Rock Music vs Classical Music

March 4, 2004 at 06:01 PM · Is classical music a higher form of music than rock music? Classical music certainly is more complex. However...I always wonder why the rock musicians are millionares. Most of them don't even know how to read music. They don't spend years taking lessons and seem to master their instruments.

A guitarist in my favorite rock band, only took a couple of guitar lessons...yet now he is considered one of the best guitarists in rock and is a millionaire.

I like both forms of music, but I have always wondered about this.

I guess the real art in rock, is the creativity of coming up with something that the public likes. I would say that rock music is the dominant music in the western world today. I wonder why that is. Is it because of the strong beat in rock? Or because it is easier for people to listen to? Or maybe because the rock compositions (overall) are shorter?

Is the electric guitar easier to master than symphony instruments?

I would like to hear what some of you think on this topic.


Replies (100)

March 4, 2004 at 07:11 PM · I'd say it's easier to listen to. I mean, rock songs, the popular ones, and even some of the ones that aren't popular, tend to be simple, with singable lyrics, and words that mean something to a lot of people.

Let's take an extreme example. I like Bruckner, but play it for somebody you meet casually, and the likely response will be, 'it's too long'. Play some Mozart, and they'll think it sounds sissy. What's with lieder? With English the predominant language in America, why should somebody listen to something that they don't understand? It's not that they don't identify with what's being sung about; the strange words are not what they relate to.

Perhaps the real clue is, there are so many different kinds of 'classical' music, that exploring the genre will eventually involve an attempt to 'understand' some sort of music. And this is what, to me, rock music doesn't need: all you have to do is listen to the music, and listen to the words; if it moves you, you like it. If it doesn't, you don't. And that's okay to other people. In classical there tend to be more people who say that something is good, even if you can't see why it is; this prompts more soul-searching on your part.

Rock music tends to lack the mental effort of comprehension.

This does not mean that people who listen to rock music are stupid :).

They are people who simply want to enjoy their music. I see them as wanting to relax to it, not wanting to be 'discerning' and analytical. This is why I like to listen to some rock.

Especially after a midterm exam on the workings of cellular and modal theory.

March 4, 2004 at 07:31 PM · As the why rock musicians make more money:

They play in huge stadiums, where classical music is very hard to perform.

I agree though, that rock music is generally fairly catchy, has singable lyrics, that really hit home to some people, or just something about the ease in listening to it that makes everyone like it. I like all kinds of music, and right now am a big Coldplay fan, but I also really enjoy bands like Dreamtheatre, Big Wreck, as well as jazz music, new music, and just about everything on the board.

Another reason why I think classical music is not as popular. So many places have given it the reputation that it's a stuffy thing, and that you need to know all these rules about attending a concert, you have to dress up, and so on. Rock concerts you go in your baggy jeans, and you can yell when you want to, you can clap in the middle of a song when there has been something you've really liked, where as that seems to be frowned upon in classical music. I did concerts in the summer and attended concerts at a summer camp, and the concerts were promoted as a fun family activity, where everyone was really casual, jeans, shorts, t-shirts, just really comfortable, summer clothing that was your average wear for the summer, and the performers dressed up a bit, but didn't over-do it. Just simply summery outfits that were casual, but gave them a bit of pizazz so you knew that they were the performers. Those concerts were some of the best attended I've ever been to.

March 4, 2004 at 08:11 PM · Woah--cellular and modal theory, I'd need more than rock 'n roll.

Cool usual I have too much to say. As a former "tourhead" I can vouch that rock music taps a primal chord in many people. It's largely built around three predictable harmonies and is in duple meter which is easier to "feel". Lyrics are in the colloquial...easy to relate to. It doesn't leave listeners feeling harmonically or emotionally doesn't ask that listeners pay attention like they're walking a tightrope. They know what to expect from it and there is an emotional payoff. It's sedating in a way.

Classical music offers emotional payoffs, but not in the same way, especially music from the Romantic era and after--which often is like a mini-existential voyage comparable to fiction, and carries listeners through rhythmic and harmonic transmogrifications, which, although perhaps "predictable" in terms of form, are much harder to anticipate, and the ensuing mood/payoff is harder to nail down in words. It's similar to Classical anything: theater, ballet, etc.

Because of its accessibility, more people get into rock music than classical...thus the consequent megabucks.

And in my opinion, not even Also Sprach Zarathustra can hold a candle to Pink Floyd blasting with the windows down. ;)


March 4, 2004 at 07:54 PM · It's a simple matter of supply and demand. There's more demand for rock and pop and rap (which I believe is the most popular music form today) than for classical. I don't think it's simply a matter of complexity. Jimi Hendrix was pretty complex, as were many of the heavy metal guitarists of the 80s. The same could be said for jazz guys like Chick Corea and Wynton Marsalis. Billy Joel is an excellent pianist. Mariah Carey has an incredible voice. None of these fall into the classical category. It's much the same as the question "why do pro athletes make millions when our teachers are paid so poorly?" For that matter I still haven't figured out how Adam Sandler has managed to make millions as a comedian when he's neither funny, intelligent, attractive, or otherwise talented IMHO.

I think the question we should be asking is "how can we increase the demand for classical music?" This is one reason I believe in funding for the arts.

March 4, 2004 at 09:46 PM · "The funny part is that I think of rock the way a lot of people think of classical. To me most of it sounds the same. "


I feel the same way you do, about rock music. I never grew up listening it so now I have no idea what the popular bands are. If you ask me to name some rock stars, the only one I can think of is Michael Jackson (due to all the tabloid publicity he's been receiving lately.

While rock music is 'performing arts', I'd say it borders more on entertainment, whereas classical music is only performing arts. I certainly wouldn't call classical music entertainment (except maybe Nigel Kennedy with his cockney accent and punk hairdo playing 4 seasons with fancy lights and staging).

Classical music seems to be much less accessible than rock, and there's a certain stigma attached to opera and symphony concerts which alienates most people. It's often the high cost of ticket prices combined with the formality.

It's like seafood; I dislike Oysters, lobsters, crab, etc; all that fancy expensive food found in 5 star restaurants. Like classical music, it's an acquired taste. I believe if I grew up eating oysters, I would love them now. Sadly, unlike my relatives, I don't like the sea-smell of seafood.

My relatives on the other hand, would only go to a classical music concert to watch ME perform. Usually they say they don't "understand" this music and would never voluntarily go watch the LA Phil perform.

I'd much prefer listening to a Mahler Symphony or Strauss tone poem, than some Michael Jackson song based around 3 chords. I feel like after a few listeings, I'm already sick of the mind-numbing drum beat. Whereas with Mahler, each time I listen to it, I enjoy it more and more, and I discover things each time that I never heard before - beautiful harmonies, orchestration, etc.

Certainly rock music is much more appreciated in today's world. Interestingly, when I went to the Schelswig Holstein Musik Festival, I realized that people in Germans appreciate classical music much more than Americans. I know that the government in Germany spends a lot on the arts, and to study in Germany as a music student is completely FREE. It's why so many Australians prefer to get free tuition in Germany, instead of paying US$30,000 for tuition in the US. The student orchestra I was participating in received SO much press (newspaper articles, TV, etc) I felt like a quasi-celebrity. The student festivals in the US hardly get any press attention.

I can certainly understand that we, classical musicians often find it unfair that rock musicians receive so much more wealth for what we perceive to be a much EASIER job - playing 3 chords over and over (eg. Unchained Melody - I, VI, IV, V7, I). The subjective question is, do musicians like Paul McCartney (who couldn't even read music when he was in the Beatles) deserve all this fame and fortune?

