Am I a Snob or Just Opinionated?

October 5, 2014 at 11:08 PM · I think that there are basically only two kinds of music in this world. One kind accompanies singing and the second kind is related to dancing. I think about dancing as mainly a tradition from eastern Europe.

Yes, I know that opera is classical and there are minor exceptions to everything in the music world but traditional classical is unique

Classical music alone is almost always based on some collection of instruments. And there are no lyrics.

A lot of music today delivers it's message with such as kilowatt amplifiers and kilo-dollar stage

extravagances. Classical usually requires more thought and background to appreciate what is

going on.

Thinking man's music but I understand that not everybody wants to have to think about entertainment.

Replies (55)

October 6, 2014 at 12:04 AM · I am not sure I agree with your typology. There are lots of different kinds of music, many of which involve a collection of instruments, and some of which are quite complex musically. Jazz certainly qualifies, as do klezmer and some others. While classical may be the most complex, I think the difference may not be all that great.

October 6, 2014 at 12:11 AM · >>I think that there are basically only two kinds of music in this world. One kind accompanies singing and the second kind is related to dancing.

How would you then describe ambient music like Brian Eno's Music for Airports? I wouldn't describe it as primarily melodic nor rhythmically derived from dance.

>>I think about dancing as mainly a tradition from eastern Europe.

I think each culture and region has its own unique tradition of dance...I'm perplexed how one can come up with such a seemingly arbitrary origin. Let's take the sarabande for example, it has a fascinating history through Spain and the New World that then spread throughout Europe, cross pollinating with other traditions. I'm sure you can easily find dozens of other dances from other places.

>> Yes, I know that opera is classical and there are minor exceptions to everything in the music world but traditional classical is unique

I don't understand what your point is, pardon me!

>> Classical music alone is almost always based on some collection of instruments. And there are no lyrics.

If I'm interpreting correctly, the gist of what you're trying to say is that classical music is primarily instrumental with no ties to words - and that is really problematic. My apologies if I'm misinterpreting you. If we take "classical music" to mean western music covering the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, 20th century, and so on, you would find composers were strongly conscious of text. Monteverdi's seconda practica dealt with text over music. The German theorists like Burmeister and Walther and the rest of them obsessed over linking musical figures and figures of speech. J.S. Bach learned all about it in his Lutheran upbringing and if you take away the text in, say his cantatas, you'll strip away so much of the music's didactic and rhetorical powers. Debussy and Janacek's operas are really influenced by the inflections of their native French and Czech languagues...Text and music are strongly entwined, and just because they are no text or lyric in a given piece doesn't mean it's influence is absent.

>> A lot of music today delivers it's message with such as kilowatt amplifiers and kilo-dollar stage

extravagances. Classical usually requires more thought and background to appreciate what is

going on.

I'm guessing you're saying classical music is superior, and I hope I guessed wrong. To that I would counter that all great music deserves thought, study of its background, and attentive listening. I like to listen to Bach as well as Radiohead and Aphex Twin, I think they are all fascinating and fun to listen to in their own way.

>> Thinking man's music but I understand that not everybody wants to have to think about entertainment.

Yep classical music can be intellectual and entertaining. The Musical Offering is for sure on the academic side. But music were also written as background decoration or entertainment too. A lot of Mozart's music was definitely definitely crowd pleasing. (But with extraordinary writing at the same time.)

October 6, 2014 at 03:12 AM · Classical music is the high-end art of the music world. Just like paintings, sculpture, etc, there are "lesser" versions of that art which are pleasing. Different strokes and all that.....

October 6, 2014 at 03:25 AM · "There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind." ~ Duke Ellington

October 6, 2014 at 01:39 PM ·

October 6, 2014 at 01:57 PM · We all have our preferences.

But I agree...classical music is best enjoyed with an understanding of the piece (era, theory, etc.), whereas pop music (or country, or rap, or jazz, or blues, etc.) doesn't need that kind of background for a listener to fully enjoy it.

One isn't superior to the other. I'd also argue that you need both in your life...

October 6, 2014 at 02:01 PM · There are only 2 kinds of snobs in this world. The kind that derive their opinions based on an overwhelming breadth of knowledge and the kind that derive their opinions on a lack of knowledge. I don't think you have a true grasp of the music you speak of. Not all music is based on song and dance, in fact there are composers who have made it their live's work to stay away from such associations such as Schoenberg. Bach used dance forms in his music, and he wrote cantatas too. But he also wrote toccatas. Are you saying that Bach wrote some "valid" and "invalid" music?

