May 18, 2008 at 07:50 PM · I say we change the term "Classical" Music. We can each submit a name for what we think it should be called and why, and somehow take a vote on it. We can then take that name and try to spread it around to our orchestra groups, classes, schools, students, etc. Come on, none of us feel that the word "classical" is a good label although postings in its defense are welcome also. V.commers can change the world no?

Laurie, anyway to set up a vote? Who wants to provoke a name first?

Replies (100)

May 18, 2008 at 09:58 PM · Labeling enables humans to enter a realm in which they may assume an amount of comfort ability when confronted with a learning experience.

Labeling provides a niche into which a common knowledge is included.

A noble effort and countless attempts are cemented in any path to somewhat revamp a musical classification system which has been prevalent for hundreds of years in the musical past.

Chances are significant that said attempts may not reach fruition.

Humans find classification systems difficult to change,even though change is growth.

Of course,children would me more adaptable to this scenario,but musical instruction techniques may be under scrutiny by the "bores" of education,thus enabling new theory approaches to be finely ground into atomical remnants--forever to be shunned.

BUT,most important teaching techniques come first to the minority,then may be regarded as the norm---this is a pathway towards progress.

Attempting change in musical classification systems may be considered revolutionary-in the carved in granite onus of basic lesson plans.

Plus,there would be no congruency in votages by v-com.members, in toto, to such a survey... Most have their "own" opinions and taken together create a undecipherable menage--which,in a way,is somewhat similiar to the human condition thereof.

Hell,its worth a mighty try !

May 19, 2008 at 01:40 AM · Mighty Music - what do you think Joe?

May 19, 2008 at 02:50 AM · Marina,

You are to be commended for your educational endeavours with children !!!

Your efforts are IMPORTANT:

thats what I think !!!!!!!!!!!

To revamp the classification system of music seems a wee bit inappropriate for adults,for most seem to understand the situation involved.

I've tried my very best to express my ideas in this regard and I think I've done well.

I'm on YOUR side---believe me !!!

[doubts persist though].......

People in charge of music edu. may not agree with your approach although your take is on the mark !!!

Steel bends only when heated.

May 19, 2008 at 03:20 AM · "Come on, none of us feel that the word "classical" is a good label"

That very much depends.

I can think of at least six different commonly applied "definitions" of the term "classical music". Are you looking to find a replacement for the all inclusive colloquial use of the term or do you suggest to rename other uses as well?

In other words, when you say classical music, do you mean the music of ...

1) the classical period only?

2) same as #1 plus baroque and romantic?

3) same as #2 plus so called early music?

4) same as #2 plus 20th century art music?

5) same as #3 plus 20th century art music?

6) same as #5 plus contemporary art music?

Furthermore, do you include non-Western music, such as for example Persian classical music and Indian carnatic music etc?

May 19, 2008 at 03:49 AM · Someone already invented a term:

"Western Art Music."

May 19, 2008 at 04:21 AM · Scott, it depends of what use you consider it a replacement for.

A few years ago I rode a cab in LA while the radio was playing "Radar Love" by Golden Earring. I said "Nice channel, they don't play those oldies anymore where I live" and the driver responded "Those aren't oldies, they're classics!".

This reminded me of the generic nature of the terms "classic" and "classical". If you reflect on the original meaning of those terms you will probably find that even the "classical period" is really a misnomer. Maybe the so called classical period ought to be renamed and the term classical should be applied only in its original meaning, as a generic term with the connotation "respect and admiration of something well aged".

May 19, 2008 at 10:19 AM · "Come on, none of us feel that the word "classical" is a good label"

I'm OK with it and I don't understand why it needs a "new" name. Is a new name supposed to make it more popular?

May 19, 2008 at 10:39 AM · Lisa, the motivation stems from the fact that the term as it is used in colloquial speech is fuzzy and thereby inviting confusion as to what it includes. No matter what one might feel about the term, it is far from ideal to have one term associated with a great number of different meanings.

May 19, 2008 at 11:24 AM · I sometimes use the phrase "orchestral music" to avoid using the word "classical". While I think "Western Art Music" is quite a good term instead of classical, I find in practice that "orchestral music" works better, and says more to a wider range of people, even also as a replacement for "chamber music" depending on who one is talking to.

"Classical music" as a description is both far too inclusive and exclusive at the same time. The classic part of classical means something that's been around for a while which leads to impossible constructs such as "contemporary classical", a term I've used often enough myself but always wished there was something better and more appropriate in widespread use.

May 19, 2008 at 12:01 PM · @ Nigel

"orchestral music" terminology => one more nail in the coffin of chamber music [sniff].

If it is meant to be all-inclusive, my vote would have to be "serious art music"

May 19, 2008 at 12:09 PM · That sounds like it implies that there's a "non-serious art music"....

May 19, 2008 at 12:15 PM · I think 'Concert Music' would be a good alternative, although there is of course rock and other genres which are played in concert...

May 19, 2008 at 12:40 PM · "serious" because it is a common denominator across languages/cultures while art alone is not, but "serious music" alone would also do.

May 19, 2008 at 12:54 PM · True, "serious" is a common denominator. In commercial music they are very serious about making money....

May 19, 2008 at 01:16 PM · Trouble is though, the more serious the producers are about making money, the less serious the consumers are about spending that money on it, which is precisely why the recording industry is in trouble. It's a serious mess.

May 19, 2008 at 02:44 PM · An over 100-year worldwide history of labels that are known and used by everybody everywhere is pretty tough to change. It's likely we'll have to live with these terms, as problemmatic as they may be for many people and as misleading as they may be for those not into classical music.

I was trying to think of alternatives as I read the comments here. I think "serious" isn't quite right, because there's a lot of popular and folk music that is quite serious. And in fact not all classical music is "serious."

And you don't want to use anything that reflects some sort of snob appeal, such as "Intellectual Music," or "Deep Music," or "Music for the Culturally Literate."

It's a tough one.


May 19, 2008 at 03:11 PM · 1) People have called it long hair music in the past in reference to the wigs, and those composers who wore their hair long enough to cover the back of their necks.

2) Marina- love your thread here. sort of like the one I posted, I think yours will get a better discussion... Why didn't I think of this?

And No Blushing! I turns my face red and I say Aw Shucks!

May 19, 2008 at 03:15 PM · Well, like it or not, but "serious music" *is* the formal terminology in French and German. Why does everybody else always have to adopt the English terms, especially when the English is confusing. This is one of those cases where it would make sense for the English speaking world to adopt a French or German term.

May 19, 2008 at 03:57 PM · "but "serious music" *is* the formal terminology in French" Really?

May 19, 2008 at 04:02 PM · several dictionaries I checked would seem to confirm both the terms listed by, that is "musique savante" and "musique serieuse". Also, I remember to have come across the latter (though not knowingly the former) on the radio when I was living in France.

May 19, 2008 at 04:23 PM · I don't think direct translations are helpful. Savante and seriuse although translated may have different connotations in the english language.

