What is classical music?

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What is classical music?

Postby John » Tue May 21, 2002 1:55 pm

There appears to be a lot of intelligent and well-informed people who monitor and participate in this forum. Here are my questions:<P>1) Who classifies a composition as classical? <BR>2) What defines a classical composition?<BR>3) Does classical music have a time horizon? In other words, can some music that is viewed as contemporary today be considered classical music as time goes by?<P>John<P> :roll:
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Re: What is classical music?

Postby Nicole Marie » Tue May 21, 2002 2:42 pm

Classical music is more of an over all term used. But Allan in the UK sent me this great time line of classical music history that covers all the different eras.<P><BR>1450-1600 <P>Great works from the Renaissance era <BR>Palestrina: Missa Papae Marcelli <BR>Allegri: Miserere <BR>Tallis: Spem in Alium <P>1600-1750 <P>Great works from the Baroque Era <BR>Handel: Water Music <BR>Bach: Brandenburg concertos and Cantatas <BR>Vivaldi: The Four Seasons <BR>Purcell: Dido and Aeneas <BR>Monteverdi: Orfeo <P> <BR>1750-1810 <P>Great works from the Classical era <BR>Mozart: Requiem, Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute, Piano Concerto no.21, Clarinet Concerto <BR>Haydn: The Creation, Symphony no.101 ?Clock?, String Quartet op.76 no.3 ?Emperor? <BR>Gluck: Orfeo ed Eurydice Beethoven: Symphony no.3 'Eroica' <P><BR>1810-1910 <P>Great works from the Romantic Era <BR>Beethoven: Symphony no.9 'Choral' <BR>Dvorák: Symphony no.9 Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker, Symphony no.6 <BR>Schubert: Winterreise, 'Unfinished' Symphony Liszt: A Faust Symphony <BR>Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique <BR>Wagner: Tristan and Isolde, The Ring Cycle <BR>Elgar: Enigma Variations <BR>Verdi: Rigoletto, Falstaff <P>1910-1960 <P>Great works from the Modern era <BR>Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring, The Firebird <BR>Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra <BR>Strauss: Four Last Songs <BR>Gershwin: Piano Concerto, Porgy and Bess <BR>Bernstein: Candide <BR>Copland: Appalachian Spring, Fanfare for the Common Man <BR>Shostakovich: Symphony no.5, Piano Concerto no.2 <BR>Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet <P>1960-present <P>Contemporary Greats <BR>Steve Reich: Different Trains, New York Counterpoint <BR>John Adams: Shaker Loops, Short Ride in a Fast Machine, Nixon in China <BR>Philip Glass: Violin Concerto <BR>Gorécki: Symphony no.3 <BR>Tavener: Song for Athène; Hymn to the Mother of God <BR>Maxwell Davies: Eight Songs for a Mad King
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Re: What is classical music?

Postby thornhill » Wed May 22, 2002 12:22 am

<I>1) Who classifies a composition as classical? <BR>2) What defines a classical composition</I><P>Music written in the style of Mozart and Haydn.<P>Now I assume that you are talking about composers ranging from J.S. Bach to Brahms. Not to sound like a jack ass, but the correct terminology is: <B>Western Music</B>.<P>The main characteristic which all music written in the Western tradition follows are ideas of tonality. This is what links almost all of the pieces of music that Nicole wrote above. <P>In general, I'm very much against genreizing music with names like Baroque and Classical. As Nicole pointed out, the Baroque era spans 150 years. The style in which early baroque music was written in sharply contrasts to mid and late baroque. The same is true of Mozart and Gluck whose music was only separated by about 10-20 years, yet they are both called classical composers.<P><I>3) Does classical music have a time horizon? In other words, can some music that is viewed as contemporary today be considered classical music as time goes by?</I><P>Anyone can write music in the Western Style, people still do, so in that sense, what they write it is "classical music". If you're asking if non-pop music can be called Western Music ("classical music") like Philip Glass's work, the answer is no.
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Re: What is classical music?

Postby shostakovich » Wed May 22, 2002 2:55 pm

Hi John. I taught a music appreciation course for almost 20 years, and found it impossible to define "music", as definitions changed over the years. 18th C musicians would not call many 20th C productions "music". Think of the changes in meanings of words over time. "Gay" in 1902 meant something different from its meaning in 2002. Things change over time, and that includes meanings in the arts and the sciences.<P>"Classical music" is easier to define than "music", although every one of us has a slightly different "definition" in our minds based on personal experience. The narrowest definition would be "the style of Haydn and Mozart". Right on, Thorny. All (reasonable) people would include their music in their personal definitions. Enlarging it a bit, we could go to "music of their time and place (1750 - 1800+ Europe), and still have almost everybody calling it "classical". It was musicologists, well after 1800, who categorized Baroque, Classical, Romantic, etc. I doubt that Mozart and Haydn had any idea, or cared, that they wrote "classical" music. <P>Music after 1800 evolving from that time (and "prevolving" back to Bach and before) is loosely referred to as "classical" as a convenience to catalogues and music stores, etc. The list from Alan to Nicole is a very good example of good stuff that falls into this category. There are other definitions, I'm sure. You pays your money, and you takes your choice.<P>Some people say classical music is what LASTS. I don't care for that one, as it excludes forgotten works of the big guys and includes You Ain't Nothin but a Hound Dog. <P>My best advice is to enjoy what you enjoy and don't worry about whether it's classical or not.
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Re: What is classical music?