Is Classical music a dying art, with all these orchestras folding and going bankrupt? I spent years studying in school, finally finishing with a Doctorate, recently graduated; now a struggling musician trying to survive; would I encourage my future kids to do "classical music"? No. Would I encourage them to go into medicine or law? Probably. My friend also has a Doctorate (and lives in LA), but unfortuntely she is considering leaving the music profession altogether. Hopefully that won't be me in a few years.

March 4, 2004 at 10:56 PM · Yes, it is really sad. I also have 3 talented friends who have left Classical music because it didn't pay them enough money. One is running a grocery shop.....I read science books to get away from violin practice because it gives me balance and I listen to rock or pop or something to get it out of my system and just 'let rip'.......I think with violin we are always concentrating in such a controlled manner and totally focused and being ruthless with ourselves that we can't remain like that all day long or we would go insane from the never ending self-discipline. Actually they are not all bad....try singing to Patrick Bruel in French in some of his songs and the rhythms are not easy. I listen to the phrasing of Florent Pagny and I think it actually enhances my mental idea of how phrases should sound. I can't listen to opera too much for too long because the vibrato some singers use goes against my grain of how I would do it for the violin. Have any of you heard Emma Shapplin? Well her singing is incredible and she has done 2 albums now and the second one is very difficult sounding....I am still getting things from it. I think we can listen to all music to benefit violin playing in some way, but not country and western....1-5-1-5...."she done me for another"....I don't need that mentality after I am done struggling with a cranky violin each day. No offence meant to anyone on country and western.

March 5, 2004 at 07:03 AM · Thanks for the responses! I pretty much agree with a lot of what you all said. Here is my take (or opinion) on it...I think that Rock is not as artistic as Classical. It is sort of like in painting. Fingerpainting (Rock) is not as high an art form as Oil Painting (Classical). Even though both are art forms, one is more complex than the other.

Rock is very simple music. Most songs are made up of a standard three chord progression. Then a melody is sung over the progression. It is the melody, that I think is the creative part of rock. That is what people remember, when they think of the song later on after hearing it. SO, if a rock composer writes a good melody, it will likely be a hit. The words dont even matter that much. In fact David Bowie, cut sentences out of a magazine, then put them in a hat and pulled them out one at a time, for each line of the song. (After a little bit of tweaking.) The name of the song is "Ashes to Ashes", and if you ever read the lyrics, you will see that they make absolutely no sense.

But in classical...a theme is introduced, it is stated, developed, recapitualated, etc. which I think takes more genius to compose then a rock song does.

Maybe people have become to simple in their thinking and perhaps TV is to blame for this. People have become passive listeners, rather than active listeners. For many people, rock is easier to listen to.

I do like both forms of music, and after working hard on a violin piece for a couple hours, I sometimes will play bass guitar along with one of my rock cds to "get away from the hard work and relax a bit". However...I just think it is sad that the higher art form doesn't get the recognition that it deserves, and that the performers of the simpler art form, are millionares.


March 5, 2004 at 07:08 PM · this is funny, opinion, which doesn't matter is, I like any kinda music that strives to be creative, be it dream theater, L. subramanian, mariachi imperial, john long as you push the limits, your cool with me

March 5, 2004 at 10:34 PM · i agree with many of your comments. However, look at the Beatles. Their music was simple "rock" type music, but anyone who understands music the least bit understands their genius in a musical sense. I think there are still some ambiguities in why beautiful music sounds beautiful even if its very simple (classicl and even other genres).

March 6, 2004 at 04:25 AM · Yep, I have to agree that the Beatles were geniuses in music. Also, there is a rock group called Rush, which I think really understands music. Many people don't like Rush, because their music is edgier, and a lot of people cant take the lead singer's falsetto voice. However, I have analysed just about every piece they have written, and a lot of their music is more complex than most rock bands. (Not just a standard 3 chord progression). They have lots of key and time changes in their songs. They have often been labled as symphonic rock.

They do follow the classical form in some of their songs, even though it is hard rock.

By the way Dan, I used to live close to Buffalo Grove in Northern Illinois. In fact, I dated a girl that was from Buffalo Grove.


March 6, 2004 at 04:56 AM · Well i have no problem with all this really. As a violinist and guitarist, i have learnt to appreciate all genres. You can't say which is better than teh other in my opinion. They have their differences, they are so contrasting to me it's not funny! But i love both genres.

I'm in a band and an orchestra and find that they are completely different. The orchestra i find is such a burden, you work so hard for perfection of the piece you forget about the fun of playing where as in teh band, it is much more casual. If it's to hard we improv on it. The guitar is a totally different instrument to the violin. You may think it is easier as it has fretts but thats not even a concern when playing. I believe that rock music has teh ability to capture the attention of more people rather than classical even if it has a simpler structure in a sense that people that are uneducated in musicology find that classical music is to complex for them to understand and listen to while rock is so laid back and easy and they are comprised of such easy chords, one can just pick up any instrument and try and figure the rock songs tune.

I think the contrast in these two genres is what has brought me to love music. I appreciate both.


March 6, 2004 at 04:56 PM · I think rock is just a branch of music just as classical music is. In the old days when there were no rock songs they'd listen to the music that was most "popular" or sounded the most pleasant. Therefore I believe that now rock is more popular than the so called "classical" music, it is so for various reasons, however there are too many to list. The culture of the mordern society, the pace of life now, easy communication all are important factors. Also the media plays a big role in these issues. I also think that rock music is somewhat more successful in getting its audience to join in in the music and this probably helps create more enthusiasts. These enthusiasts would be able to pick up these songs easily and play them, not like classical music when you have to have an orchestra to perform a piece, so individuals have easy access to enjoying it with their own hands. As a violinist, I feel the violin is extremely difficult compared to guitar.


March 6, 2004 at 05:40 PM · ok , so all we need are some good rock and roll violinists...and mark wood doesn't count ;b

March 6, 2004 at 06:25 PM · The problem is not only classcial deemed "too difficult to understand" etc. by many people, it's the fact that today for many people it's important to be "in"... so maybe you listen to some classical music as a kid, start learning an instrument... and experience that in the opinion of your schoolmates, you're "out", "classical music is sooooo uncool" etc. This can get many folks discouraged. I experienced this myself (but kept going), but also know people who quit someday, and turn towards more "hip" music (or prefer playing in a marching band...)

At our youth orchestra concerts last month, there were some parents with their kids, who afterwards were enthusiastic about what they heard, but nearly hadn't come to this concert at all had it not been for some convincing words by the person who told me about this, as their parents were saying "Why should we take them to the concert, they won't understand the music". Great attitude, that way the next generation won't get in contact with classical music at all... The parents didn't consider the fact that themusic itself, not interpreting it to see what a masterpiece it is (we played Beethoven's 5th, along with a Debussy clarinette rhapsody), but just listening too it, was a joy for the kids.

There's much work to do...

March 6, 2004 at 07:13 PM · A poll was conducted a couple years ago, where 1000 people from all walks of life were chosen at random. They asked the people, who they thought did more to advance music, Beethoven or The Beatles. Beethoven won by a long shot and I think it was like 80 percent to 20 percent.

Yes, I agree with all of you that rock is fun to listen to and fun to play and sing along with, but I still think that classical is a higher art form. It is sort of like beer and champaign or a fine wine. They both are alcohol, but one is higher in quality.


March 7, 2004 at 02:01 AM · its funny, classical music isn't even considered uncool among my peers, mainly because they didn't even know anybody listened to it. So when i tell them what i listen to, they get this odd far off look, and say "....oh"

Its obvious you can't judge music by its popularity, to me at least. The most popular rap sounds so crappy to me, i doubt you could argue its even music. People like whatever sounds good that you dont have to think about, and while beethoven does sound good, you have to settle into it a bit when its your first time listening to it. Also beethoven doesn't make you feel "bad ass" when you listen to it. You can't exactly blast debussy our of your subwoofers in your car.