Although the word "classical" has served us for a long period of time the point of this discussion is not necessarily to come up with a new word, but to discuss CHANGE of image. Britney Spears, Puff Daddy, and Mariah Carey's careers hang in the balance of their image and they take great care in catering to that image. Why do we not do the same when our form of music as just as relevant if not more so?

Pity on the musician who rolls with the tides, placed on a pedestal in the proverbeal corner of musical society. Music is indeed a business and as with any business we have the power to control our own image. I'd rather do that than continually dumbing myself down as a classical musician so that people will say "oh, how nice," rather than taking a real interest in the music at hand.

May 19, 2008 at 05:26 PM · Thing is, "Classical Music" establishes itself rather readily regardless of national bounderies (Transends?). Take members as an example. If it were not for the profile pages I would have never guest how many members were outside the U.S. What an Eye opener for me! With all that in mind the title "World" music IMHO should have been given to, "Clasical Music" and that which is presently called, "World" be renamed, "Indigenous Music".

May 19, 2008 at 08:00 PM · Benjamin,

The term Classical is only fuzzy around the edges. Most people, when they hear the term, probably do recognize that what's being referred to is Western European music of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. the problem is the music on the margins. What is "Candide"? Is it broadway or classical? Unfortunately, there are too many similar works that can categorized in many ways. Which is why there is probably no other term that can be used.

May 20, 2008 at 02:19 AM · Scott,

first, what you say is not even true, because the term is used for both the actual classical period and at the same time as an umbrella term which includes that period and others. This alone is a major source for confusion and scholars use the term "common practise period" as an umbrella term to avoid that confusion.

Second, you make it sound like 20th century "classical" music is just a tiny marginal and insignificant part not worth being considered for definite and unmistaken representation in the terminology.

You are also wrong because 20th century "classical" music is no longer contemporary. Thus, 20th century is no longer at the "edge". The body of music (and the number of styles) which are between the common practise period and that which is still contemporary is only going to grow as time passes and eventually this body is likely to outgrow the common practise period.

A similar situation exists at the opposite "edge". The term "early music" is just as fuzzy. Sometimes it is used narrowly, sometimes it includes gregorian chants and medieval music as well, the more you go back, the bigger that part of early music which doesn't live at the "edge".

May 20, 2008 at 02:15 PM · So far we have "art music" and "orchestral music"

I think labeling it "savant music" or "intellectual music" is a bit of a put off, while "orchestral music doesn't apply to chamber music, vocal music, solo piano, etc."

So far I like "western art music", formerly known as classical. I may begin to phrase it just like that.

May 20, 2008 at 02:52 PM · so you exclude all non-western influences and genres?

May 20, 2008 at 03:21 PM · Might-Music, kinda has a nice ring to it...

May 20, 2008 at 04:14 PM · Yes, excluding all non western influences and genres, let them worry about their own names.

May 20, 2008 at 04:28 PM · So Khatchaturian isn't included then :-O

May 20, 2008 at 04:28 PM · I like the name Western art music. And I don't see how it excludes influences from other cultures.

May 20, 2008 at 04:30 PM · Well, it would be rather arrogant to call something Western if it clearly isn't. How far West do you have to go to be Western anyway?

May 20, 2008 at 04:32 PM · What about just univeral art music? Or just art music?

May 20, 2008 at 04:38 PM · According to wikipedia the term "serious art music" is used to rule out confusion with "art music" which apparently is used in some heavy metal and techno circles. I seem to remember there was a scholastic discussion on this somewhere on the web, can't find it now though.

May 20, 2008 at 07:55 PM · can we call it classical music?

if people are confused, may be it is time to learn a few things to clear things up?

May 21, 2008 at 04:05 AM · Al, how can you possibly call contemporary music "classical"? by the very definition of "classical" it only applies to things in the past.

May 21, 2008 at 06:27 AM · Just can't resist this --

“The Tao the can be told of

Is not the Absolute Tao;

The Names that can be given

Are not Absolute Names. “ ~ Lao Zi ;}

If that which is named is problematic, can a change of the name do away the problem?

May 21, 2008 at 06:38 AM · The problem is not with that which is to be named. Instead there is one problem with giving the same name twice, once for a set and once for one of its true subsets, thus creating a name collision. There is also another problem when using a name for its exact opposite meaning, when the name means something in the past and you are trying to use it for something that is not in the past, thus creating an oxymoron, ie. "contemporary classical".

May 21, 2008 at 07:14 AM · Of the two aspects, over-inclusivity and exclusivity, that are problematic with the term "classical music", for me the exclusivity is the greater problem. Classic means some sort of historic filter. The mechanisms of the past that produced something "classical" no longer function in the same way.

May 21, 2008 at 02:54 PM · Exactly! The problem is that classical music is too content-rich to be fitted under any simply expression. It’s not a problem in and of itself, of course, but it becomes one when comes to naming.

May 21, 2008 at 03:26 PM · ben, i think yixi's taoism explains it well:) white horse is still a horse, or is it white horse is not a horse anymore because a horse is a horse and white horse is white horse, hahahaha!

to me, "classical music" refers to STYLES of music, not necessarily demarcated by time. of all things that are threatening classical music, confusion over its name probably does not make the list. on the other hand, i am confused over the term "punk rock" and "hip-hop". does that matter? not to me and certainly not to the rockers and poppers.

if this is an academic debate to come up with points to make an argument, it is a fine exercise. however, does the outcome have any practical implication? i doubt it.

what can we do to give classical music a better name, to stay competitive in the music marketplace? you name it!

May 21, 2008 at 04:21 PM · I don't see the problem with the word "western" unless you take it to mean cowboy music. In that case you're thinking way too localized. I mean western techniques of composition. If you think I am excluding Borodin or Glazunov, I'm not. They follow the patterns of western composition and the fact that they may use folk tunes within their compositions only means that they are nationalistic, not outside the realm of western composition.

May 21, 2008 at 03:57 PM · @ Al

"to me, "classical music" refers to STYLES of music, not necessarily demarcated by time."

I could also postulate "to me 'ancient China' refers to everything Chinese, past, present and future" and I could even construct a seemingly logical argument to back this up: I could argue that at some distant point in the future, what we call modern China today will then be ancient China, ergo present day China is equal to ancient China. Yet, no matter how much I'd argue that the word "ancient" doesn't refer to the past, there is no point in denying that this is what the word means: a reference to a distant past. Using it in any other way will therefore be improper and cause confusion.

The same applies to the word "classical" which is also a word that refers to the past, no matter how much one might wish that it didn't. As a result, the term "classical music" either excludes contemporary music, in which case there is a lack of a term for the whole which does include contemporary music as well, or if it is used as an umbrella term which does include contemporary music then the term is a misnomer.

Some people don't care about misnomers, others do. I do. Nigel seems to care, too. I am sure there are many others who do, not only in respect of the term classical music but also in respect of the many other improper uses of language. In fact those of us who do care about the term being a mismomer, we seem to be in good company, some great thinkers have pondered this question before, for example Brecht and Adorno.

