feels that close connection to their music, and they to his//theirs.

One more question, in the general distinction between "classical" music on the one hand and "folk" on the other, where do you see Jazz?

********

PS Thanks to everyone for the very interesting discussion on these topics.
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Old 11-11-2007, 09:13 AM   #39
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It's really hard to take the opinion of someone that bothered by Musak seriously.

I especially enjoyed her response to the idea that music is subjective:

"A much simpler version of this argument is simply to assert that the individual in question enjoys popular music - as if I were arguing that enjoyment of pop music is not possible and as if the simple fact of liking something automatically means that it is worthwhile, meaningful, entirely benign, and positive. This position attempts to close down further thought, thus avoiding the issue that liking and taste are not unproblematic. Thus, people who take up this position will say that differences in this area are “just a matter of opinion”. This is an obvious strategy in order to appear to win or claim a draw in an argument that feels lost. It is a weasel argument, the worse and most destructive position that it is possible to take because it seeks to destroy and undermine the capacity for thought and consideration on which civilised life depends. Let’s take some examples and see where this type of argument leads. Proposition: It is right to kill all handicapped children at birth. Answer: Well, that is just a matter of opinion. Proposition: Hitler did some bad things. Answer: That is just a matter of opinion, and it is quite right that people are allowed to have widely differing opinions about this. It’s just a matter of taste. Proposition: The government of the Central Republic of Monsilvania has greatly damaged the economy of the country. Answer: Well you would say that but it is really just a matter of opinion and political preference. All statistics are lies anyway. I don’t think the government has done anything wrong."

She needs to get laid.

Long and hard.

With "Musak" of Barry White.
you make me laugh. ;-) yeah, (as stated above) i couldn't bring myself to read that much of the site in detail, but you picked a real gem there, (although pop music clearly is responsible for the San Diego wildfires and the political unrest in Pakistan).
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Old 11-11-2007, 10:11 AM   #40
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Wow, hey you really should be teaching us more in this thread then! (joke) (sort of) ;-)
I've forgotten a lot of what I learned in my courses, other than a lot of music theory stuff. Although my courses were pretty basic music history/music theory stuff. I wish there'd been courses like the one onebloodonelife is taking.

One of my professors was a composer himself, and he was really one of those "absent-minded professors." Really intelligent, but just a little "off," you know? I made him a mix tape of some current popular music, and he really enjoyed that, even though he didn't care for all of it. I remember it had a Pearl Jam track, a Pet Shop Boys (because the lyrics referenced "The Rite of Spring"), Talking Heads ... I don't remember what else. Probably REM and U2 - it was the early 90s.

I did write a paper on Franz Liszt because I dug that I'd heard him described as "the first rock star" somewhere - the long hair, women fainting at his performances ...

But yeah, I was kind of a half-assed music major. I wasn't focused on performance or education, so I fell into the little-used "liberal arts" emphasis of a music major at my school.
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Old 11-11-2007, 10:15 AM   #41
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Originally posted by dr. zooeuss
3) Jazz is a good crossover point between classical and pop, I think it really stands out as a true hybrid in the course on musical history.

In some ways I'm tempted to categorize "classical" as instrumental and "pop" as having lyrics. In this way, instrumental Jazz would seem to be more classical, and lyrical vocal Jazz to be more pop. An awkward way to categorize maybe, but I think it's useful and logical on some levels.
I have to admit, I'm not a jazz fan. Vocal jazz (Ella Fitzgerald and that ilk), yes. Instrumental jazz where there's 20 minutes of rambling solos, no. I can take it in small doses, and I was really interested by the jazz history mini-course I had at some workshop in high school, but I have to admit that I just don't "get it."