March 7, 2004 at 04:00 AM · hello, welcome to the united states, where the taste of the people is just fantastic. you can go to hollywood and find people portraying and making movies about Jesus, or you can turn on the radio and listen to girls that have had over 500$ of plastic surgey to make them look fake. you can also enjoy the rap music that always seems to be about some sort of clubbing event. or, you can listen to the non-talented boybands that appeal to those half their age. but, oh! dont forget the blondes who make more money than the majority of the third world countries. all they must do is show more cleanage than the grand canyon and sing a few notes (all in the key of c major, probably) and then you have the pop stars of today. or you can watch the "reality" tv series where celebrities play for "charities" and people get put on the most beautiful places on the earth and have to ruin it by getting dramatic. (The osbourne kids really dont cuss as much as they seem, hollywood adds extra bleeps in) yes, this is out lifestyle. we are the kind of kids, and adults whom are "wierd". go figure, is it because we have taste? so, next time you plan on stopping by united states again, think about it. we are shallow. very shallow

March 7, 2004 at 04:08 AM · please note the sarcasm in my note. and i meant 500,000$.

March 7, 2004 at 04:46 AM · Most rock performers are not millionaires, they are people who are not lucky enough to have multiple hit albums--so they never get out of the red with their record company. There are classical performers who are quite wealthy and/or "stars." Their number is smaller than their rock counterparts, of course. As someone else mentioned, it's supply and demand. As for ticket prices, it seems that in the last few years a lot of rock acts have priced themselves beyond most classical concerts.

Most classical music takes more concentrated attention, at least for me, than most popular or folk forms. You might as well ask why so few people play chess rather than video games.

As to the comment about basketball and hockey...let's face it, soccer has almost never been popular in this country (USA), and hockey is so much like soccer on ice, with sticks.

Personally, I like some examples of almost any type of music you name. I just can't seem to get into rap or disco, and I keep thinking opera will hook me sooner or later. You know what they say, rap is people talking when they should be singing, and opera is people singing when they should be talking.

March 7, 2004 at 05:31 AM · Mike, I disliked opera with a passion until I took a class on Wagner's Ring Cycle. It helps to watch an opera as opposed to just listening to one. Rent a DVD or go to one. The performance experience is so intense--orchestra, set, costumes, acting, plot, mythology, heroes, villains, love, tragedy, and oh yeah, there's the singing aspect of it--but it's hard to not enjoy it. ("The Ring" was one of Lucas's taps for inspiration for Star Wars.)

I personally find Wagnerian operas to be transformative experiences...and there are so many other great operas.

It's much better than a Phish show.


March 7, 2004 at 08:53 PM · i like most operas, when they're boring, they're boring, but a well done opera is fun. The only thing that bothers me is when a singer tries to cover up their okay voice with a lot of vibrato.

March 7, 2004 at 10:21 PM · I think that Handels Messiah is a good intro to opera. It is in English and the music is great. A lot of people I know that dont like opera, at least like Handels Messiah. In fact the Cheyenne Symphony and Cheyenne Choral group is performing it on Good Friday. I am going to see it with my wife and 10 of our friends.


March 8, 2004 at 07:07 AM · Handel's Messiah is not an Opera - it's a sacred vocal work.

The best way to get into Opera is to see one.


March 8, 2004 at 08:09 AM · Handel's messiah is an Oratorio.

I generally don't like opera plots; they often end tragically or just aren't entertaining. I watch opera for the musical experience. Unfortunately, I've played in more operas than I've seen. We're on are 10th performance of Madam Butterfly and 5th performance of Strauss Die Frau Ohne Schatten in LA. Although I can get sick of playing this music over and over, I would much rather be doing this than playing in a broadway musical every single day for 3 years.

March 8, 2004 at 11:07 AM · Greetings,

Carl I have seen Oprah and it does nothign for me,



March 8, 2004 at 02:55 PM · Buri, was it all the positive reinforcement, or the endless discussions about weight loss and battered women who have become bestselling authors, or was it simply Dr. Phil that you didn't like? Or were you simply not "ready with yourself" to join the cult?

March 8, 2004 at 06:22 PM · Yes, I know the Messiah is an Oratorio, but I think it would still be a good intro to opera, since you get a sampling of the different solo voices. I have found that there are two things that turn most people off to opera. 1. One the soprano parts, 2. A lot of them are not in English, so you dont know what they are singing about.


March 8, 2004 at 10:13 PM · I don't know about listening to Handel's Messiah, but playing it is pretty boring (for me). It just seems to go on and on. It's no wonder that churches only play excerpts of it.

I remember an opera I really enjoyed playing was Lucia di Lammermoor; Has a great virtuoso soprano.

March 9, 2004 at 04:40 AM · Yes, funny you should say that its boring. My violin teacher refuses to play it anymore. In fact, not all the members of the Cheyenne Symphony will be participating in the performance on Good Friday.


March 9, 2004 at 05:06 AM · Greetings,

kevin, you have given me a great idea. After graduating ever violnist should be able to choose fifty of their favorite works which would then be noted on a micro chip in a piece of palstic like a credit card. Further data would be then name sof all standard repertoire in all relevant genres. Each time a player performs one of her favorites she wipes the card across a sensor connected a Cray Supercomputer which records that fatc and cause one point to drop from that work. After fifty times the player is no longer allowed to play that work. All othe rworks are limted ot twenty five perfomrances,

What do you think?



March 9, 2004 at 02:21 PM · But then you should also be allowed to name the 10 works you most despise, and everytime you have played one of them 10 times, you get one point back for one of your favorites ;)

March 9, 2004 at 05:51 PM · If I may get back briefly to the original thread: Yes, rock guitar is far easier to master than most orchestral instruments. It's way easier than classical guitar, and classical guitar is way easier than bowed strings, IMHO. This is not to take away from the musical and technical accomplishments of many great guitarists, classical or otherwise.

March 9, 2004 at 06:40 PM · I think one of the issues of classical music is that it has become very elitist. Elitism always strips the emotion necessary to inspire

any passion. Arrogance so permiates the field classical music that the most essemtial element necessary in the music is not there.If one looks at the performers who are super stars of classical music and have a universal appeal it remains Pavarotti, Perlman, What I notice with these two performers is a natural and unaffected personality which carries into their art form,

they emotionally move you, many classical musicians don't

Because rock is not valued as high art there remains room for real emotion.People always like whats natural and real.I think intentions are everything and when you do somethng for your ego rather than a true love of it,it dies.A good example was a violinist I knew who bemoaned constantly the lack of fame he had, he once even made a statement to the affect that Elvis was not good looking he had no talent why was he so popular, I thought about it later on and felt that perhaps Elvis was a nicer person and inspired some real emotion from a certain vulnerability he had. This man who studied with the best teachers was arrogant nasty self obsessed and ran his whole life based on I am better then you. What destroyed his carrer was a lack of love for anything or anybody.Yet he had everything but humility.His violin playing became so boring that although he played in-tune had a beautiful sound it was just not interesting it had no energy. There are many

talented Pop musicians out there who move you.Music is an emotional language.

March 10, 2004 at 12:52 AM · wow, what a great answer!

Here's my two cents: the Beatles were not so uneducated. They studied the Indian mode (locrian) with Ravi Shankar (?). You can hear it in the harmony of many of their songs.

March 10, 2004 at 05:49 AM · I agree with Risa's comments. In addition, I think the reason why Rock music is so popular is because its main instrument is the guitar.