This doesn't even address the folly of using the term "classical music" both as an umbrella term and as a term for one of the eras covered by the umbrella term. Your "white horse" example can be used to illustrate how silly this is: Imagine we were to create a new umbrella category of horses which contains all equestrian species that have *at least some white spots* on them, for example including zebras, but also including the all-white horses. Then we'd call that umbrella category "white horses", but we'd call the all-white horses the same "white horses", as a result your terminology doesn't distinguish between all-white and any-white. Folly.

Of course, even if we were to find or invent a new term for "classical music", a term which everybody likes, it would still take a lot more than that to change the prevalent customary use of the term. This is very difficult to do.

Thus, being realistic, the most practical thing to do is probably to use the term but qualify it in a way that makes it clear what is meant, for example one might say "actual classical music" or "classical period music" to refer to music of the classical period and use "so called classical music" as an umbrella term. However, this would still leave it unclear whether or not contemporary music is also covered by the umbrella term. I guess something like "so called classical music including contemporary music" would clarify but that's a little long.

@ Marina

Some of those western techniques have been borrowed from cultures who would probably take issue being included in that "Western" category. Some may even consider this yet another form of Western encroachment. I don't think for example that Khatchaturian would agree to have his music classified as Western art music.

May 23, 2008 at 01:39 PM · Benjamin, I think you're wrong for many reasons.

May 23, 2008 at 02:57 PM · Marina, wrong in respect of what? That not everybody in this world who makes contributions to world heritage wants to be Westernized?

BTW, influences from other cultures aside, your argument in favour of "Western" is self-defeating. Why? Consider this: you argue "Western" is a good replacement for "Classical" simply because all that which is to be covered is significantly influenced by Western traditions. Yet, the term "Classical" passes the very same test in that all of which is to be covered is significantly influenced by Classical traditions. Explain why one is a better term than the other if the very same test justifies both terms equally well.

May 24, 2008 at 07:10 PM · “"to me, "classical music" refers to STYLES of music, not necessarily demarcated by time."

I could also postulate "to me 'ancient China' refers to everything Chinese, past, present and future"... I could argue that at some distant point in the future, what we call modern China today will then be ancient China, ergo present day China is equal to ancient China.”


Your ancient China analogy puzzles me because ‘ancient China’ and ‘classical music’ have entirely different structures and functions that make the two unfit for comparison. “Ancient China” denotes a historical entity while “classical music” is ambiguous and can be understood either as a period music (classical as opposed to romantic)or a style of music (classical as opposed to pop/rock), or both. In terms the 2nd sense of the term, many living composers are still composing classical music today. My husband for instance is a scholar in history of Ancient China and classical Chinese poetry, but he is also an amateur classical music composer. He is older and wiser not ancient, thank goodness!

Also, is it fair to say "classical music" isn’t “classical" + "music” in a similar way that the name “Benjamin K” does not designate “Benjamin" + "K”?

When a noun phrase behaves like a name such as “classical music” does, to break the unit down and analyse each part of it is no more helpful than trying to explain an idiomatic expression such as “put up with” by examining what “put”, “up” and “with” each means.

May 24, 2008 at 09:01 PM · I don't really understand how a noun phrase can "behave" like a name; it either is or isn't a noun phrase - in the case of "classical music", adjective + noun, the adjective qualifying the noun.

I still think that "classical" as used in opposition to "pop/rock" is an unsatisfactory term, in fact both are really too vague to mean anything. "Acoustic" versus "electric" would be just as useful. I've seen "non-pop" used by some living composers....

May 24, 2008 at 08:35 PM · Nigel, what is a name? What does it mean to name something? How does a name 'fix' X rather than y in the world?

You are right about the vagueness of the term of “classical music”, so are many nouns, names or proper nouns and even some technical terms designated to be precise after awhile lost their pricision due to use/misuse and evolution.

A thing is a thing itself but is not something else!

Just because you give something a name doesn’t mean you will be able to precisely peg that thing by the name at all time and all places by all people. That is one basic problem with ontology, the limitation of language, culture, and human understanding that we have to live with.


May 24, 2008 at 09:39 PM · "Explain why one is a better term than the other if the very same test justifies both terms equally well."


"Nigel, what is a name? What does it mean to name something?"

What's in a name? That which we call a rose

by any other name would smell as sweet.

(Oh, I do love iambic pentameter...)

May 24, 2008 at 11:28 PM · “That which we call a rose

by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Rose perfume ain’t roses; the 60+ rose bushes in my garden bring the world more than their sweet smell:)

May 25, 2008 at 03:12 AM · "... in the case of "classical music", adjective + noun, the adjective qualifying the noun."

Doesn't it speak volumes that Nigel had to reiterate what should be blatantly obvious?!

It is always puzzling to me when people who have a misunderstanding about the meaning of a word (or grammar) argue that the meaning of the word (or grammar) has changed by authority of their own misunderstanding, much like saying "Yellow means pink because I always felt that way".

I tend to believe that the discussion is over whenever this happens. It seems rather futile to carry on in any meaningful way when meaning itself becomes meaningless. ;-)

May 27, 2008 at 01:53 AM · A conversation is over when people avoid answering tough questions and repeating the obvious and simplistic assertions. We can understand a lot more about language if we were to think a bit beyond what was taught in elementary school.

I’m saying this because what Ben mentioned above touches upon some huge and fascinating issues about language and meaning (not to be confused with grammar/syntax) that some of us may find interesting and are clearly on topic. Something do with truth, meaning and intention, with questions such as where does meaning of a word come from? Who gets to ultimately determine its meaning in a particular instance? A dictionary (which one and why)? The external objective world (such as grass is green if only if grass is green and snow is white)? The community the language is used? The speaker’s intention what the utterance means? The audience’s interpretation? All the above? None of the above? How can we understand each other at all?

If we try to explore a bit both sides of these issues, we’ll soon find out there’s nothing simple and obvious. For instance, there are a lot to be said about the expression “I mean what I say and I say what I mean.” But following Ben's line of thinking, I can only mean what other tell me to mean and say what other mean for me to say.

May 27, 2008 at 02:41 AM · awwww, don`t be mean;)

May 27, 2008 at 01:58 AM · As per topic, the discussion is about terminology, and the term in question, at least when used as an umbrella term has been shown to be a misnomer.

At that point, one may argue that no replacement term is needed because it is not a problem to use a misnomer, or one may argue that a replacement term is desirable because it is a problem to use a misnomer, depending on viewpoint.

However, there is no point in denying the fact that the term in question is a misnomer. One's liking of a term does not have any consequence for its meaning. Such denial represents the abandonment of meaning and thus a meaningful discussion is no longer possible.