But while I label both styles "jazz," I think I'd agree with you about the instrumental stuff being more "classical" while the vocal stuff leans more toward "pop" = maybe because so many of those songs were so well known (think Gershwin, Porter, Rodgers/Hart and those guys - those songs are called "standards" for a reason!).
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Old 11-11-2007, 11:22 AM   #42
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Quote:
Originally posted by dr. zooeuss


Very interesting. I'll admit I don't know a whole lot about either of those artists, but after a brief look I see that a number of Sinatra's well-known numbers are actually Porter songs, so that in itself suggests I need to learn more about him. ;-)
Yes, Porter wrote a lot of the so-called "standards" that everyone seems to have covered. Carole King wrote a lot of the '60s girl group hits with her then husband Gerry Goffin. Examples would be: "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" by the Shirelles, "The Loco-Motion" by Little Eva (who happened to be the couple's babysitter and was pulled into the studio to sing the demo, which ended up being released as the final version), "One Fine Day" by the Chiffons, and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" by Aretha Franklin.


Quote:
Originally posted by dr. zooeuss

By that do you mean everything you're listening to in the class, or the personal tastes of the class, as a whole?
I meant that he likes each song that he's picked out for us to listen to, he actually calls most of them "masterpieces" , but thinking about it now, he also likes the personal tastes of the class, for the most part.



Quote:
Originally posted by dr. zooeuss

Haha, I think that fits with the idea of pop music being more about personal and emotional connection than technical excellence. (He's probably also realized that if he dismisses all pop music out of hand he's not going to succeed in teaching most of his students much at all.)
I agree on both points. Pop music, and really music in general, is so subjective, and a lot of our feelings about certain songs and artists come from the personal connection we feel towards them. We actually just read an article, about rock and sexuality, but it brought up that point as well. The author was talking about a radio program where listeners would send in stories that they attach to specific songs. The examples given were mainly love/sex related, but included: when we first met, when we broke up, etc. The article notes, "Records are used as aural flashbacks."

You mention that he can't dismiss all pop music, and the funny thing is that when I was talking to him one day, he mentioned that when he was in college, he ended up falling in love with the European classical traditions, but now, he's ended up loving pop music and keeps coming back to it for material to write about in his articles, even though those classical traditions are supposed to be his "bread and butter." So, I definitely get your point, luckily, since he genuinely does enjoy pop music, we're in no danger of having it dismissed completely.


Quote:
Originally posted by dr. zooeuss

Great, I'll look forward to hearing more.

One of the frustrations with pop music is that there's so much of it, one could never get into it all. I'm sure I could get into Bruce Springsteen and probably most of those others if I took the time, but there's so much out there, and to me Springsteen bears a lot of similarities to U2, who I'll probably always like more, and see as more interesting.
I caught an interview of Joni Mitchell recently and was interested to hear her talk about the difficulty of moving on with her music in the 80s and 90s as she's more drawn to Jazz and classical music now, but the industry keeps wanting to fit her in the 60s and 70s folk singer slot. Seems to have made her more recent albums very difficult to release.

Even for U2, I've noticed a lot of the radio stations that really "should" be playing music off their last two albums, will tend to play their older stuff in preference over their new singles. Pretty d@mned annoying.
Oh, definitely, there's so much material out there, it is hard to sort through it and choose the best of the lot. That Joni Mitchell interview you mention is interesting, and it's actually quite depressing to me. It's unfortunate that the music industry can't accept that she's moved on from the folk era and wants to do something different, but it seems to be a common trend in the industry, holding on to the past.
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Old 11-12-2007, 03:20 AM   #43
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Originally posted by dr. zooeuss
I think there's a lot to that point as well. However as we seem to be evolving the importance of distinguishing between 1) "classical" and 2) "folk (pop/rock)" in this discussion, let me ask you-

do you think one of the two general forms better lends itself to that sort of 'soundtrack-to-an-intensive-cultural-growth-period' than the other? if so, why?
The actual forms themselves, no--I'd be inclined to put U2's chances at still being a Known Quantity in 200 years at lower than those of, say, The Beatles or Elvis Presley, but I'm also inclined to think all three have a better shot at it than any contemporary classical composer. What probably matters more overall are factors like how, where, and to/by whom the music in question gets distributed and preserved. And it's difficult to hypothesize based on precedent in those terms, largely because recording technology, which is really still very young, has radically and permanently changed how those factors operate, for all music genres. Ironically, you could probably argue that part of the reason why classical looms as large in our historical imagination as it does (to the extent that we often unthinkingly equate "Western music" prior to the 20th century with it) is because one of its signature features--the development of and, ultimately, near-total reliance on standardized musical notation--enabled it to become a truly international genre, just as recording technology offers any genre that potential today: given a manuscript to work from, musicians could reproduce the piece *almost* exactly as an unfamiliar composer living hundreds of miles away had intended it to sound.