You may say that you only enjoy music that is classical (whatever that means), or music that accompanies song or dance. That is an opinion. But to say that there are only 2 kinds of real music is definitely not an opinion by any stretch of the imagination.

October 6, 2014 at 02:31 PM · I am not attempting a value judgement and I have been spectator and occasional amateur performer for longer than I wish to divulge.

In summary:

Most popular classical music uses only instruments.

This encourages an extra level of commitment for both performers and audience.

October 6, 2014 at 03:15 PM ·

October 6, 2014 at 04:30 PM · I would not include most popular singers in the classical camp. Of course, there are the usual isolated exceptions like Bocelli, etc.

October 6, 2014 at 05:18 PM · Singers and Dancer are the only ones who were born with their instruments. The rest of us have to go out and purchase one!

From what I have read, you don't have the breadth of knowledge to qualify as a true snob, and every one is entitled to their opinions, so let's just consider it ignorance. Ignorance can be cured with education and the open mind.

There is still hope.

October 6, 2014 at 05:55 PM · I could not agree more that the relationship of a performer and instrument is especially important at the classical level.

October 6, 2014 at 06:25 PM · >> Most popular classical music uses only instruments.

This encourages an extra level of commitment for both performers and audience.

Hi Darlene,

I'm sorry but that is simply not true - what about Mozart operas and Schubert lieders?

I also don't understand how an instrumentalist is more committed than a singer, or that audiences values instrumentalists over vocalists.

This is a passionate issue for me and probably for many too because I feel it feeds into the problem image of classical music as snobby and irrelevant, and we as classical music lovers need to fight and show that while this repertoire can be complex, artful, structured, and profound it all its emotional depth, that doesn't mean it's superior and tramps over everything else. This is exactly the attitude that turns ordinary people away...

October 6, 2014 at 06:42 PM ·

October 6, 2014 at 07:31 PM · Darlene, I'm not really sure where you're coming from. There is a vast body of choral work, aside from the 4th movement of Beethoven's 9th referenced by Liz, that qualify as classical. Beethoven also wrote a mass. What about Mozart's Requium (a different catagory of mass I suppose). If that doesn't suit you, how about Paul McCartney's, usually amplified, Liverpool Oratorio. There are numbers of classical works based on folk song themes ... songs that were the pop/rock of their day and decidedly lyric ridden. It would be a long an exhausting list.

From where do you derive Eastern Europe specifically?

I would call you neither a snob, nor opinionated. Rather lacking in a certain knowledge and understanding of the history and formulation of music across its span of development in western civilization (The culture to which I am assuming this argument is limited ...)

October 6, 2014 at 07:34 PM · Please look into the cantatas, Masses, and choral works written by the great composers before you discount singers.

October 6, 2014 at 07:53 PM · What I say to folks who don't see what's so special about classical music:

- we may not play hard, but folks listen hard;

- the listeners are not asleep, they are so absorbed that they hardly breathe;

- they may wiggle a foot sometimes, but they have no wish to get up and dance;

- classical music reaches inside us in a unique way.

So my answers are more behavioural than philosophical.

But I do agree with Darleen about the dual source of music: Song and Dance, both of which can be sublimated into a level where we do neither, but prefer to sit down, shut up and listen!

October 7, 2014 at 02:58 PM · A year ago I browsed through the Mozart-Archiv (sic) website, and what struck me was the large proportion of vocal works, both in number and in total playing time. His vocal works run the whole gamut from operas, theatrical shows, concert arias, ecclesiastical works, motets, to lieder, including such rarities as a pre-teen motet in English, and an opera in Latin from approximately the same period.

It wouldn't surprise me if Mozart's output was mostly vocal, measured either numerically or in terms of playing time, but, not being a musicologist but rather a busy performing musician, I have neither the time nor inclination to check this out.

However, I have seen enough to strongly suggest that the voice is the foundation of all of Mozart's music, including the instrumental. A telling point is the advice seen on this forum to listen to Mozart's arias before working on his violin music.

October 7, 2014 at 05:03 PM ·

October 7, 2014 at 05:23 PM · I would adore anything that Mozart created.

My point is not a survey of music categories but, rather, how listeners relate to what they hear.

Dance music might have people dancing.

Other kinds of music might be traditional for singing (in Iriish pubs I've been led to believe ).