May 27, 2008 at 04:05 AM · Buri! LOL! As an expert in linguistics, your staying out of this debate is telling. Silly me, but I’m just tossing the brick to invite the jade, as we say in Chinese. Would be really nice to hear your view on this but you are right, I should probably just stop right here:)

May 27, 2008 at 11:29 AM · As this topic flounders into the area of linguistics, I'll just mention that this topic is of extreme interest to me. Like Yixi, I find it utterly miraculous that a certain set of sounds arranged in a certain way can mean anything, let alone your thoughts and feelings. Whether or not we wish to call classical music by its established name or choose a different set of words, perhaps even with a less elitist connotation (or less whatever connotation), I think it will make little difference to the general perception of it, simply because any term will serve the same purpose. Just as an example, let's suppose that we choose the term X, (say, "Happy music," which is obviously utterly ridiculous) to denote music in the repertoire between 1650 and the present (and we could have a long discussion about the definitions of each and every word in that sentence, but for the sake of simplicity let's not). Then, if that comes into common usage, I mention to my friend that I listen to "Happy music." He/she invariably responds either "Wow. You are so weird, I can't be friends with you anymore," or "That's pretty cool, I listen to that kind of stuff too," or anything in between. The point is not what the response is, but that it would be exactly the same as if I had said the words "classical music," instead. If the X reaches the same kind of prestigious use as the term "classical music," it will have the exact same connotation and effect; it will be like a trance word and put audience in a certain state which would be exactly the same as it would had you used the words "classical music." This kind of project would only be effective on an underground level; but that wouldn't make sense because the whole point of it is to enter in the popular lexicon.

On another note, I'd like to point out that english is a terrible language to be doing this in, because of the horrific mess of synonyms and homonyms and whatnot clogging up the language, each with their own shade of connotation and meaning. This is one of the reasons translation into english (well obviously all languages have problems when you translate into them, but this is a problem for english in particular) is so messy, because for each word in, say, french, there are like ten words in english and you have to choose exactly the right one to achieve the same effect as in the original. This is why the words for classical music in french and german are to a degree more precise and more functional. But I digress. For those who like this kind of thing, I recommend that they google the following quote.

"How astonishing it is that language can almost mean, and frightening that it does not quite."

-Jack Gilbert

I apologize if my thoughts seem a little bit unorganized, it's around 4 am here and I am on a caffeine induced rave.

May 27, 2008 at 01:27 PM · Charles I like your thoughts about words. Language is fascinating to me as well, especially when I recall my experience as an ESL learner. I find myself constantly skipping around greek, english, and french to get the exact meaning of what I'm trying to say and I'm often exasperated when a greek phrase would express it perfectly in an english conversation.

Now that "classical Music" has become a trance word I agree that it is extremely difficult to change. I just tried using "western art music" in another thread and it was difficult for me. However I think our industry needs a huge jolt in order to be able to compete with other music genres. This is for our livelihood and we're not putting much thought into that as we all sit and enjoy our current gigs. Meanwhile, classical music is deteriorating and we're losing connection with a lot of audience.

I'm hoping that by trying to rename it we can put a new face on it. It works for Madonna, every couple of years she reinvents herself completely and targets a new audience.

May 27, 2008 at 01:37 PM · western art music may not go well with a few purists since the concept of violin like instruments first originated from the middle east...

since classical music sounds nice:),,,i propose we switch it to CLASSY MUSIC. say cheese:):):)

May 27, 2008 at 03:04 PM · It's not about the instruments, "western" refers to the techniques of composition that were developed in the western hemisphere. Seriously, is the word western more ludicrous than "classical"?

May 27, 2008 at 03:11 PM · "It's not about the instruments" well, obviously to you, but not necessarily the case with a few others. just goes to show if one sets out to pin down a moving target, anticipate a fun game:)

May 27, 2008 at 03:06 PM · Adorno proposed the term "hohe musik" which is means "higher music", as in "higher mathematics". This may have been during the 1960s though when anything that hinted at elitism was out of favour, maybe that's why it didn't catch on.

But hey, this is the age of the internet, you can always make up a new word, like Yahoo and Google did. This gets around the inconvenience of pre-existing meanings that won't match.

May 27, 2008 at 08:06 PM · How about "music"? Let's not put ourselves in a box.

And it's a Greek word that fits perfectly into English.

Seriously, the need to say "classical music" or "western art music" or "serious music" only arises when one wants to differentiate from the terrible noise others are making. The best word to use depends on what we want to distinguish it from.

An umbrella term for western art music from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century will not be very informative.

One could name the century, or the period in art history, that the music is from.

Or name the composer: Josquin des Prés, Edgar Varèse...

But I use "music" whenever I can, and more often than not I'm understood perfectly.

May 27, 2008 at 08:52 PM · ...or how about we recognize the fact that the word "classical" does NOT refer exclusively to only Ancient Greece/Rome and the period from about 1750-1820? The simple, practical, common-parlance truth of the matter is that when used in conjunction with "music", "classical" is a one-word synonym for all the strained and tortured other options people have been coming up with on this thread--"serious Western concert art music" all in one.

May 28, 2008 at 06:09 AM · Very well said, Mara, but blackboard is usually green and a roundtable discussion often takes place at a rectangle table. Analysing "classical music" by taking the term apart has been shown to be problematic. I think it has become a special term and should be called “classicalmusic” and its classical period called “classcal classicalmusic” (as oposted to 'romantic classicalmusic'). A small change but may grab some attention:)

May 28, 2008 at 06:25 AM · That's why blackboard is a misnomer, just like classical music is a misnomer. Some people feel comfortable with misnomers, some don't.

If classical music was just an ordinary misnomer, that alone might not be that much cause for want of a better term. The combination of 1) being a misnomer PLUS 2) being assigned at least TWICE within the same realm is what makes this term particularly bad.

If the renaissance period wasn't called classical in the context of music, if the music of that period was called renaissance music, thus avoiding the name collision, that would make "classical music" (for the whole lot) just another misnomer, not much reason to care about more than about other misnomers. But the name collision in combination with the misnomer *together* is what makes this one different from "blackboard".

May 28, 2008 at 01:22 PM · ben, if that is the case, i guess it depends to some extent on our level of obscessiveness and compulsiveness:)

name something that you consider that it is not a misnomer and see if people can concur on that:) or as you put it, if they feel, um, comfortable, on a consensus.

May 28, 2008 at 03:59 PM · Al, the only consensus I am willing to accept as an authority on English is consensus amongst reputable dictionaries, such as OED, Webster etc. and I suggest you don't lower your own standards to the level where an uneducated mob gets to redefine the language continuously.

Check out the OED, there are four definitions for "classical" all of which are associated with something well in the past, none of which could be construed to include anything avantgarde or contemporary, which renders "classical music" a misnomer if used with the intention to include anything modern.

Yes, language changes over time, historic time, not you and me here and now time. It doesn't give you and me the right to make up our own meaning for words when it suits us. This is a good thing, because if you can just change language on the fly as you please, then anything you say becomes meaningless as you can just claim you didn't really mean what you said since this and that word have a different meaning to you. If you allow that, you open a can of worms, it ultimately leads to ridicule like Bill Clinton's statement "that depends on what the meaning of 'is' is". Let's not go there.

