What exactly characterizes classical music?

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What exactly characterizes classical music?

Postby baha » Thu Oct 31, 2002 4:07 pm

I've yet to hear music such as that of Enya or Yanni on beethoven radio and so I am wondering whether they count as classical music or not. If they don't, with what do you characterize classical music?
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Re: What exactly characterizes classical music?

Postby Nicole Marie » Thu Oct 31, 2002 4:30 pm

Hello! You are asking a very broad question, entire college classes are dedicated to this subject. <P>When you get down to it classical music the term, is applied to western styles of composition. The Oxford Companion to Music calls it "...music of composers...from the Middle Ages to the present day. The term is also often applied to avant-garde." <P>Do I consider the music of Yanni and others classical? No. Nor would most people. There is to much pop aspects of music involved. If you can take a music appreciation course at a local school and study basic composition to understand what it takes to compose a piece of music. <P>I'll ask Dave C. to weigh in on this since he has studied composition in detail during college. He may have a better definition.
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Re: What exactly characterizes classical music?

Postby Blackberry » Fri Nov 01, 2002 9:55 am

A quote on this topic:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>The basic difference between classical music and jazz is that in the former the music is always greater than its performance—Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, for instance, is always greater than its performance—whereas the way jazz is performed is always more important than what is being performed. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE><BR>André Previn, quoted in <I>A Performer’s Art, Serious Music And All That Jazz!</I><P>Now, isn't that helpful?
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Re: What exactly characterizes classical music?

Postby Jeff Dutton » Fri Nov 01, 2002 2:34 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Nicole Marie:<BR><STRONG>Do I consider the music of Yanni and others classical? No. Nor would most people. There is to much pop aspects of music involved. </STRONG><HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>Purely out of curiosity...<P>Would the music of a group such as BOND be considered classical? Even though some of their pieces are arrangements of classical music (such as the 1812 Overture), the style is really more like techno-pop.<P>I'm not saying you shouldn't play music from Bond from time-to-time, but since you do, would you also play music by Yanni?<P>Jeff
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Re: What exactly characterizes classical music?

Postby davechristiansen » Fri Nov 01, 2002 2:50 pm

hey shreidi (and everyone else :)<P>there are so many angles to go at this topic from, but i think i'll start here...<P>the main thing that distinguishes western classical music from other styles of music is the fact that classical music is notated; it exists in "hard-copy" somewhere as a score that lives independent of the composer and can be given life at any time by the interpretation of musicians. <P>since all western music has fallen under the influence of the classical tradition, notation has showed up in a lot of music that is not considered classical. jazz musicians often read "charts" and studio musicians have read arrangements when performing for pop recordings since the days of lieber and stoller. so what's the difference? <P>classical music is (typically) "through-composed", which means everything that happens in a given piece is determined before-hand in the score. jazz relies heavily on improvisation, so it doesn't fit into this distinction, but what about that other stuff? Yanni, Broadway Shows, Film Music (even some of that Pop music that i mentioned)... isn't that stuff "classical" too, according to my definition? well, er, no. while all of this stuff involves musicians playing from scores, not much of it is really "classical"<P>(ok, ok, don't everyone get up-in-arms just yet). <P>here's where blackberry's quote comes in handy... that whole thing about "the music being greater than the performance" is really what it's all about. in short, no matter how many performers butcher beethoven's piano sonatas, or even how many truly enlightening performances there are, the real-deal, end-all-be-all will always be that piece of paper covered in little black dots. though the "music" only exists when a group of musicians gather together to bring it to life, the score itself holds all of the real substance. the depth, the structural beauty, all of the intelligence and personality of the composer exists in the score.<P>but again, what about Yanni, for example? another pianist could get a hold of the sheet music to one of Yanni's pieces and put together a performance couldn't they? well, yes, but i have to argue that the "power" in this stuff arises more from a cult of personality than it does from the music itself. there will always be more recordings of Yanni playing Yanni than there will be aspiring pianists performing Yanni in student recitals. <P>And film music? pretty much the same thing. would John Williams really be an international superstar without the help of Spielberg, Lucas, etc.? <P>there is another, more honest answer, however. we should probably just draw a line somewhere in the twentieth century and say that anything composed before that point, in this western classical (notated) tradition counts, and everything else does not. there is too much cross-pollination and experimentation and blending, mostly from the availability of all sorts of music, that anything that was composed after this mystery date is some sort of new muatant hybrid and not truly "classical" music.<P>my own two(?) cents however, is that genres exist mostly to sell music and so that people like us have something to talk about. it's the pieces that transcend these designations that are the most interesting anyway.<P>hope this completely confuses the issue :D
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Re: What exactly characterizes classical music?