But in both examples the listener enjoys a pleasant, "interactive" experience. What cloud be done for classical music?

How about "closed caption" classical where a narrator describes the live progress of the music but in brief and simple terms?.

The commentator's remarks would be projected above the stage or on the ceiling. I saw an opera with projected lyrics and it was a great experience.

October 7, 2014 at 06:10 PM · Sure, composers from all eras have played with text and music. There's instrumental music inspired by a poem (Schoenberg Verkelarte Nacht), poetry embed directly into the music (Vivaldi Four Seasons), or music with narration (Prokofiev Peter and the Wolf)...

But if we listen to music because it expresses what words cannot, there's something else that makes us resonate with it. I think your view in your posts about music just being just song and dance will severely limit your appreciation of other music, because music is thankfully not just that simple.

October 7, 2014 at 06:40 PM ·

October 7, 2014 at 06:45 PM · I'm not referring to seasoned and well educated audiences. They are already involved.

Rather, what approach might attract new patrons?

My musical tastes as an amateur are now mostly based on general appeal and constructive technical content.

The last time I looked about a year ago, classical was not doing well financially.

Signs of the times. Recent call for school children at church to form a band. The volunteers were 4 or 5 guitars, a bass and drums. Band instruments not doing well!

October 7, 2014 at 06:56 PM · Liz

I think ballet is in a class by itself and the beauty of it is self evident to all ranks of observers. Some will see or hear more than others of course.

October 9, 2014 at 05:17 AM ·

October 9, 2014 at 06:43 AM · The great works of classical music have endured the test of time. Even people who don't play an instrument nor listen to orchestras still recognize them.

It almost doesn't matter what culture, language, or place on this planet you sing the opening bars of Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" to, I'll bet most of the room will join on the second statement and complete it correctly!

October 9, 2014 at 01:03 PM · Scott

In all fairness, I think that part of the dilemma today is due to copyright laws. In order to avoid fees, people/groups may be writing their own stuff without exceptional ability to do so.

Competition then spawns a boring uniformity.

Gene

Remember when Sony made cassette recorders and this opened a flood of classical tape cassettes?

My Walmart had 6 or 7 rows of classical. Today they have one row and it is hidden behind sprinkler system plumbing.

No, I would not say classical is dying entirely but it is not in the best of health.

October 9, 2014 at 01:18 PM · Get Hilary Hahn's new album, 27 encores, all written within the last few years. Classical music is NOT dying.

October 9, 2014 at 01:56 PM ·

October 9, 2014 at 02:02 PM · "Remember when Sony made cassette recorders and this opened a flood of classical tape cassettes?

My Walmart had 6 or 7 rows of classical. Today they have one row and it is hidden behind sprinkler system plumbing."

I think that's more a reflection of the growth of the internet than anything else.

I can find pretty much anything I want a lot easier now than before...whether I order a CD or download an album...

October 9, 2014 at 02:08 PM · The real question is this:

Why does classical music make people cough during pauses in the music?

October 9, 2014 at 02:11 PM · Tsk...because we're waiting with bated breath for the next phrase of course...

Oxygen deprivation...involuntary muscle reflex...

October 9, 2014 at 04:03 PM · The real question is not about some specific performer or some favorite sentimental song(s).

Classical is a business in a sea of competing music categories. Is classical winning that war?

I think that classical needs a "gimmick" which is why I proposed closed caption classical.

(Follow the bouncing ball!)

October 9, 2014 at 04:36 PM · "In all fairness, I think that part of the dilemma today is due to copyright laws. In order to avoid fees, people/groups may be writing their own stuff without exceptional ability to do so."

Huh?

October 9, 2014 at 05:32 PM · If I played Willie Nelson in public I believe I might be shut down. If I write my own garbage I would only be disturbing the peace. Do I go out on business or go for my own copyrights.

October 9, 2014 at 06:09 PM · Personally, I'd prefer if Willie Nelson music were banned all together....

October 9, 2014 at 07:39 PM · Willie gets the blues to learn that some righteous brother does not appreciate his stuff.

The only thing that helps is for him to continue counting his money which is estimated for 2014 at $25 million.

A good example of avoiding copyright problems, Willie wrote several big hits but what about groups who have no resident (good) composers? Bad music or just unforgettable?

For the record, do you like the Beatles?

October 9, 2014 at 08:42 PM · I can neither confirm, nor deny any allegation of whether I like, or do not like the Beatles.