May 28, 2008 at 06:26 PM · "all of which are associated with something well in the past, none of which could be construed to include anything avantgarde or contemporary, which renders "classical music" a misnomer if used with the intention to include anything modern."

ben, you are making some valid points, until you look at it realistically from this angle:) at the programs of the most recent 20 concerts given by the top 20 soloists (take andre and vanessa out because they make too much money so we don't play nice with them anymore) this year all over the world and break it down the pieces by

1. "in the past"

2. "contemporary"

my hunch is that in almost ALL those 20 concerts, something "in the past" was on the program, from bach, to mozart, to beethovan, to, etc, etc, etc

forget about your average v.comers /violinist wannabes for a moment. walk out on the streets of tokyo or the streets of queens, ask people randomly if they are confused about the term classical music. i bet most will not be and that they will be thinking immediately of nice sounding violin/piano music.


May 28, 2008 at 09:39 PM · Al, I don't see that it's at all relevant to the discussion to take "the most recent 20 concerts given by the top 20 soloists" and to then apply a simplistic breakdown into two categories to these concerts. At what date does "in the past" finish, and "contemporary" start?

A reminder of Marina's subtitle: "Tired of music of all eras being clumped into one title?" This is not even specific to violin. So what if in the case of "the top 20 soloists" (who can agree who these are anyway), there's a lot of baroque and classical repertoire. I assume that you are talking just about violin soloists. There are other instruments that have little solo concerto repertoire that is routinely played in concert that was written before the 20th century, for example, the viola with Walton and Bartok concerti being largely played.

Your argument is just a red herring concerning the relative quantities of music from different eras being played. Even if the Beethoven Violin Concerto is programmed 20 times for every one time that the Gubaidulina Violin Concerto is programmed, I don't see the relevance of it to the discussion, maybe the Gubaidulina Concerto was in one of your "top 20 concerts" because one of the "top 20 soloists" might have actually played it...

May 28, 2008 at 11:16 PM · Ben.

I did check the OED (Second Edition, 1989) and the primary definition of "classical" makes no reference to anything in the past:

1. Of the first rank or authority; constituting a standard or model; especially in literature.

The point, however is irrelevant since the term "classical music" is an English idiom. The relevant OED definition of idiom is:

3. a. a peculiarity of phraseology approved by the usage of a language, and often having a signification other than its grammatical or logical one.

Your preferred use of the term "serious art music" for what we ordinarily call "classical music" actually is a misnomer, since there is no OED definition of "serious" that would include composers usually considered classical (Bach, Brahms, Satie, Cage) and exclude those considered non-classical (Ellington, Parker, Dylan)

May 29, 2008 at 12:34 AM · nigel, my post was pretty much in reaction to ben's post right above mine. whether it is relevant to marina's original subtitle i am not too concerned with, but i can tell you this: i am not tired of the nomenclature issue because it has never been an issue with me:) and imo, it should not be an issue with others either:) it is way too intellectual to be of any practical use.

the date classical ends is the date contemp begins. both ben and i had no intention to pin down a date to develop a discussion. dusk, dawn,,,know what i mean?

as far as my use of 20/20, it is simply an indication of the trend set by the violin soloists of today. it is arguable whether that is of any importance but to me that is very important, as important a message as the programs mandated by major competitions.

May 29, 2008 at 01:36 AM · It's an idiom! That was exactly what I had in mind when I was talking about the two-word term should be treated as a single unit and can't be explained separately, but the word just skipped me. Just as “put up with” can’t be understood by analysing ‘put’, ‘up’ and ‘with’ separately, we can't understand "classical music" by examining what "classical" means, especially by using a dictionary! I wish I was able to put it as clearly as you did, Mitch, and thanks for the clarification!

One of the biggest problems in English for ESL learners is the idiomatic(and illogical)expressions -- that is my chief complaint anyway. What a WAFI for me to have failed to mention the word!

May 29, 2008 at 05:12 AM · @ Mitch

The OED I consulted offers the following ...

"1) relating to ancient Greek or Latin literature, art, or culture.

2) (of a form of art or a language) representing an exemplary standard within a long-established form.

3) (of music) of long-established form or style or (more specifically) written in the European tradition between approximately 1750 and 1830.

4) relating to the first significant period of an area of study: classical Marxism."

all of these imply something "well established" or "well aged" and it takes time for something to become well established or well aged, hence my paraphrasing it "in the past". The same applies to the definition you quote since "standard" in this context does not mean a standard ratified by ANSI, BSI or ISO, but a historic standard which as taken time to grow and therefore it is an achievement in the past.

@ Al

"they will be thinking immediately of nice sounding violin/piano music"

You would be surprised. I am running into more and more folks who tell me they think "Classic Rock" which is well aged rock music. Interesting side note: It seems that even the rockers understand that the word classical has something to do with the past. Anyway, no violins there, just plain old 1960s and 1970s rock which those folks associated with "classical". I did find that term "Classic Rock" as a predefined genre in iTunes, so maybe this is Apple's fault. :-)


If you had paid attention to what I posted, before you started shouting at me, you would have found that I don't necessarily have a problem with the use of a term that is a misnomer.

I explained that it is the double-whammy of misnomer/oxymoron PLUS name collision within the same realm, which gives this term a taste bad enough for me to care more about it than I would care about other minomers and oxymorons.

I will give you the benefit of doubt in assuming that you didn't purposefully ignore that point, but instead I will assume that I didn't express myself clear enough, so let me craft some anecdote to reiterate this point once more ...

Let's say the police are letting me get away with parking in a non-parking zone, but then I also run over a stop sign, at which point they conclude that I simply don't care about any traffic rules at all, having just witnessed me committing not one, but two offenses. So now, whilst they may have let me get away with one single offense, they will pursue me because I have committed two offenses.

So, once more: It is the double-whammy which makes the term "classical" music" more unacceptable to me than other misnomers or oxymorons.

To me, personally, the name collision is more severe than the awkwardness of the oxymoron "contemporary classical", so if it was up to me, I might just get rid of "classical period" and have it renamed "renaissance period" or something else, then keep "classical music" as an umbrella term that may include anything remotely hinting at anything that smells of anything that looks like anything somebody somewhere might perhaps want to call "classical music". Thus only one traffic offense, no ticket.

However, to Nigel, who is a composer of music that is classified with a term that is an oxymoron, he said something earlier that looked to me as if he cares more about the misnomer aspect of the terminology.

So as you can see, even those who don't like the terminology, have different reasons why they don't like it, or at least the strongest reason is different even if the list of reasons is the same.

While I don't normally like the way the Germans form words (ie. Insurancecompanydirectorassistantpencilsharpenercleaningcloth"), I have to admit that in the case of music classification they seem to have come up with a terminology that is not only making sense but also easy to use/pronounce, so my personal favourite would have to be the E-musik/U-musik/F-musik classification.

Yet, as I said before, being realistic about the chances of changing the use of a term, nonsensical as it may be, I can live with attaching "so called" before the term and be done with it. I didn't really think this discussion was about actually changing the terminology, but merely discuss why one might want to change it.

May 29, 2008 at 05:04 AM · That's it, Yixi. An idiom.