Postby baha » Fri Nov 01, 2002 2:53 pm

Jeff addresses a point that I wanted to raise. I am not proficient in musical theory or composition but I love listening to classical music. When I listen to some of Yanni's or Enya's music I just can't tell the difference sometimes. Listen to 'Aria' by Yanni and maybe you'll see what I mean.
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Re: What exactly characterizes classical music?

Postby davechristiansen » Fri Nov 01, 2002 4:10 pm

what ensembles like "Bond" or "Blast" do is not classical music. while the performers may be classically trained and able to sit down and play a Beethoven string quartet, the music on their discs is not classical music. <P>though i have nothing against arrangements, what keeps these particular arrangements from being "classical" is that they are tunes without real substance (honestly, i am not intimately familiar with either of these ensembles, so a well chosen selection could make me eat my words). they're a lot like those old "as-seen-on-tv" collections of the themes from "your favorite classical compositions". while the tune may be the most attractive part of a piece, it's really not where-it's-at, classicaly speaking... <P>Bolero, for instance. while you may be happy to hear the tune for a few minutes on a blast CD (and then hum it for the rest of the day), what separates that from the Ravel original (or the Rimsky-Korsakov arrangement) is that the substance of the original is in how Ravel can make you _want_ to listen to 15 minutes of a full orchestra playing the same tune over and over and over and over and over and over again. it's in the orchestration, the command that the composer has of what the instruments in the orchestra can do. <P>but it's not all about orchestration. <P>how about Beethoven? other than that whole "ode To Joy" thing (which was stolen from a drinking song, btw) Beethoven is not known for writing very memorable "tunes". what's the one thing that you remeber about the first movement of the Eroica? a single chord. you could hear only that and you would know exactly what piece you were listening to. the "theme" from the fifth symphony? four notes. that's a tune!? <P>so if this joker can't write a hummable tune to save his life, why is he known as the "Great One"? because it's what he can do with those four notes for the next 40 minutes of a symphony. you could devote years of your life to understanding exactly what makes the fifth a masterpiece (and many people have), you could not (and i don't think that this is unfair in any way) do the same with Enya or Yanni, or with an arrangement of a tune for a cross-over ensemble. <P>does any of this really matter? not really. do you like listening to Enya and Yanni? ok. do you like listening to Beethoven? ok. in the grand scheme of things, what you call a piece of music makes very little difference.<P>davec <P>p.s. this whole tune thing is what distinguishes classical from pop, for the most part. pop music is largely tune-driven, and always has been. the tune can exist independent of the arrangement (which is usually just a product of what's in style in music production at any given time). <P>classical/not classical is interesting, but what i think is _really_ interesting is what sets a group like the Beatles or Led Zeppelin apart from a Ricky Martin or Debbie Gibson.
dc<P>"The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but rather the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity."<BR>-Glenn Gould
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Re: What exactly characterizes classical music?

Postby barfle » Sat Nov 02, 2002 7:42 am

Dave, is Leroy Anderson "Classical?" I remember when "The Syncopated Clock" was in the top 40 (yes, I know that statement makes me an official geezer). It's orchestral, to be sure, but so is Percy Faith.<P>I happen to like a lot of Leroy Anderson's music, but it seems a little odd to hear it on a classical station (but it is the station without the attitude).
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Re: What exactly characterizes classical music?