It's just all very hard to predict, not least because 'rock' and 'pop' as we know them are still very young genres, and while it's likely that future 'folk' genres will preserve some aspects of them even if they effectively cease to exist, we don't know which aspects those will be. The artists that appear from our vantage point to be 'the ones who really matter(ed)' may not seem that way 200 years from now at all, and in all likelihood many more reasons than innate aesthetic quality will factor into that.
Quote:
The issue of complexity or sophistication in music seems to be a tricky one for me. Most folk/pop/rock songs could have their melody taken and dressed up in any number of arrangements for a full orchestra. At that point I suppose we'd have to credit the composer who adapted it as much as, if not more than the original pop//rock writer. It's definitely more interesting to listen to something with variations and complexity in the music, but honestly I can get that from a lot of U2's music in the layering of instruments and tracks that is easily done nowadays in the studio.
...
Somewhere on an intuitive level, it seems that varying arrangements forces the listener to be more involved on a mental level, and is therefore "of more inherent benefit" to the listener than some simple one-or-two instrument melody repeated ad nauseum.

I guess what we're really getting at has been described as "The Mozart Effect", which I've heard about in passing for a long time, but never specifically read up on or discussed with anyone. If you're game here's one (of many, I'm sure) places to start reading:

http://skepdic.com/mozart.html
Almost anything could be arranged for orchestra, from a bluegrass tune to a U2 song. That's different from composing an entire symphony 'from scratch' though, and it's also different from basing an orchestral piece on 'folk' tunes (e.g. Copland's Appalachian Spring, Dvořák's Slavonic Dances) by weaving motifs drawn from them into a work which conveys an elaborate musical narrative in its own right. It's not just a question of instrumentation; it's the articulation of a complex musical idea through modulation, polyphony, phrase length variation, counterpoint etc. (just as examples--obviously not all classical pieces use those specific techniques, nor do all pop/rock pieces lack them).

The notion that certain forms of music might offer more "inherent benefit" mentally than others is interesting, but from what I can tell, effectively completely unsubstantiated. All those 'Mozart Effect' experiments show--at best, since many of the results are contradictory and the 'alternatives' to Mozart offered vary wildly from one study to the next--is a tendency for certain "spatio-temporal reasoning" skills to be temporarily heightened after listening to Mozart. Big whoop. Is there any evidence that countries whose children perform the best on spatio-temporal reasoning skills tests are countries where the average kid listens to lots of Mozart? Is there any evidence that temporary increases in spatio-temporal reasoning are directly correlated with longterm economic success, psychological health, academic achievement etc.? Does the role music--all kinds, all cultures--has played in human history (as opposed to, say, the role of language) support the assumption that this kind of nitpicking over its potential/hypothetical impact on intellectual development is even warranted?
Quote:
One more question, in the general distinction between "classical" music on the one hand and "folk" on the other, where do you see Jazz?
Closer to classical, I suppose--like classical it tends to have a more socially attenuated following, and isn't really 'vernacular' in nature; also for the most part (at least since the mid-20th century) it demands a level of technical proficiency on the musicians' part which tends to rule out, say, 'garage band'-style participation in the genre. Obviously it ultimately derives from 'folk' forms, but then so does classical; obviously it differs from classical in several significant ways, such as having much less reliance on notation and much more emphasis on improvisation (though there are other cultures, India's for instance, which have what's generally recognized as a 'classical' genre--as opposed to its folk/traditional and pop/Bollywood genres--in which improvisation is likewise central). Then there are all the subgenres (smooth jazz, nu jazz etc.) that really seem to straddle the line musically. But on the whole...more akin to classical, I'd say. I'd like to think that artists like Miles Davis and John Coltrane will still be appreciated in 200 years--aesthetically speaking, many of their works are absolutely exquisite--but that's even harder to hazard a guess about.
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PS Thanks to everyone for the very interesting discussion on these topics.
Agreed, this was a great discussion idea.
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Old 11-12-2007, 04:39 AM   #44
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Originally posted by dr. zooeuss
Yeah, I figured. Brings up another interesting point... for me my iPod (mp3 player) etc is mainly for running, or use in the car. I'm much more likely to use it for fast, loud, upbeat music, which brings up another point that rock, hiphop, pop, etc are much better for running, dancing, etc, and classical is much better for studying, reading, relaxing, falling asleep (haha). Just one more reason that it's ridiculous to view them in an "either//or" sort of way.
Too true. After all, I've yet to hear stories of people moshing at classical concerts . Sure, people can use any genre for any activity they wish, but there's some music that just fits certain situations better than others.