It is no coincidence that great grammarians often are non-native speakers: Jespersen, Zandvoort.. ESL learners have acquired the language by reflecting on it, and some of them go on to do that for a living.

May 29, 2008 at 06:43 AM · I just call it 'classical music'. Meaning basically from Bach to the current day: what all those orchestras and people-who-stand-in-front-of-orchestras-and-concert-grands do, playing violins and things in a non-jazz or non-hip hop/improv or non-neo-rock or non-classic-rock or non-folk (etc) idiom. You know, playing Mozart and Beethoven and Paganini and Kreisler and Elgar and Prokofiev. Some people would say calling all this 'classical music' is low-brow and uneducated but I don't care, since I know I'm neither. I find it pedantic when someone corrects me when I refer to some music as classical, "well, actually that piece was composed in the Baroque era". Duh, yyyyeeeessss, I do realise that.

We're trapped with what we have, as far as I can see. All the alternatives sound even more pretentious than 'classical'. Maybe we could have a go at absurdism, and select a name at random.

Here are some ideas for names that we should avoid, imo:

rake handle up the prune music.

stiff linen collar music.

toff music.

stiff upper lip music.

high quality music.

stiff lower lip music.

artsy f***sy music.

music (the most pretentious of all).

serious old bore music.

serious young bore music.

pretentious nerd music.

loopy curvy liquid limpid concert music.

May 29, 2008 at 06:43 AM · "forget about your average v.comers /violinist wannabes for a moment. walk out on the streets of tokyo or the streets of queens, ask people randomly if they are confused about the term classical music. i bet most will not be and that they will be thinking immediately of nice sounding violin/piano music."

Thank you Al, I finally understand what Marina was saying when she made this thread. She wants a term that will not conjure up "nice sounding violin/piano music." To this end, I suggest that what Marina really wants (not to put words in your mouth at all or anything, Marina - please tell me to buzz off if that's not what you mean) is to put all "nice sounding violin/piano music" under the umbrella of classical music, and Shostakovich (joking, I mean everything else) under a new term.

@ Ben,

I have to disagree with you strongly on the point that language doesn't change constantly. Just look at wikipedia. Especially now that text based dictionaries and repositories of knowledge are on the decline, one is, more and more, faced with a dizzying array of evolution of information, as opposed to the pre-computer banks of knowledge which were pretty concrete. Perhaps that's a poor example. A much more direct example is Shakespeare, who coined something like half the words in the English language (that was a joke, but yes, he did make up an inordinately large number of words, a great deal of which have stuck). What is entertaining is when you stumble upon a word that he made up and didn't stick, and nobody has any clue what it's supposed to mean. When you "suggest you don't lower your own standards to the level where an uneducated mob gets to redefine the language continuously," that's EXACTLY how it works. Slang is the language of the prestigious in the future. It takes great people like Chaucer to elevate it to that status, but it's done. Without Chaucer, English would not be the language of the elite and the literate these days, it would be French. English used to be the "lowbrow" language of the "uneducated mob," even with all it's richness that it had (and has). Language is constantly mixing around, and words can switch meanings within years. I'll stop talking now before I clog up this thread completely, but you see how language belongs to the PEOPLE, not the elite, and certainly not some books gathering dust somewhere.

PS I like your alliteration, Jon :D

May 29, 2008 at 08:00 AM · @ Charles

I didn't say language doesn't change, I said the fact it changes doesn't give us the right to ignore and abandon established meanings at will.

@ Jon

"I find it pedantic when someone corrects me when I refer to some music as classical, "well, actually that piece was composed in the Baroque era". Duh, yyyyeeeessss, I do realise that."

This would seem to be a good reason to question the practise of calling the period in between baroque and romantic "classical".

If we take the definition "relating to the art of ancient Rome/Greece", it was obviously not intended to proclaim the music was actually the music of antiquity, rather the intention would have been to emphasise that the music was following ideals of the antiquity. A better term to express that would however be "renaissance" or "classicism". If we look at the definition "representing an exemplary standard within a long-established form/style", then we might be excused for asking, why does this period deserve the moniker while at the same time the baroque period doesn't? If we look at the definition "in the tradition of European music between 1750 and 1830", well that's entirely arbitrary. If we look at the definition "first significant period of an area of study", it begs again the question, why is this one significant and baroque isn't?

If we assume that the intention for naming this period was not to exalt it over the baroque period but instead to emphasise the notion of following the ideals of the antique, then we should probably favour "renaissance" or "classicism" over "classical" for this period.

In fact if we fast forward in history to the early 20th century, there is yet another period or style which is named for emphasis on a renaissance of previous ideals and this time it is called neo-classicism, not neo-classical period.

It may be of interest that when the "classical period" was still on, it had a number of different names, most notably "galant style" and "rococo" (earlier) and "Viennese", and "Storm and stress" (later). Again the Germans get full points for terminology as they say "Wiener Klassik" (Viennese Classicism) when they refer to the music of the "classical period", thus avoiding the name collision. Jon, if somebody mocks you again, you may want to use this one: "You are talking about Viennese classicism, but I am not" ;-)

In any event, if we want "classical music" to be an open ended umbrella term that collects new periods as history progresses, then it would seem to make more sense to get rid of the practise calling the "classical period" classical, which as shown above wasn't such a good choice to begin with.

As for the remaining nuisance of the oxymoron "contemporary classical" one could easily get around it once the name collision is gone: "contemporary music in the tradition of classical music". Not sure if Nigel would be happy with that, but it would be less confusing once classical was only to be used as an umbrella term.

May 29, 2008 at 11:27 AM · to an average person, languages and names are used for communication even though to purists the expressions are full of misnomers. forgive me for asking, while we are at it, do idiom and idiot share the same word origin?

people like al, ben, marina and all the v.comers and all the friends and relatives of v.comers do not represent the whole of classical music or even part of the future of classical music. we are doing our teeny weeny part but "we" alone cannot reverse the trend of orchestras folding, concerts poorly attended, great players looking for jobs, etc which are the real, burning issues that mandate attention. after casting your vote on the term classical music, i would like to know how much financial support each v.comer has contributed to the classical music cause. how much hard cash have you taken out of your wallet this year for that purpose? off topic? the debate on the phrase is much more so.

argue all we want,,,the phrase "classical music" is not confusing to the mass and the music market. to those here who find it confusing, you know the differences anyway. ever had a day ruined because you used the phrase classical music?

ask: is there a difference between classical music and classical rock, most people will not find the two the same. ask joe and jane about period music, you will get stares and you should. consult with them if we should separate bach from shos, they will walk away shaking their head and mumble: looks like they are trying to outsmart themselves. they've got a good name and now they want to tinker with it.

May 29, 2008 at 10:52 AM · Ben.

The definition I quoted is the primary definition in the OED that is regarded as definitive. It is also the primary definition in the three other unabridged dictionaries I checked. The fact that you can find another definition is irrelevant.

The word "standard" has 30 definitions in the OED. None of them refer to the past. the relevant definition is:

"An authoritative or recognized exemplar of correctness, perfection, or some definite degree of any quality. "

For something to be a recognized exemplar does not require that it be established well in the past (as the OED examples make clear).