Postby priya978 » Sat Nov 02, 2002 3:25 pm

Webster's New World College Dictionary Fourth Edition defines classical MUSIC as-<P>of, characteristic of, or like a style of music marked by an emphasis on formal composition, as in instrumental works in the sonata form, by precise standards of performance appropriate to a symphony orchestra, and by a sense of balance, order, clarity, etc. designating or of the period (c.1750-c.1830) characterized by this sytle c) designating or of art music of the European tradition, including such forms as the symphony, the opera, chamber music, the sonata, etc. (distinguished from folk or popular music or jazz.)<P>So-there it is.<BR>Plain and simple and short-Yeah right.
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Re: What exactly characterizes classical music?

Postby Nicole Marie » Sun Nov 03, 2002 12:40 am

I'm rereading Sheldon Morgenstern's book "No Vivaldi in the Garage - A Requiem for Classical Music in North America" and I think Morgenstern sums it all up in this one statement... we have become 'a continent of arts illiterates,". And he's right.<P>To many people think that Yanni (a guy with a few interesting, not good but interesting, ideas and a computer program) is classical music. We posted definitions of what is classical music but the soul, heart and deep meaning behind true classical music is not found in Yanni, Bocelli or Church. <P>A composer studies his or her entire life, ways to put emotion on paper. To put that emotion on paper, rewirte it and then to find musicians who can correctly convey this emotion in a performance, is something that almost never happens. When it does, this is classical music. <P>When you hear a correct, almost perfect performance of Beethoven's Fifth, it's unexplainable. You will feel every emotional drop that Beethoven felt. The musicians who performed it are to be praised. To devote your entire life learning classical performance so that you can perform that perfect piece, it's something many people can not pursue, I know I didn't have it in me. <P>Which brings me to the Church's, Yanni's and other pop/classical performers. Church is 17, her voice has not even developed. I grit my teeth when I her people say what an amazing vocie she has. She has not even hit her adult voice, and to be honest if it sounds anything like her 17 year old voice, then don't send me season tickets. <P>Yanni sits at a computer program all day punching in ideas and lets the program do the rest. Yanni and Tesh need to be put out to dry. Where's the musicians, the emotion and the drive to be amazing? His PC did it, not him.<P>Classical crossover artists have done a world of good exposing people to tastes of classical music. (Oh by the way, they are not called classical, it's classical crossover. Where they've crossed over is another story.) But I encourage you to reach further in and discover the works of real composers like Stravinsky, Brahms, Mahler and more. These are the people who exposed true emotion on staff paper. Toss in top musicians who have dedicated their lives to classical music and then you have the true definition of classical music.<P>I also encourage you to read Morgenstern's book "No Vivaldi in the Garage". He talks about his life as a musician, the reasons why the Church's, Yanni's and Ma's have destroyed classical music in America and what it takes to be true to classical music.<p>[ 11-03-2002: Message edited by: Nicole Marie ]
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Re: What exactly characterizes classical music?

Postby EricMichaels » Mon Nov 04, 2002 8:53 am

Of course, you can nitpick about what exactly is classical music until the cows come home, but it's a seperate issue from what pieces we play on the air.<BR>I don't have a problem with classical crossover performers, as long as you recognize them as such. Bond, Barrage, BLAST, Brightman, Bocelli, and other non-Bs are doing something WITH classical music, but they don't REPRESENT classical music. This is fine, as long as we all remember that the basis of Beethoven Radio is to play classical music, and add the other stuff (film music included) as musical spice.<P>Oh, and to answer the question at the top of the thread, we don't have any Yanni or Enya to play (aside from her contribution to Lord of the Rings). Sorry.
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Re: What exactly characterizes classical music?

Postby TuneGirl » Mon Nov 04, 2002 10:15 am

Interesting thoughts Eric and Nicole. I remember an exhibit at the former Boston Computer Science Museum where they had two segments of music played on a keyboard, one was a phrase written by a "classical composer" the second phrase was computer generated. After listening to each phrase you had to choose which was the real McCoy. Despite many years of classical music training, I was surprised to find it was hard to distinguish one from the other!
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Re: What exactly characterizes classical music?