The way guitar is taught today, the student can play music almost immediately. If there's a popular song on the radio, all you have to do is look up the fingerings on a chord chart and you can strum along. Then, if you want to develop your skills further, you can take serious lessons in classical guitar.

The main point is that you can make *some* music whatever level of skill you are at; there's always room to explore.

With the violinist's emphasis on technical perfection, however, it's easy to develop a bad attitude towards experimentation and exploration. The student can (and often does) fall into the trap of adhering too strictly to the ladder system of violin pedagogy such that vast avenues of musical possibility are sadly left unexplored.

I think it's interesting --even humbling-- to think that the violin, which is today considered "elitist," was once looked upon as a vulgar instrument in the most literal sense.

Consider the following quote:

"For the most part, reputable people and musicians in the sixteenth century thought of violins as instruments of lowly origin played mainly by professionals. In comparison, viols and lutes, both belonging to an older and more aristocratic tradition, were played not only by professionals but also by amateurs and gentlemen, who ardently admired these instruments. To play the viol or especially the lute was considered an admissible, even highly desirable, part of the general education of the well-born; and these instruments enjoyed a vogue among persons of social standing, who as amateurs generally regarded music as a commendable avocation, but not as a proper profession. The violin enjoyed none of this social prestige." --David D. Boyden, The History of Violin Playing from Its Origins to 1761 and Its Relationship to the Violin and Violin Music. London: Oxford University Press, 1965

A lot of people here have probably read this article, but it's well worth mentioning:

Just my two bits :-) Cheers!

March 10, 2004 at 10:07 PM · Note to Lorenzo: only one of the Beatles (Harrison) learned a little about Indian music, on the sitar, from the master Ravi Shankar. The others were musically illiterate in that they could not read or write notation, save chord charts. They did the amazing things they did by ear, drawing on a wealth of old music they learned, and through their own imagination. Even today McCartney has to dictate the "classical" things he writes to music transcribers.

March 29, 2004 at 02:34 AM · I am a rock fan as well as a classical fan (although I'm not so impressed with rap music that samples from other, already established artists). In the end, people will gravitate towards the music that moves them and it may change from one day to another. I know that it does for me.

That being said, I must address a question posed previously in this discussion: "The subjective question is, do musicians like Paul McCartney (who couldn't even read music when he was in the Beatles) deserve all this fame and fortune?"

Answer: YES :)

March 29, 2004 at 03:20 AM · well rock music is easier to understand than classical. first, it has words and the music has the aggression that is quite appealing. but i think classical expresses with much more depth and range, what humanity is all about.

March 29, 2004 at 03:40 AM · Greetings,

but how about the people who express the rage and fears of a whole generation like Bonb Dylan?

Can you see Vietnam protestors sitting around comparing performances of Beethoven 5 between tokes?



March 29, 2004 at 07:56 AM · Buri has a point. However, will people still listen to Bob Dylan in 200 years time to the same degree that people listen to Beethoven now? If the answer is no, then perhaps that is because in classical music, what's being expressed transcends the times. I suppose that's because with Bob Dylan (and most rock, pop etc music) the most important thing is the lyrics. These have specific meaning and thus have the capacity to become irrelevent after a few generations. Classical music may not be the most popular thing from generation to generation, but it does last. I guess this applies to jazz as well.


March 29, 2004 at 02:10 PM · As a diehard Dylan fan, I must protest!

Although now and then he did pick up stories from the newspaper and use them as inspiration (only because his idol Woodie Guthrie did this), his lyrics are quite general and are the kind to which many types of people can relate...not just hippies. (And I find humor in this, because first of all, he was more of a Beat than hippie, he himself did not use "drugs" and frankly his lyrics are too deep for most people who are stoned out of their mind to comprehend.)

I don't doubt that people will still be listening to him 200 years from now, because he is the most "covered" artist in rock n roll today...and has inspired several generations of songwriters now.

Also unlike many of his contemporaries, Dylan did not write explicitly about Vietnam--especially in the way of a *stance*--although he wrote songs like "With God on Our Side" which covered every American scuffle of aggression over the past 200 years; so subtelty and insinuation are what made his lyrics so strong. I think people appreciated the fact that he appreciated "a commoner's" intelligence.

Also when you look at lyrics like "Desolation Row" or "A Hard Rain" or "Visions of Johanna" (to name but a FEW!) and it's difficult to imagine that this kind of quality will be going out of style anytime soon. Just look them up online--they are about as specific as a Bible Story. Beautiful, evocative, but open-ended and subject to infinite interpretations.

But again, most people don't *listen* to Bob Dylan the way they don't *listen* to Classical music. I define "Classical" as meaning something that lasts generations; so personally I find him Classical in his own way.


March 29, 2004 at 09:20 PM · That was a really enlightening response, Kismet!

I didn't really mean Bob Dylan specifically - of course, he is an exceptional songwriter who will not be forgotten any time soon. But generally, it seems that most pop groups (specifically pop, not rock, country etc) use age old universal sentiments ('I love you', 'Why did you leave me?' 'I ain't gonna see you no more' etc....) and apply them to whatever style of music is in fashion at the time - they're singing practically the same lyrics as were sung in the 50s, but with updated music.

What bugs me is that at the time it's first released, this stuff is far more famous and popular and listened to than classical music. But, five years on, who actually listens to it? I'm sure if more people took the time to try to appreciate and understand classical music, far more people would listen to it.

I'm not actually sure what point I'm trying to make, or if it's even relevent, but there you have it.


March 30, 2004 at 12:10 AM · I'm still having trouble with the concept of rock music being more popular than classical because it is "easier to understand". I'm not sure that I ever really "understood" the Beatles White Album as a kid or any of Genesis' music for that matter, but I sure played the heck out of them when I wasn't practicing. My parents, both classical musicians, are appreciative of Good rock music and I'm grateful that they encouraged me to indulge in all genres not just classical (in fact, there are lots of rock musicians who are products of classical musicians, so that's what they grew up listening to in the home). But, no, not all rock musicians are writing trivial songs about broken hearts and leavin'..they leave that to the country artists. :)

March 30, 2004 at 06:29 AM · Not all rock artists are, which is why I said 'pop.'

Once when someone asked me what I was listening to (I had headphones on) I said "Tchaikovsky. Do you want to listen too?" They replied, "As in classical music? No thanks, I prefer something with a beat." This infuriated me, and although it doesn't apply to most people, it certainly sums up the attitude many people have to it. If they can't nod their head to it on a bus, what's the use?! Who needs structure, harmony and melody when there's no drumkit?

Maybe the reason people don't listen to classical music is in fact several different reasons. I might argue that most think it's old, uncool, and it's hard to find other people who share your interest in it. 'Fitting in' seems to be everything these days.


March 30, 2004 at 01:18 PM · People in this generation find it "cool" to be a fan of rock stars because they wear the latest fashion, they swear, use drugs etc. People find it cool to break the law or do things their parents normally wouldn't allow them to do. Heavy advertisement on radio, TV, magazines, posters, internet would be another factor.

Classical music is for the brainy people who are referred to as geek. People probably become "geek-phobia" even if they are interested in classical music. A few told me they wised they knew how to play the piano but didn't take up lessons when they had the chance because their peers thought it was "girly".

I have nothing against rock music itself, just not agree with the messages that it brings, (e.g. In order to be trandy and accepted, I have to look good, wear expensive clothing, swear etc)

Classical music is healthier. It is for the wise and elite of society. I am proud to be one of the diminishing classical music fans.