I do, however, stand by my previous statements in regards to Willie Nelson.

October 9, 2014 at 09:58 PM · Maybe the "close captioning" gimmick you're thinking about is like those TV productions where they insert tidbits and factoids of the composer and piece at the bottom of the screen. I found it mildly entertaining at first and then annoying because I couldn't focus on listening and watching the musicians. I appreciated the effort but ultimately it cheapened the music.

Maybe a healthy first step is to teach people it's ok to clap and show their appreciation after some movements - and I'm not saying all movements. The awkward silence/coughing break after big triumphant movements when historically people would have applaud is so suffocating.

October 9, 2014 at 10:15 PM · Song & Dance?

In my tango-playing days (under the "brasserie" at La Coupole, Montparnasse, Paris), sometimes a sung (or unsung) tango would have customers stop and listen. Very flattering! The boss, however, disapprouved, since they would get less hot and sweaty and buy fewer drinks at outrageous prices...

October 9, 2014 at 10:59 PM · Darlene/Seraphim - my daughter used to have a bumper sticker on her school notebook that said, "Discourage Inbreeding; Ban Country Music."

October 9, 2014 at 11:10 PM · ...hmm...they should have the same sticker for classical music then...

October 10, 2014 at 12:25 AM · Dorian

I understand your concern with cheapening the experience so I would be very careful about audiences.

For instance, a CC presentation at the school level might be worthwhile but entirely out of place elsewhere. A well seasoned and knowledgeable audience hardly needs graphics for distraction. Smaller halls away from cultural centers might be interested.

When I saw my opera with projected lyrics, I was distracted from the stage but it was well worth the interruption.

If I had the money I would try to organize s ground breaking "CC event" in NYC where, I'm sure, there would be enough adventurist people to sell it out.

October 10, 2014 at 06:54 AM · Berstein did fabulous "guided tours" of cassical works. Which were then played "straight". (Of course.)

October 10, 2014 at 12:18 PM · Very interesting. I do remember him as quite a showman.

October 10, 2014 at 01:52 PM · What exactly would be contained in this closed captioning of classical music?

Is there a particular story that is supposed to go along with classical pieces?

I find the idea rather preposterous.

Let's face it. You can't make the wider public accept classical music if they don't want to listen any more than you can try and convince me to accept Willie Nelson music.

How preposterous is this idea?

Here's an example of where this idea is leading if you follow it to it's logical conclusion:

October 10, 2014 at 03:56 PM · I had no idea that someone had a similar approach in mind but it is certainly good news.

I would not have audio on top of the music. only subtle, short, CC commentary.

Hits on video were 280,000.

Somebody is/was interested.

The video was obviously extreme schtick but could easily have been written in a more formal and entertaining style.

October 10, 2014 at 04:13 PM ·

October 10, 2014 at 04:17 PM · Darlene, what would the commentary have to say?

Or are you envisionig a pop up video style?

October 10, 2014 at 05:21 PM · Now we're getting somewhere but my narrator would appear as CC above a stage or on a convenient ceiling space. This way, the audience has the choice to sneak a peek or just ignore the messages.

Seems that Bach sounds good in any configuration!

"Madonna" is in my/your Willie Nelson class.

October 10, 2014 at 05:40 PM · But what would the content of the closed captioning be?

(I'm no Madonna fan either, it's just the first pop up video I came across)

October 11, 2014 at 03:10 AM · I'm looking for a real orchestral work to use as a model. But t won't give the title!

October 11, 2014 at 05:19 PM · Here are some possible observations by a possible narrator. The musical piece is mostly real except for my imagination.

I would not expect to be addressing an already educated audience as might be expected in major cultural centers:

This work was composed in 1822 but not heard for many years later in Vienna.

The oboe introduces the main theme we all know but will be soon challenged by the full orchestra.

Our conductor today is a guest from Bulgaria.

The full orchestra now gives way for the solo oboe and there is a sense of conflict between good and evil.

You will soon hear a few notes that sound out of tune and scholars have argued that the notes were intended to be as written.

--------------------------------------

The magic word here is "interactive".

etc. etc.

October 11, 2014 at 06:58 PM · I think you need to introduce that into school music appreciation curriculums to maximize its benefits.

October 11, 2014 at 09:01 PM · Actually it might be better for the future of classical to target young minds! There is a lot of grey hair at classical events :)

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