You ignore my point that "classical music" is an idiom.

You can continue to claim that "contempory classical" is an oxymoron or "classical music" is a misnomer only by substituting your own private meanings of these words for the well established definitions from authoritative sources that you claim to be guided by. At this point I have to agree with you that:

It is always puzzling to me when people who have a misunderstanding about the meaning of a word (or grammar) argue that the meaning of the word (or grammar) has changed by authority of their own misunderstanding, much like saying "Yellow means pink because I always felt that way".

I tend to believe that the discussion is over whenever this happens. It seems rather futile to carry on in any meaningful way when meaning itself becomes meaningless. ;-)

May 29, 2008 at 12:26 PM · Mitch, you ignore the fact that to me the biggest issue is the name collision. I couldn't care less what you call the body of music in question. Call it poop music and I still don't give a rats behind. But if you use the very same term in the very same realm twice, then I call you a fool, for name collisions within the same realm are foolish and nothing but foolish.

As for private definition, I can assure you that I do not have any ownership rights, neither wholly nor partially in Oxford University Press, who published the definitions I quoted nor do I have any influence on their publications. Those definitions are therefore not private to me. Maybe you have a misunderstanding of the word "private", but perhaps it depends on what the meaning of "is" is so you may want to take up this issue with Bill Clinton as I don't care for creative meanings of "is".

May 29, 2008 at 12:48 PM · "i would like to know how much financial support each v.comer has contributed to the classical music cause. how much hard cash have you taken out of your wallet this year for that purpose?"

Jeez Al, careful who you're offending. I think I speak for all of us musicians that have dedicated years of our lives playing concerts for free or for pennies for the sheer love of what we do and simply because music MUST be made. We've all paid our dues believe me.

Charles, I agree that the connotation of "nice" music is at the heart of what I'm getting at with this thread. I am not one to be defined by anyone other than myself and I believe that you have to teach people how to treat you or in this case what to call you.

There seems to be a lot of support for maintaining the name classical music and alternate names are getting scrutinized for being pretentious. Well guess what... everyone outside our realm thinks we're pretentious anyway. I am not at all surprised that no one wants to do anything about changing our image, it's why we have become a living museum. Let's all shut ourselves up in practice rooms and let the rest of the world worry about what to call us or if they want to come hear us play at all. Meanwhile Rihanna and Britney and Justin are out there defining who they are, what to call them, and demanding the public's attention and wallets.

May 29, 2008 at 01:16 PM · Marina, if this is about what kind of musician you want to be called, it should be an easy task to come up with something entirely positive and non-controversial,

how about "Happy musician" ?! ;-)

May 29, 2008 at 03:53 PM · "Jeez Al, careful who you're offending. I think I speak for all of us musicians that have dedicated years of our lives playing concerts for free or for pennies for the sheer love of what we do and simply because music MUST be made. We've all paid our dues believe me."


what is so special of musicians that have dedicated years of their lives doing what they want to be doing? i know of physicians who are treating patients for free, lawyers who are working on cases for free, parents selling their apartment to buy a good violin for their kid, young kids marching into killing fields for bush's democracy, volunteers in every walk of life that do what they do not necessarily because they love it but because they think it is the right thing to do and therefore must be done. and they do it without any complaint, without the benefit of hearing good music.

when someone stands up and exclaims that he/she has already done his/her share, i fire them on the spot.:)

"everyone outside our realm thinks we're pretentious anyway." i truly do not agree with that. people admire musicians for being idealistic, for being courageous in the pursuit of their dreams, for bringing sparkles of bliss into people's lives. just like with any other fields when people specializes deep and long, they may come across as mad scientists, but still lovable.

May 29, 2008 at 03:32 PM · This entire thread is reminding me of the attempts in the '70s by radical feminists and assorted other political provocateurs at forcibly changing the English language to remove "sexist" words like "mankind." Then as now, it's a case of missing the forest for the trees. The radical feminists et al were so troubled by the appearance of "man" in "mankind" they neglected to notice that in modern common-parlance English, the word "mankind" is gender-neutral and has come to mean "the human race" and members of all genders. Similarly with "classical" as a genre of music. It's an idiom. It is not misleading. It already refers to everything we're trying to find a new name for.

Languages do indeed change, but not at the beck and call of special interest groups. They change rather slowly, sometimes quickly, but always organically and collectively--a situation, incidentally, which LEADS to all these unusual idioms and expressions most languages possess.

May 29, 2008 at 05:43 PM · 1. "what is so special of musicians that have dedicated years of their lives doing what they want to be doing?"

2. "when someone stands up and exclaims that he/she has already done his/her share, i fire them on the spot.:)"

3. "people admire musicians for being idealistic, for being courageous in the pursuit of their dreams, for bringing sparkles of bliss into people's lives."

1. If you don't think it's so special of us to share our talent for free eventhough the cost of our education is comparable to that of a doctor's then I can't see what respect or love you have for music at all other than you just being present on this forum. I have seldom met a doctor who did not correct me when I addressed him/her as Mr. or Mrs instead of as Dr. They take pride in their accomplishment and make sure you know it and if that's ok for them then it should be ok for me.

2. You are not at liberty to hire me, therefore you are not at liberty to fire me. Anyone who is at liberty to fire me in my profession would stand against your first statement.

3. Your third statement is so contradictory to your first statement that I'm starting to get the impression that you are posting just for the sake of controversy.

May 30, 2008 at 12:54 AM · Mara, yup! And I’d argue that in the case of the feminists' attempt, they really didn’t go far enough. For instance, why call someone a “chairperson” when she really should be called “chairperdaughter”? :D

May 29, 2008 at 05:56 PM · "Languages do indeed change, but not at the beck and call of special interest groups. They change rather slowly, sometimes quickly, but always organically and collectively--a situation, incidentally, which LEADS to all these unusual idioms and expressions most languages possess."

I'm not a special interest group nor am I pushing my political agenda as your statement implies. Yes language changes organically and collectively, but not of its own accord, but at the hands of events that are created. There are scores of people out there that base their lives on coming up with catchy advertisements, publicists who shape celebrity images, and there is not an institution out there that does not have a concept of marketing. Do you think that Yo-Yo Ma does not think about how to target an audience and leaves his image up to passing of the wind? Do you think that Campbell's Soup did not go to great lengths to get you to adopt the phrase "Hmmm hmmmm good" into your vocabulary?

Be or not be a feminist but without the hardship and fighting of a fierce group of women then you would not be where you are today, having the right to vote for a woman this year (sorry, not pushing Clinton). Had it not been for revolutionaries like the founders of Oberlin then women might still not be allowed to go to College.

Excuse me whilst I waddle back into the kitchen barefoot and pregnant to prepare supper for the mens. I think I'll listen to some classical music while I'm at it cause it relaxes me... it's so nice. I just loves me some Mosart and Beefoven. Later I'll come by and play in your weddin for free cause you know, I just luuuv to share my passion for music and I'll just leave the important things in this world to be done by them fancy lawyers and doctors.