March 30, 2004 at 01:36 PM · I also think it has to do with instant gratification and laziness. It's like literature these days; why read Milton or Homer when you can read William Carlos Williams or Basho and still say you're reading poetry? (not that the latter two are not poets!) Or why change your lifestyle to lose weight and get in shape, when you can call up the number on your screen and spend 100 bucks on the latest diet pill? Most people do this.

Classical music doesn't engage people as quickly as rock, moreover, it requires an active ear as opposed to a passive one. Since humans are fundamentally lazy and will do the least amount of work required, it's not surprising that we are a diminishing breed.

All this means of course is that us Classical folk are more advanced, and hence, blacklisted by evolution.


March 30, 2004 at 05:30 PM · William, I disagree with you about classical music being for the wise and elite of society. Yes, you many people who listen to classical music are 'wise,' but I really think that it is not this simple. There are hundreds of intelligent people who do not listen to classical music, and sometimes don't listen to any music at all. Often people take an interest in classical music because they have learnt an instrument and consequently been exposed to it in more depth than they otherwise would (this is certainly how I started listening to it). Many people who do not belong to the 'elite' become interested in it this way. If classical music were something which is reserved for the 'elite,' I would probably not take a part in it. I take no shame in listening to it at school and always let other people at school listen to it. Some laugh, but some people enjoy it. Classical music holds a joy which should be shared and promoted.


March 30, 2004 at 05:32 PM · Kismet, I don't think some people's lack of interest in classical music has much to do with laziness. It depends what you want to get from listening to music. There are some very motivated and hard-working people in the world who don't want to have to concentrate or actively engage with music like those who choose to listen to classical music do.

The most important reason is perhaps the stigma that surrounds classical music as something ancient, dull, irrelevent, and reserved for snobby upper-class. The destruction of such a stigma is nigh on impossible - it's how it is portrayed by much of the media and represents a general view held in society at the moment.


March 31, 2004 at 12:29 AM · Thanks for correcting me Carl, I missed your distinction between POP and rock artists..very different, you're right. I'm certainly not thinking of present day MTV when I am referring to rock music, I'm thinking back to the 50's, 60's and 70's.

There was a thread elsewhere on this site which addressed the perception that exists about classical music and musicians. I, too, would not want to be associated with a genre of music (or any art form for that matter) that was labeled as "elite". It's difficult enough having to fight for support of the arts on any level. When support is cut or denied the justification is often because the arts are considered a "luxury" in society and not a necessity. If we're perpetuating the notion that classical music is an "elite" form of art in comparison to other forms, what are we accomplishing except alienation? It strikes me as counterproductive. Music is "religion" to many people (and probably to many of us who participate in these discussions)and it may not be classical, rock or anything that has been mentioned here. If we as individuals are personally not able to relate to it or find meaning in it, does that make it any less legitimate as an art form for those who do?

August 6, 2006 at 04:52 AM · It's very simple: during the time of the classical composers they faced the same accusations: their music was not acceptible [read that "Classical."]

They, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Bach, Strauss, invented the 3 minute song [as in minuet], not the rock and roll industry. And, they were all outcasts, just as rock and roll composers are outcasts by all classical music studies institutes today.

What fool honestly believes that rock and roll music is not as complicated as classical? Apparently, only the technicians, that is, the instrument players. Certainly, the composer hears a lot more than he or she is allowed to put onto a recording, simply because an orchestra costs about a thousand times what it costs to record a four or five piece band.

You cannot possibly say "Nights in White Satin" is not a classical piece of music, just as the entirety, "Dark Side of the Moon," is a symphony.

They all tell stories, they all have arias, overtures, expositions, etc., and just about every rock and roll player I know can play any classical piece.

I hear five to ten violins, at least, when I'm hearing a piece that I wrote in my head. But try to find 101 orchestra members that are willing to A.) Learn the piece and their part, B.) Take the time at the zero amount of money a rock and roll composer has to actually do something for the work, and B.) To get some highbrow conductor or committee to actually perform the piece live.

One sees how popular Strauss' Waltz is, a pop tune or rock and roll tune of Strauss' time, with all generations, yet, had it not been for his publisher, the Emperor of Austria, you would have never seen the manuscript nor heard the tunes on his album.

How about "Peter and the Wolf?" Or how about any opera? All popular music of the times in which they were written; they had to be to get backed with investors' money and they had to be liked by the masses.

The line one draws is wrong between rock and roll and classical. Some players, such as guitar players, maybe aren't all that up on symphonic works, but I know quite a few that can compose and play parts that sound more like violin that some Stradivarius players. Speaking of Stradivarius, Christian F. Martin & Sons are the Stradivarius makers of America. Years may change chronologically, but music doesn't. If people don't like it, they won't listen to it, and that applied to Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, just as it applies to any popular music today. It won't become classic without being a great work of art.

Lastly, Rock N Roll just happens to pay all the bills at ASCAP and BMI, most of the musicians' union dues, and nearly all of the grants and awards. One Lincoln Center wasn't built by Mozart money, it was built by Rock N Roll money.

For all of that, all of our good works, we get treated like street people and the lower classes. Yet, we keep on doing it and paying for things because we know something about Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart; they were criticised for being too simple in their time too.

The poor boys write the classical music, the children of the rich go to school to learn to play it, even if it takes them 300 years later to recognise it.

For the love of music and for being ostracised from classical music circles, we are rewarded with great music by God, and given an abundance by the masses who know great music when they hear it.

I could use an orchestral stage, but I wonder if I'll ever get one. It's hard to deal with 101 or 120 parts in your head and then try to convince someone who can't hear it why they should let you use the stage and their "band."

August 6, 2006 at 06:23 AM · Some interesting thoughts there. One thing about non-classical music that's encouraging to me is that the stuff that's most highly regarded contains a lot more than it would really have needed to, if you follow. The encouraging thing is that it's apparently recognized. One could hear a decent approximation of their 101 part piece with an inexpensive system these days, using that as a development system even. I remember in student orchestras playing a lot of student compostions that could have used that. Re: your website, I think of software as being no less physical than hardware. The trend has been toward software and away from hardware for the last twenty years, and the protections that would have been afforded hardware can't just be tossed out the window as a byproduct. The things that get me about it are the more procedural things that apply to everything. One thing that comes to mind is apparently allowing actual re-writing to broaden coverage after issuance. I saw over a year of development to circumvent a patent go down the drain that way. A hardware patent, I should add.

August 6, 2006 at 06:31 AM · People who think Mozart or other huge composers were as popular as the Beatles have major problems with basic logic.

This was the music of the wealthy and educated. There's no way you could convince me of Joe Peasant of A) Being able to understand everything that was going on B) Being allowed into whatever place it was being performed in C) Being able to afford to even go.

August 6, 2006 at 09:36 AM · Another possible reason why classical music isn't as popular as we think it should be - it is almost impossible to dance to.

Have you ever tried dancing to classical music? I have, and although it is a good exercise in trying to understand the music, it probably risks being certified as a lunatic. Good dance music can have assymetrical rhythms (e.g. some Turkish music in 9/8, 13/8, 17/8 etc) but still needs a lot of repetition which is often missing in classical scores.

If you reflect on the music that was popular in the 20th century, which of course changed decade by decade, it was nearly always dancable, and it usually had its origins in what you might call black music - charlston, jive, bebop, soul, reggae, rap, r'n'b, whatever you want to call it.

And rock music is great for people who aren't always the best dancers, or who just want to headbang, or have a rest (and sometimes I fit into all these categories).

August 6, 2006 at 03:23 PM · It all comes down to sharing one's individual feel with the audience.

The best classical musicians are no less celebrated than the best rock musicians.