It's not often I buy into the "either/or" line of thinking on a lot of issues-I'm very much like my zodiac sign (the scales) in that regard .

Quote:
Originally posted by dr. zooeuss
Very good point. I think that is in part why 60s music is so clearly remembered- it is connected to very important and unique events or attitudes that have really shaped the course of recent history. It's hard to think of this happening as much with 80s and 90s music, probably partially because it is that much more recent, but also because there seem to be fewer "watershed events" where music is closely tied in with those two decades. Events like LiveAid, and the general infusion of electronic and synthesized sounds into pop music are the two things I'd pick out as representing those decades, (80s and 90s) at this point.
*Nods* Exactly (and thanks ). And a lot of the classical artists were living in times of social unrest as well, so their work reflected that. The same thing applies to any writers or painters that lived in times of major conflict. It seems the most attention-grabbing work comes from a time of major change, be it good or bad.

If any artists from the more recent decades stick out, I'd say it be the ones who either symbolized or reviled the greed mentality of the '80s and the ones who were the "spokespersons" for that whole "disenfranchised youth" thing that everyone talks about from the '90s. But like you said, time factors in, too-the more we move away from those time periods, the easier it'll be to pinpoint the notable artists.

Quote:
Originally posted by dr. zooeuss
I see where you're coming from, though I think that "unwritten rule" applies less today than it has in the past (albeit very recent past), for some of the same reasons that "trends" and "fads" are now so layered or passe (depending how you view it) - the changes in technology, particularly the internet and personal computers has dramatically increased the speed and accessibility to information, news, music and pop culture info, so that artists can be much more 'relevant' and 'remembered' during their lifetime, especially if they or people they work with are very tech-savvy. There will probably still be times when that "unwritten rule" applies, (Ian Curtis and Joy Division come to mind) but increasingly it seems less "the rule" and now just one route to fame among many.
This is very true-yeah, considering how long it took simple things like letters or newspapers to be spread around at one point, I can only imagine how hard it would've been for anyone else to get widespread attention for something. It is a shame, though, that there have been artists who have been unable to live to see the results of their hard work. Would be quite interesting to see what they would've thought of the reactions to it.

Quote:
Originally posted by dr. zooeuss
Of course it's impossible for us to know, but I do think they'll be remembered for a long time, probably as much for Bono's activism as for their music. I think he's right when he says this moment in history will be remembered for 1) the internet and 2) the AIDS epidemic. (Among a handful of other things such as the "War on Terror" debacle, but I don't really want to get into that). I do think U2 will be remembered more or less as the Beatles of the 80s, 90s, 00s, ??- and their influence will be marked by longevity, integrity and activism, rather than the originality, mania, and drama of the Beatles.
I fully agree with all of this-I'm certainly willing to believe that will be the case. Not a bad legacy to leave behind (as for the non-U2 related issues, like the AIDS crisis and the internet and terrorism...hopefully we'll be looking back on those and talking about having made great strides in all of them).