Postby billbas » Wed May 22, 2002 7:01 pm

You pose a very difficult question that is not easily answered. The best "answer" if have encountered is a book written by the great Beethoven pianist, Charles Rosen - "The Classical Style - Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven" published 1972. I purchased one for my son on Amazon.com last year.
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Re: What is classical music?

Postby billbas » Wed May 22, 2002 7:02 pm

You pose a very difficult question that is not easily answered. The best "answer" if have encountered is a book written by the great Beethoven pianist, Charles Rosen - "The Classical Style - Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven" published 1972. I purchased one for my son on Amazon.com last year.
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Re: What is classical music?

Postby Megalore » Thu May 23, 2002 12:12 pm

Depends on who you're talking to. To someone who has studied music academically classical describes an era, say, middle Haydn to late Beethoven. To others, it could describe "stuff played by orchestras and operas that lasts all day." and to others it describes music or a style of music that has lasted. My view is somewhat narrow on this subject: since I like classical music, then if I like it, it's classical; otherwise, it's not :)
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Re: What is classical music?

Postby audiogirl » Fri May 24, 2002 2:53 pm

Remember Don McLean's "Starry, starry, Night"? Josh Groban has recorded it with a semi-classical spin, and it's very easy on the ears. (I know, Groban's not a textbook classical voice, but he's still good to listen to.)
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Re: What is classical music?

Postby OperaTenor » Thu Aug 19, 2004 6:47 pm

There was some discussion about just what constitutes "classical" music recently, and it seems to me there are still some pretty strong opinions regarding it out there(including mine, but I want to wait and see what others have to say). I thought it might be interesting to resurrect this topic.

So, what about it, what say you all?

:confused:

<small>[ 08-19-2004, 07:49 PM: Message edited by: OperaTenor ]</small>
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Re: What is classical music?

Postby lliam » Fri Aug 20, 2004 4:50 am

The nature of classical music.
=================================
Classical music is primarily a written musical tradition, preserved in music notation, as opposed to being transmitted orally, by rote, or in recordings. While differences between particular performances of a classical work are recognized, a work of classical music is generally held to transcend any particular performance thereof. Works that are centuries old can be, and often are, performed far more often than works recently composed. The use of notation is an effective method for classical music because all active participants in the classical music tradition are able to read music and are schooled in the current performance practices. Normally, this ability comes from formal training, which usually begins with learning to play an instrument, and sometimes continues with instruction in music theory and composition. However, there are many passive participants in classical music who enjoy it without being able to read it or perform it.
Classical music is meant to be experienced for its own sake. It is unlike other forms of music that serve as a vehicle for poetry or other lyrical content, or as an adjunct to other forms of entertainment. Performances of classical music often take place in a relatively solemn atmosphere, with the audience expected to maintain silence and remain immobile during the performance, so that everyone can hear each note and nuance. The performers usually dress formally, a practice, which is often taken as a gesture of respect for the music, and performers normally do not engage in casual banter or other direct involvement with the audience.
Written transmission, along with the veneration bestowed on classical works, has important implications for the performance of classical music. To a fair degree, performers are expected to perform a work in a way that realizes the original intentions of the composer, which are often stated quite explicitly (down to the level of small, note-by-note details) in the musical score. Indeed, deviations from the composer's intentions are sometimes condemned as outright ethical lapses. Yet the opposite trend--admiration of performers for new "interpretations" of the composer's work, can be seen, and it is not unknown for a composer to praise a performer for achieving a better realization of the composer's original intent than the composer was able to imagine. Thus, classical music performers often achieve very high reputations for their musicianship, even if they do not compose themselves.
Another consequence of the veneration of the composer's written score is that improvisation plays a relatively minor role in classical music--in sharp contrast to traditions like jazz, where improvisation is central. Improvisation in classical music performance was far more common during the Baroque era, and recently the performance of such music by modern classical musicians has been enriched by a revival of the old improvisational practices. During the Classical period, Mozart and Beethoven sometimes improvised the cadenzas to their piano concertos--but tended to write out the cadenzas when other soloists were to perform them.
Art music and concert music are terms sometimes used as synonyms of classical music.
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Re: What is classical music?

Postby lliam » Fri Aug 20, 2004 5:07 am

Throughout history, parents have often made sure that their children receive classical music training from a young age. Early experience with music provides the basis for more serious study later. Some instruments, such as the violin, are almost impossible to learn to play at a professional level if not learned in childhood. Some parents pursue music lessons for their children for social reasons or in an effort to instil a useful sense of self-discipline; lessons have also been shown to increase academic performance. Some consider that a degree of knowledge of important works of classical music is part of a good general education.
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Re: What is classical music?