August 6, 2006 at 04:55 PM · Alison,

May I suggest you take some baroque dancing classes? You'll be surprised how much of it you can dance to.


Perhaps no less celebrated in furver, but undeniably much less celebrated in number. Just go and ask a random sampling of 201 people which names they know: John Lennin or Jasha Heifetz; Aerosmith or Concertgebouw etc.

I'm pretty sure it would support my theory.


August 6, 2006 at 06:47 PM · Terry: Bach, Beethoven and Mozart were criticized for being too simple in their time? What the heck are you talking about?

Sure, Bach was primarily a church musician, and Mozart wrote lots of music for the public ear. And Mozart's music especially has an element of simplicity and charm to it, which explains the reason that most non-classical musicians who like "classical" music really mean they like listening to Mozart. But they were definitely not writing solely for the entertainment of their public. They wrote for God and for their art form. Much of their music was considered too revolutionary or too complex, not too simple. Just look at the six-part Fugue Bach wrote for the Emperor of Prussia, or his Mass in b minor, or Mozart's Quartet K. 465 "Dissonance," or Beethoven's Grosse Fuge!

It's a common myth that all classical music was "popular" music in its time, just like rock-and-roll today. The truth is, there is no analogical connection between the our current musical landscape and the culture of post-Reformation Europe. We are in a completely new era.

There is some incredible music out there in rock, rap, bluegrass, etc. But to say that a three-chord rock anthem is just as complex and fundamentally the same as a Beethoven symphony is just false.

August 6, 2006 at 07:01 PM · The music being written these days simply has not had the time to, well, survive the test of time.

Every era probably produces a few geniuses, scattered among a whole bunch of crappy artists. I'm sure there were as many mediocre contemporaries of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, etc., as there are mediocre popular musicians today.

It's even possible that at the time, their music was more popular than that of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven. But they're now forgotten, and for a good reason.

A few hundred years from now, the Hendrixes and the Dylans and the Beatles will have been separated from the dregs. Maybe by then, there will be a small but ardent population who revere them as "classics"- but not the huge numbers that there are now, simply because by then it will not be the music of the times.

But right now, the crap is by far the majority, because it hasn't been weeded out.

I agree with those who have said above that it always takes more effort to appreciate and relate to something that is not speaking directly to you. Music of your own "times" is always going to be easier to "understand" than that from a different time.

August 6, 2006 at 08:35 PM · The question of Rock vs classical music is one I have pondered for a long time. One musician friend of mine reminds me that just because something is popular with the masses does not mean it is good.

Still I have grown quite frustrated at seeing orchestras struggling financially while rock bands draw the big crowds and the dollars.

Unfortunately we have not exposed people at a young age to classical music. That is where it starts. It is sort of like not teaching someone to read until high school and expecting them to appreciate Shakespeare. Expose children to great music at an early age and I believe they will learn the diference between great music and merely popular. That is not to say that people will not continue to like rock music but they will know and appreciate the difference.

August 6, 2006 at 08:40 PM · David Kennedy wrote: "Still I have grown quite frustrated at seeing orchestras struggling financially while rock bands draw the big crowds and the dollars."

Well, when Fender Teles & Strats, Gibson Les Pauls, and Rickenbakkers start selling for 3 or 4 million dollars apiece, we might see the scales balance a little better.

Some folks got more money than sense. You'll have that, from time to time."

August 6, 2006 at 10:29 PM · How can we expect modern audiences to appreciate the subtleties of Bach when they have never known the joys of doing Baroque dance or lived the Baroque lifestyle?

Similarly, I've heard modern day teenagers call Joe Satriani "old school".

The world has gone through one of its most major social upheavals in the 20th century, and it's no surprise that the music from the time relates on such a broad scale to people who have lived through it.

August 6, 2006 at 11:03 PM · Well there are definately some bursts selling for half a million now. A few rare ones like the African burst are going for dangerously close to $500,000.

August 7, 2006 at 01:43 AM · >Have you ever tried dancing to classical music? I have, and although it is a good exercise in trying to understand the music, it probably risks being certified as a lunatic.

Um, it's called a ballet dancer.


Terez, the lunatic

August 7, 2006 at 02:07 AM · If that's all it takes to be cerifiable, sheesh, where do I pick up my certificate?

August 7, 2006 at 02:55 AM · rock is popular because it is marketed as being easy to listen to, easy to learn, and 'not your parents' music' - in other words, accessible and made for juveniles. and there is a decidedly luddite strain in rock that prevents it from ever becoming overly-sophisticated. whenever rockers decide they want to become musically prolific, a movement such as punk or rap comes along and forces rock back into its 3:30 @ track, 'three chords and the truth' mold.

another observation that may be overlooked in this thread: classical music's best pieces have already been written. to a rock fan that may indicate that classical music is a thing of the past. rock has the hope that there will be a new classic to add to its canon. on the other hand, modern classical pieces are debuted and quickly relegated to obscurity. there is little appeal for modern classical compositions even within classical audiences.

August 7, 2006 at 03:47 AM · I like classical - but sometimes I get so tired of it. I usually will listen to anything except classical most of the time because I practice and study it... and I'm in orchestra and quartets... and just listening to it drives me crazy so I sometimes need to balance out what I listen to (Indie, Pop, Acoustic, Rock, etc).

I think Rock is more popular - or any other genre of music.. because you can have more fun sometimes listening to it (the beat, the concept of the song)... and for the most part - all of the songs are under 5 minutes long compared to a Mahler Symphony!!!!!!! Most peoples attention spans don't last long anyways!

-Just an observation

August 7, 2006 at 05:47 AM · I'm always amazed by the low performance standards in rock music today. Every time I watch a band on the Tonight Show or Conan I have to either turn down the volume or change the channel because it's so bad...even with groups that I like.

The most I've paid for a classical music concert ticket was $40 and it was Perlman playing Tchaikovsky in Pittsburgh (an amazing performance). The most I've paid for a rock concert was $50 for Ozzfest tickets. I left Ozzfest with a headache and no hearing...

August 7, 2006 at 07:00 AM · The most I have paid for a rock concert was 35 english pounds for vengerov in london. He had groupies and everything....

August 7, 2006 at 12:27 PM · One of the issues here is education. In particular, the question of rhythm. To me, there is more rhythm (variety, excitement, syncopation, etc.) in classical music than there is in rock. I find rock rhythmically boring. It's just that for most people, they don't listen for it in classical music; they're not listening for rhythm, so they don't hear it or feel it. And rock and popular music pounds the rhythm on your head so that you can't miss it. You have to listen for it in classical music, but once you hear it, it gets into your blood and never leaves. I find that when people are made aware of the fact that classical music has rhythm, too, they hear it. The two kinds of music are much more similar than they are different, so it's not really a big step to go from one to the other.


August 7, 2006 at 12:58 PM · (speaking an an English person who grew up not interested in music at all until I played rock guitar at 15) I think the problem with classical music is that it has so many connotations attatched to it. As soon as you hear it, it sounds so different from pop+rock that many people cant stand to hear a few seconds of it because of what it is portrayed as (ie posh music, snobbish etc). Also it sounds so 'old'. Imagine if you walked down the street in 18th century dress, what kind of reaction would you get? Everybody today(except us lot) is obsessed with fashion and belonging to the trendy crowd, especially when you are growing up. I see classical music as something that only people who play an instrument and who really appreciate music listen too. Or if your ancient and grew up listening to heifetz on the radio. Personally I got into it because of the sheer beauty of the Beethoven concerto. But I had to be forced to hear it at music college, and for the first few times I was thinking, what the hell is this? Its pretty hard to understand at first. Unless david beckham takes up violin and becomes the next perlman, I cant see classical music ever having mass appeal.