Quote:
Originally posted by dr. zooeuss
Skipping ahead to a point Yolland made, it is more apt to compare U2 to the "pop" "folk" (whatever you wish to call it) music of other centuries than to the classical. I hadn't been thinking of it that way, but it is a great point. From that perspective there may be a handful of U2 songs that get remembered and re-made for a century or so, as we can see in people like Cole Porter, Arlo Guthrie, Nat King Cole.
Beyond that I can see events like LiveAid, Live 8 and the consequent G8 decisions being remembered for a longer period of time, and U2's music continually surfacing as theme music for these events, similarly to Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, CSN&Y and the Grateful Dead's work becoming musical shorthand for Woodstock, Neil Young's "Ohio" for Kent State, etc.
I agree, that's a very fair comparison to make, especially since all the stuff you mentioned is already happening, I'm seeing people talk about all those moments/songs/issues. I'm seeing U2's influence in so many newer bands (and from all over the musical spectrum, no less). It's pretty neat to already be witnessing examples of their legacy-they should be proud. Here's hoping that continues.

Quote:
Originally posted by dr. zooeuss
Improvisation seems to be a big part of the issue, and that is more highly valued in Jazz than in any the musical genre that I'm aware of. It also tends to be more interesting live, and even then, for an audience that understands what the musicians are doing, and the skills involved in doing what they're doing.
Indeed (and I fully agree, I think improvisation is appreciated better when a person's able to witness it right before their eyes. The interaction between everybody, being able to observe them playing off each other...it's quite impressive sometimes). I'm totally fine with improvisation in and of itself in music, if you have some spontaneous idea, go for it. The difficulty comes in being able to keep a listener's interest for that entire time.

Quote:
Originally posted by dr. zooeuss
I think U2 offer a subtler version of this in their live shows- constantly reworking older material to present it in different ways. Rather than their audience being a relatively small group of musicians or music aficionado, they have large audiences who are familiar with the recorded versions of their songs, and can appreciate the live differences from that foundation.
Very true. It's funny, I've heard some people hear live versions of songs (or covers of songs) and get confused 'cause they didn't sound exactly like the studio version. I'm thinking, "Why would you want it to?" If I wanted to hear the studio version of a song I'd just go play that version. But I like hearing artists change stuff around, and I would hope they do everything imaginable to make their music fresh and exciting. I don't want to watch a bored artist, 'cause seeing their lack of excitement will make me less interested, and then it's just a bad time for all involved at that point. So U2 can do whatever the hell they want to their music, I'll be happy to give the new twist on it a listen.

Quote:
Originally posted by dr. zooeuss
Haha, well said.
Thanks . Same to everything you've said as well. And I also agree that this was a great idea for a thread-lots of fascinating discussion going on here, lots of great thoughts being shared. Well done, all.

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Old 11-12-2007, 08:33 AM   #45
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This is a really interesting topic and a great read, thanks everyone for the insights.

So.. it's not expecting too much to hope that others can broaden their horizons in any field of art appreciation, but it is quite naive at best - and self-centred and narrow-minded at worst - to expect others to adapt their tastes to follow your own?

The 'nomuzak' site goes to great pains to try to explain that it's really not a matter of being elitist to condemn all pop music. But it somehow reminds me of that Simpsons clip where the crazy professor guy is lecturing these poor infants on the theory behind the little coloured ball popping wheely toy, and one girl asks if she can just play with it, to which he replies something like "No you won't enjoy it on as many levels as I do, nyahey .." (And then he goes on to goof around with it himself). You know the one?

I guess there's art enjoyment and art appreciation, two things which don't necessarily overlap. Get someone to listen to a piece of music that just doesn't resonate with them on any level, and although they may appreciate the sophistication of the artist and the creation, what's that worth if they're not capable of enjoying it? Compare that with, say, giving them a snippet of a poppy music piece that evokes glimpses of their childhood memories; that music is a snapshot in time, as is most pop, and in that way it can be treasured for life regardless of its 'muzak' quality.

As others have already said, it has its place..
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