Postby baha » Mon Nov 04, 2002 10:47 am

Maybe we have to recognize the fact that music evolves and that maybe the term 'classical is just a a specific term that we use implicitly to describe a certain kind of music when the historical meaning refers to music composed during a certain period of time. There were several periods that that characterized 'classical' music through out history. `Classical music' particularly the music of Beethoven and Mozart refers to music written during the Classical period (1770-1830). The Baroque period (1680-1750) in which Bach and Handel were preeminent and which was characterized by a wealth of operas (such as Handel's Serse) and oratorios preceded the Classical period. The Romantic period which followed the classical period sought a new kind of music which more expressive and immaginative. <P>A lot of avant garde electronic music qualifies as classical music. Just because it is performed using a computer does not mean that it wasn't written precisely in a way that allows any other musicians to perform it in the future and still be appreciated. Maybe we are in a whole new era of 'classical' music which will eventually get its own name.<P>It all does boil down to what Dave said. It really doesn't matter what we regard as classical music as long it continues to move us in the same exact way as 'classical' music does.
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Re: What exactly characterizes classical music?

Postby audiogirl » Mon Nov 04, 2002 11:18 am

Nicole, I think that the classical crossover artists are most often highly praised by those who haven't listened to purely classically trained vocalists/musicians. If you happen to hear someone like Charlotte Church when all you're used to is pop artists, she sounds good. If you hear little Charlotte when you've always listened to Leontyne Price, she sounds like she needs some intense training----and she does. I have a few of Charlotte's CD,'s and I love them, but I keep hoping she'll find another vocal teacher. <P><BR> :)
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Re: What exactly characterizes classical music?

Postby barfle » Mon Nov 04, 2002 2:25 pm

Jennifer, you are so right about what you are used to hearing (but then, you train people to hear, I hear. Here, here!). Andrea Bocceli has a nice voice and he can carry a tune. When, on one of his TV specials, he sang with a pop star (sorry, I gave up on pop 25 years ago), the pop star just sounded awful.<P>I don't believe the skill to be a classical performer ever comes naturally. It may come easier to some than to others, but it all takes teaching, homework, and more teaching and homework. I'm afraid Charlotte Church still has some homework, although the spark is there.
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Re: What exactly characterizes classical music?

Postby Jeff Dutton » Mon Nov 04, 2002 5:28 pm

Dave, Eric and Nicole - I really appreciate your views on what is (and is not) classical. Obviously it is not a simple concept. Thanks!<P>To clarify my post above, I have no particular desire to hear either Yanni or Bond on Beethoven.com, nor do I object to an occasional hearing. On the other hand, with the POSSIBLE exception of specific pieces that are based on existing classical music, It would probably be difficult to reason why music by one should have more of a place on Beethoven.com than the other - other than personal preference.<P>The original question in this thread came with a comment that neither Yanni nor Enya had been heard on Beethoven Radio. Nicole's initial reply SEEMED (I like your views, Nicole - this is just an observation, not a criticism) to imply that their music was not played because it was not "classical". I know that Nicole did not say that outright, that was just the impression I had. That is why I brought up Bond, which has been heard - sometimes fairly frequently. I was stirring the pot, so to speak. :) <P>Jeff<P>[ 11-04-2002: Message edited by: Jeff Dutton ]<p>[ 11-04-2002: Message edited by: Jeff Dutton ]
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Re: What exactly characterizes classical music?

Postby bignaf » Sun Nov 10, 2002 1:03 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by davec:<BR>[ what separates that from the Ravel original (or the Rimsky-Korsakov arrangement) QB]<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>what Rimsky Korsakov arrangement? I think that you are thinking of pictures at an exibition because I never heard of a Rimsky Korsakov arrangement of Bolero.
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Re: What exactly characterizes classical music?

Postby Bones » Mon Nov 11, 2002 5:32 pm

Ravel wrote Bolero in 1928. Rimsky-Korsakov died 20 years earlier in 1908. He didn't do a version of Ravel's Bolero.<p>[ 11-11-2002: Message edited by: Bones ]
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Re: What exactly characterizes classical music?

Postby priya978 » Mon Nov 11, 2002 6:33 pm

I think that him dying 20 years before is a problem. I could be wrong.
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Re: What exactly characterizes classical music?

Postby davechristiansen » Tue Nov 12, 2002 6:23 pm

whoops, sorry. brain-loss. i hope you can find it in your magnanimous hearts to forgive me.<P>davec
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