Also we need someone to come along with some fresh ideas ala the next kreisler, who is actually playing their own music and bringing something new to the scene. Im sick of hearing the latest Tchaikovsky concerto by mr/miss xxx. Im all for interpretations that add something new but why record so many near-identical versions of one piece. Surely this is marketing suicide? But to answer the original question, I actually teach guitar and absolutely love playing it, it is so easy and fun to play. Its an instrument that you can make a great sound from right away. Also cranking up a marshall amp and blasting out some riffs is intensely satisfying (Its a fun way to make a living). I very rarely listen to rock though, I adore most of the classical repertoire. Enough anyway im off to practice some mozart....

August 7, 2006 at 06:00 PM · OK, I'm wrong, you can dance to some classical music, but it tends to be heavily choreographed and not exactly spontaneous.

Apologies Terez, no offence meant, but most of us have not been exposed to the disciplined training required of ballerinas, so are never going to look as elegant. The dancing I refer to is the kind of stuff that anyone can do in a night club or rock concert, that doesn't require anything more complicated than move to the left, move to the right, and repeat adnauseum, and which is really comfortable, (but oh so boring to watch).

And Preston, I did once attend a Baroque dancing workshop and would like to attend more. What surprised me was the shere athleticism required to leap and also land in time the music. It was almost, dare I say it, balletic!

I was at the London Proms last week and didn't see anyone getting up and dancing, and of course wouldn't have expected them to. Even those who were standing in the stalls, were just doing that, not even swaying but just standing....obviously saving it all up for the last night!

August 7, 2006 at 08:46 PM · Tis is why we nrrd to trash the strad and get an electric violin!!!!!!!!!!!!! Look at Vanessa Mae she is super rich and Kennedy he became really famous and wealthy when he started doing pop/rock and jazz albums.

August 7, 2006 at 11:34 PM · Personally, I don't care how much money they're making and how big a following they have. I just find most rock music boring. Oh, some of it is ok, even great. There is a little bit of it I like and that I think rises to the level of art. But compared to classical music, it just doesn't do it for me. I'm not saying I'm better than anyone else or more sophisticated or that I have better taste than anyone else. I know people a lot more wealthy and a lot more intelligent than I am who love rock music and find classical music boring. But I find it rhythmically tedious, predictable, stereotyped, unexciting, and unimaginative. They substitute showpersonship, loudness, speed, pseudo-profound lyrics, and rhythmic overkill for genuine musical thought. And if I hear one more song with the lyrics, "Hey, baby, C'mon baby," I think I'm going to puke. (Well, not really.) You want rhythm that makes the typical rock song sound like Chopsticks? Try the last movement of the Bartok Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta. Now THAT rocks.


August 8, 2006 at 12:14 AM · "They substitute showpersonship, loudness, speed, pseudo-profound lyrics, and rhythmic overkill for genuine musical thought."

This just shows you don't know rock. It's the same thing as Toni talking about classical.

August 8, 2006 at 12:13 AM · I didn't say I know anything about rock. I just said that my own personal reaction is that I find it boring. Nothing personal. Other people love it and find a lot in it. Great. It just never did anything for me, and I find a lot of it pretentious, a lot more so than classical music is often accused of. But that's me. I don't claim to speak for anyone else.


August 8, 2006 at 12:19 AM · If it's just your perception, then I guess it half mitigates the statement. But you still don't know anything about rock :)

August 8, 2006 at 12:17 AM · I didn't say I did, Jim. Maybe my reaction is indeed out of ignorance. But I grew up in the 50's and watched the rock and roll movement for a long, long time. It never moved my like it did almost all of those around me. I don't know why, because my musical listening skills became very acute very early in life. It's always been classical music that came alive for me, and rarely popular music of any kind. Like I said, I think that's just me. I definitely did not have the same musical interests as most of my friends, ever. Go figure.


August 8, 2006 at 12:31 AM · I was pretty involved in both, and more. To me it's just a matter of quality. Different trains to the same station. Same with music I know nothing about and wouldn't affect me I'm sure, e.g. the subtleties of a balalaika choir... I've been accused of putting "novelties" on the same level as classical, but it's not that. The so-called novelties just aren't understood as fully by the person saying that.

August 8, 2006 at 12:30 AM · Hey, that's cool. I have spent years, decades, listening to the rock, jazz, popular, folk, Broadway shows, movie music, etc. in the so called "popular" culture around me. I think I have honestly tried to be open to what it is. I've gone through periods of really liking some of it, but it just never has lasted. I always come back to classical music, and it always opens up depths for me. Like I said, I don't think this makes me better than anyone else. I think that at this late point in life, I have to conclude that it's just me. And if it causes me to take a few pot-shots at rock music and such for the fun of it sometimes...hey, if you can't take the heat, etc. Some of these rock people and their music really are more pretentious than the most stuck-up classical music freak. I'm not saying classical music is better. Part of the reason it doesn't have the same popularity as rock is that when you go to a rock concert you are having fun; when you go to a classical concert you are going to a religious service and are expected to behave properly. I remember when Yehudi Menuhin shocked the classical world by defying convention and actually playing an encore at (I think) Carnegie Hall. Shocking. Well, maybe classical music needs a little more spontaneity and to let its hair down a little. But it's still the music I love the most. Actually, I envy people who like all different kinds of music. I think they have a wider pallette and a richer musical experience in life. But, as I said, I am who I am. And, by the way, I really appreciate your unique point of view on things; you have a way of juggling things up and questioning a lot of things people take for granted. It is refreshing and thought-provoking.



August 8, 2006 at 12:44 AM · Thank you, but I can't take credit for it. I was hit in the head as a toddler:)

August 8, 2006 at 12:46 AM · So was I. I guess we were both hit on different parts of the brain.

August 8, 2006 at 09:36 AM · I still feel bad that you took my usage of the word "novelty" the wrong way, Jim. It wasn't what I meant at all.

August 8, 2006 at 09:58 AM · Oh yeah! You said it too. What did you mean then? Hmm I guess you meant "novelty" with a small "N" :))

April 14, 2008 at 06:06 AM · rock music is just repetitive chords and nonlogical improvisations so u dont have to spend years to learn, u just pick up the guitar and learn the very basic stuffs. but since most people are musical illiterate (by that i mean they dont even know what is circle of fifth), they find rock much more exciting...

April 14, 2008 at 08:15 AM · Why would not knowing what the circle of fifths is have anything to do with a preference for rock music? likewise, why would knowing what a circle of fifths is make you prefer classical music? Even more absurd, would you think if you teach a rock fan what a circle of fifths is that they will then no longer like rock music anymore?

I very much doubt it's that simple.

April 14, 2008 at 02:17 PM · It occurred to me that rock might be the most complicated thing there is, especially if you consider context. Ok, it might come in second to the particle accelerator at CERN. Especially if they're really worried about annihilating the solar system by creating a mini-black hole.

April 14, 2008 at 04:47 PM · Consider Yngwie Malmsteen. He's probably at least as successful as, say, Perlman, but how many actually know who he is? He does present considerable skill, though not, perhaps, the depth of Zukerman or Hahn, yet not anywhere near the incompetence of the typical rock axe man.

It's a demonstration of how marketing trumps product quality. As a business model it makes sense to find a way to package and sell a dozen low tech sources instead of focusing on a high tech source that would only sell about as well as one of the low tech sources. The consumer isn't sensitive to the difference, on the average.