May 29, 2008 at 07:55 PM · marina, "firing" is an expression, not unlike people's interpretation of classical music, not directed at you. concur that music education is expensive but whatever you do with the education is up to you. if you choose a path that does things for free, we are ok as long as you are ok. if you expect special treatment based on that, you may get it, you may not.

i have friends who after expensive ivy league education decide that the calling is to spend years working in the third world countries helping out, doing things the countrymen do not want to do. life is very hard, but they enjoy it. do they deserve more respect than those who went to wall street making a financial killing, doing what they want to do?

and not all lawyers and doctors are "fancy". ever been to some of those harlem clinics only a subway ride away? some believe that it is their calling to serve the hood.

musicians are not holier than others. get over it. if you ever are involved professionally with people with "fancy" means and background, ones that financially support the classical music causes, some of them happen to be doctors and lawyers, some of them help to fund music programs in metro NY, talk straight to them and straighten them out.

May 29, 2008 at 09:44 PM · Roughly speaking there are three definitions of the term Classical Music:

1. Music from the Classical era, c1750-1825, including Mozart, Haydn, early Beethoven and their contemporaries.

2. Music of quality, depth and enduring value that has stood the test of time.

3. Music within the Western European symphonic tradition, written for the concert hall, following the norms established roughly from 1700-1950. Also included are works written outside the geographical area of western Europe but which conform to those norms.

Generally when we speak of Classical Music we mean definition #2, however sometimes we get confused with definition #1. Thus we can't seem to make up our minds whether to include music by Gershwin, Cole Porter, John Williams, Stephen Sondheim, etc.

Judging by the intensity of some of the dialog, this seems to be an important issue to many people, especially in this day and age when the boundaries are becoming blurred.

May 29, 2008 at 10:03 PM · Marina, my example of the feminists in the '70s was an analogy. I don't think you have any political motivation at all. I was using it as an example of another time people missed a linguistic point and tried to force a change in nomenclature, when (in my opinion) no change was really necessary.

Also, let's not lose our temper over political issues, shall we? Of course I'm happy that the women's movement happened, as without it I would maybe have a harder time making a career as a musician. I just think that the vast majority of RADICAL feminists (or radical anythings, frankly) are batsh*t crazy.

May 29, 2008 at 10:03 PM · Oh Roy,

Very Nice work above with the brief

summation of history and terminology

involved in this thread.

Roy,you do give us hope for the future

in your on-spot message.

Thanks !

May 29, 2008 at 10:52 PM · Greetings,


>Be or not be a feminist but without the hardship and fighting of a fierce group of women then you would not be where you are today, having the right to vote for a woman this year (sorry, not pushing Clinton).

Agree with you but don`t exclude or forget the men who fought alongside the women. Its a very common misconception that feminists are women.



May 29, 2008 at 11:17 PM · Ben.

1. By not accepting a recognized use of the word "classical" as defined in an authoritative source, and continuing to claim that "contemporary classical" is an oxymoron, you are using the word "classical" in a private way. Bill Clinton has nothing to do with it.

2. You have a funny way of expressing lack of interest in a subject. Prior to my entering the discussion, you had posted 20 times in this thread. Fully ten of those posts were devoted to exposing the "mismoners" of those of us lacking your supposed "high standards". It was this irritating flood of pompous, insulting, and factually incorrect posts that finally prompted me to respond. Since providing you with accurate information does not seem to help, I will make this my last post in this thread.

3. Your comments on "name collision" are equally ridiculous, but I give up.

May 30, 2008 at 12:13 AM · When we see behind all the so-called arguments a huge ego and a deeply confused mind, what do we do about it? Laugh? Cry? Or give up? Mitch, you came out and made your comments with insight and precision, and because of that, the community benefits. Thank goodness someone is doing the laundry for us!

May 30, 2008 at 01:58 AM · Buri you're right, didn't mean to exclude all individuals that fought for women's rights.

Al, pointing fingers and saying some people are worth more than others based on their personal sacrifices is not an argument that I will concur with. No one is fit to judge why people make personal choices to devote their time and energy to anything. I cannot and will not argue that there are many people greater than I who devote their lives to causes and changing the world.

I state a need for change in my chosen profession, not yours. Do what you will within yours. For myself, I know that I've spent my entire adult life teaching string programs in the Harlem "hood" as you called it while many of my colleagues seek private teaching gigs on the upper east side. Does that make me a more valuable member of society? If you say so.

May 30, 2008 at 02:52 AM · marina, it is pretty clear to me that i have provided various examples about people in other professions that are doing their jobs beyond the call of duty. classical musicians are special, but not thaaaat special in comparison:) contradictory stand? not to me.

it is also pretty clear to me you may have issues with what i consider as social injustice, such as with doctors' attitude and pay, by labelling them as "fancy", which led to the harlem clinics visit suggestion from me, to suggest to you that your blanket statement on other professions may not be well informed, especially coming from someone with a stellar cv like yours. i am not convinced how one person can judge and another cannot. or, with you, being judgemental and then turn around to challenge why others are being judgemental.

your visits to harlem to your music job is admirable. but that has nothing to do with my suggestion. same train, different purpose.

it seems to me there are way too many issues to tackle than renaming classical music.

May 30, 2008 at 03:13 AM · Al,

Seems to me your responses are biased upon

your presumptuous attitudinal opinions of your very own comments.

"I'd fire them",is not an idiom.

Your "friends from Ivy League education" wash their laundry accordingly,should'nt you ?

Climb down from your tee;swing a bow more oft.

May 30, 2008 at 03:49 AM · "presumptuous attitudinal opinions"

is that a loaded idiotic idiom? :)

"Climb down from your tee;swing a bow more oft."

is that from a prune flavored fortune cookie? :)

joe comes to the rescue with fuzzy haiku. ahem:)

May 30, 2008 at 03:39 AM · I think Marina had a good point starting this thread, I must admit. Many times I've found the name 'classical' an unsuitable name, but I've never been able to suggest anything better.

About the only thing I could offer would be 'acoustic music', but that has been taken by the folkies and by the unplugged musicians of any genre. Besides which, it is also ultimately vague and meaningless. Rock has always been lucky because really that is an excellent strong word for that musical genre.

'Folk' is just as bad a name for that genre as is 'classical' for what classical musicians play. As is 'world music' for folk. A silly name imo. Jazz also has a great name, as do many of the rock and jazz derived names. The search continues for a better name than classical.

May 30, 2008 at 03:46 AM · But Jon, if you have followed what Mitch is saying, "classical" is not a name separate from "classical music" but is part of the idiom. You may not agree but I feel this is the most elegant way of treating the term I’ve seen so far on this discussion. That’s said, I would love to see a better alternative analysis if there is one.

May 30, 2008 at 04:05 AM · I wonder what Bach used to call it.

As the father (or should I say parent?) of much of what we do, perhaps we should follow his lead.

WOW! I think this must be the first time I've ever finished a thread.

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