Postby lliam » Fri Aug 20, 2004 5:15 am

The arrival in Vienna by Mozart in 1780 marked the acceleration of the development of the classical style, here, Mozart absorbed the fusion of Italianate brilliance and Germanic cohesiveness, which had been brewing for the previous 20 years. His own taste for brilliances, rhythmically complex melodies and figures, long cantilena melodies, and virtuoso flourishes was merged with an appreciation for formal coherence and internal connectedness. Strangely enough, it is at this point that war and inflation halted a trend to larger and larger orchestras and forced the disbanding or reduction of many theatre orchestras. This pressed the classical style inwards: towards seeking greater ensemble and technical challenge. For example, scattering the melody across woodwinds, or using thirds to create a melody between them. This process placed a premium on chamber music for more public performance, giving a further boost to the string quartet and other small ensemble groupings.
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Re: What is classical music?

Postby shostakovich » Fri Aug 20, 2004 11:02 am

This thread reminds me of a definition I once proposed (on some other thread). I recall it did not revolutionize thinking on the subject at the time. My definition of Classical Music (extended beyond the Classical Period in both directions) went something like this:

"It is music that is notated so that it can be performed generation after generation sounding the same way."

At the time I had some other conditions on it, but the above might suffice. It eliminates jazz (too improvisatory), folk (not intended to survive), rock and pop (too identified with performers). It also eliminates aleatoric (chance) music, an abomination. Take that, John Cage!

It includes musicals, which may not yet be considered classical by all. It also includes sound tracks. Unfortunately, it includes electronic and musique concrete as in the work of Luening and Ussachevsky (not all bad), and Varese ( I haven't decided on him). Iannis Xenakis and other producers of computer-generated crap will be eliminated as footnotes to (aberrant) history.
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Re: What is classical music?

Postby violin » Fri Aug 20, 2004 4:18 pm

John,
The dictionary defines classical music as "a)of or relating to European music during the latter half of the 18th and early 19th centuries. b)of or relating to music in the educated European tradition, as opposed to popular or folk music." That said - what I tell my students when they ask similar questions (i.e. 'what is classical music?') is: "What is referred to commonly as 'classical music' is music that survives and is played from generation to generation due to being notated and evokes feelings in the audience." (Liam, I have found my violin students tend to tune out after about ten words, though your explain was thorough.)If they are an older student I then go into all the time periods and music history they can stand at that point.

Shos,
If you're stuffy then I am positively a fossil. I was very good I didn't even mentioned early music once in this post. Or even the fact that there is some evidence (and lots of arguments) about ancient Greek and Roman music notation. Or what about medieval notation....we can still play that music.

Positvely archaic - Violin
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Re: What is classical music?

Postby Selma in Sandy Eggo » Fri Aug 20, 2004 5:14 pm

...shaped notes, plainchant, elizabethan whatnots...
>^..^<
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Re: What is classical music?

Postby OperaTenor » Fri Aug 20, 2004 7:45 pm

Shos,

I recall seeing your post on that before, and I feel you hit the nail squarely on the head regarding our broad usage of the term "classical music". I also feel there is a distinction between that braod usage, and the Classical period of music composition, to which I believe Lliam is referring to.

By your definition(again, which I feel is appropriate), classical music is very inclusive(as it should be, IMNSHO).

Jim "trying to get Ragtime included" B.

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Re: What is classical music?

Postby Serenity » Fri Aug 20, 2004 11:01 pm

Musically-related sidetrack:
Did the Chinese have annotated music or did they adopt the western annotation?
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Re: What is classical music?

Postby OperaTenor » Sat Aug 21, 2004 2:12 am

I believe they had their own ancient notation. It contained over 5,000 notes. But nowadays they have modernized it and streamlined it down to a lot smaller number of notes.......uh.......wait a minute.........I think that's their alphabet I was thinking of - not their music.....


Never mind....

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Re: What is classical music?

Postby BigJon » Sat Aug 28, 2004 2:15 pm

In listening to the national anthems at the Olympics, I detected that some of the Asian nations have western sounding anthems. Am I hearing this wrong? Also, can any of the anthems we heard be considered classical music? I really liked the music to Israel's anthem.

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Re: What is classical music?

Postby bignaf » Sat Aug 28, 2004 11:42 pm

I don't know all of the asian anthems, but some of them sounded western merely because of instrumentation and harmonization. the melodies were all oriental sounding (the ones I've heard).
I'm pretty sure you can't call them classical music since they serve a disticntly populist and popular role. the treatment of the material and the fact that they are old, might make them sound "classical" to us.
the Israel anthem also appears in "the Moldau" by smetana. or something really similar to the 1st phrase of it. it's a good anthem since it's easy to sing, much easier than the horrible American one, but unfortunately is in minor mode so it doesn't sound very confident and martial. it's more nostalgic-like.
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