April 14, 2008 at 06:03 PM · Consider that MTV and VH1 and other media venues create the demand for rock and pop on some levels. Not all entertainment is art, and not all art is entertaining. The goal of many popular musicians is to entertain, almost as theatre, a shared spectacle of sorts. (Read "Society of the Spectacle" if interested.) Rock/pop is held to a much lower standard of technical precision ie: excellence than many classical artists and records. For example, a pop singer might do a CD with 1 or 2 "hits", and then fill in with a bunch of lack luster pieces. On classical recordings, every piece is a "hit" of sorts, or high water mark, so it would be fair to say more difficult to perform due to the expectations. There is also a history of great artists playing the same material and setting the bar higher and higher. A recording/performance must continually exceed or be so unique and creative as to stand out against so many performances. Where you see "new" more classical forms are in movie scores. They make a lot of money. You seldom see concerts of these artists however if they are not attached to a movie or TV score.

These celebrities also hire publicists who day and night put their name out for name recognition. The music is expedient in that many rock performers need a fraction of the discipline to be considered "great" than say a violin soloist or elite chamber music group. The material is easy to record when compared to trying to mix an orchestra for example. In the end there is no MTV for classical music that shows new music that is being released. You have to look for it. Financially, there is a limited audience and many great recordings fly below the radar of the media racket out there. I read a recent article about John Edwards. It said that his main problem as a candidate was that he was not a phenomena, a "wonder". When I see posts about why so-and-so is not famous, I always think of that logic and it makes sense in a society obsessed with celebrity.

April 14, 2008 at 06:30 PM · "Consider that MTV and VH1 and other media venues create the demand for rock and pop on some levels."

Haha but NO.

MTV isn't about music. It is legalized pornography. VH1 is the same.

Rock and Pop basically diverged about 10 years ago. You can't lump them any longer. Not that you really could before, except that much of pop was watered-down rock, and rock was popular. Now, rock isn't popular.

April 15, 2008 at 01:13 PM · "Classical music is healthier. It is for the wise and elite of society. I am proud to be one of the diminishing classical music fans." WHAAAT????

Pardon to all who posted messages after this statement, for it has stopped me dead in my tracks. I am proud to not think this way and hopefully that does not diminish my love of classical music.

The predominant thought in this thread seems to be that classical music is high art, and rock music is low art? This is precisely the reason that we can't get people to go to classical concerts anymore. The attitude that we are better than any other kind of music makes everyone stay away.

There is an ugly side of popular music that encompasses a fascination with lifestyle, coolness, fashion, partying, etc. I believe that comes out of peoples need of escapism. It is so much more fun to watch someone in and out of rehab while at the same time maintaining a flawless figure, a super-hot boyfriend, and is dressed by the best designers; than it is to watch your own life which encompasses mostly work work work, rest, and more work.

Rock music appeals to people because

1. It is accessible - you don't have to go farther than your radio to hear it, unlike classical music of which there is very little on the radio and nobody knows what they're listening to anyway and probably have to wait a good 20 minutes before the announcer guy tells you.

2. It is siple to understand and do. Come on people - what's wrong with learning the guitar quickly? My husband knows how to play 7 chords on his guitar and can spend hours playing countless of his favorite songs. He gets real satisfaction of being able to do that, as well as having that musical release that we all know is such a high! If I showed him the first note of Beethoven 5 he wouldn't know what to do, and he'd end up frustrated and bored.

3. It's poetry. I'm a huge Bob Dylan fan amongst others of course. What's wrong with liking poetry in the english language?

4. It is current and relevant to the listener. A person wants to identify with music.... it is the voice of who we are. Classical musicians can find that relevance in the music we study but have no doubt that at the same time we are historians and not everyone is interested in history.

5. You can be yourself. This weekend I attended a Paul Simon concert titled "Under the African Sky" and the lead singer of Talking Heads was there, as well as great african and brazilian singers, percussionists, etc. True, each song had a very simple chord progression which to my ear can get a little monotonous, but people were on their feet, dancing, singing along, smiling, laughing, turning to their friend to say "how cool is this!" Is any of that possible at a classical concert? Pretty soon the ushers will be handing out a rules of conduct list with the programs, all the things you may not do during the concert. Rule #1 - no coughing.

Check out Eddie Vedder's solo album that was written as a soundtrack to the movie "Into the Wild" the poetry, and accoustic music is haunting and unforgettable. It may make you feel "human" and "stirred" but probably not "wise" or "elite" thank goodness.

April 15, 2008 at 03:03 PM · considering the confusion over terminology defining pop or rock and such, i would group it all under non-classical vs classical.

as some have pointed again and again, esp marina with gusto:), it is really a bad form to pin classical against non-classical. if i sleep in a shelter and eat in soup kitchen, what is the point of pondering upon why low life rock stars are millionaires, why attendence for classical is down...? it is pretty stupid if you ask me:). if you really want to know why? go to college and take Eco 101.

what i think may be of meaning to classical musicians is to ask: can kids starting on classical benefit from selective listening of non-classical music?

i think the answer is yes. for beginning classical students, phrasing and rhythm tend to be a challenge. many have issues with letting go and expressing the inner self musically. have you ever seen intellectuals with iq over 120 cannot find any beat on a dance floor? i have, with dread! :)

often, with non-classical music it is easier for some to approach and comprehend those concepts. if the cherries are on the branch in your face,,i say, take it and use it! a skewed diet of only classicals is very very bad for your health! :):):)

April 15, 2008 at 03:10 PM · "Is the electric guitar easier to master than symphony instruments?"

I play both electric guitar and violin (to a much lesser extent), and in my opinion the answer is no, any more than the piano is easier than violin because there's no vibrato. A well-played electric guitar has as much expression for solos as a violin, with the added complexity of being able to play more notes at a time than violin.

The problem I sense here is jealousy over popularity, not anything having to do with the instruments per-se. The modern classical world is a museum, cherry picking the best pieces over centuries, and then snubbing modern music, overlooking the fact that the vast majority of the "classical" music ever composed isn't played anymore because it most of it pales in comparison to the old favorites.

As an example of an accomplished electric guitarist I would point you to Steve Vai, who has toured with money makers with little artistic merit such as David Lee Roth and Whitesnake, and then gone on to both compose and perform works for orchestra, such as in the world premiere of composer Ichiro Nodaira's Fire Strings, a concerto for electric guitar and 100-piece orchestra.

As to the future of music, I point you to Little Kids Rock, where Steve Vai sits on the board of directors, and they provide free musical instruments and instruction to underfunded public schools:

"All music is made up of the exact same building blocks. The music of Beethoven, the Beatles and Beyonce all use the same basic notes and chords. Looked at through this lens, musical genres become a secondary considerations for education. A student who feels comfortable playing rock, funk or blues music will be well equipped to begin studying other musical forms as their musicianship grows. "

In my opinion "classical" music would be better served from better integration with modern music of all types.

April 15, 2008 at 05:05 PM · "Rock music appeals to people because


2. It is siple to understand and do. "

Sometimes I really want to fly into a rage...

But force myself to just be amused or feel sorry instead.

April 15, 2008 at 05:08 PM · alright jim,,,

if jim can understand it, anyone can! :)

April 15, 2008 at 05:16 PM · much more to all this than meets the eye.

April 15, 2008 at 05:23 PM · You're right of course Jim. I think it's just another fine example that the dumbing down has now reached the stage that for so many there is only black and white. Greys don't exist.

Simple reasons for simple people.*


* Who can spot where this line was adjusted from?

April 15, 2008 at 10:09 PM · I don't know if it's dumbing down, since it's always been this way. Maybe it isn't a bad thing. No worse than it ever was anyhow.


"If I want to be intellectually stimulated or be moved emotionally it has to be classical. After fooling around on my friends' guitar for 15 minutes I was able to play the intro to Sweet Child of Mine and I have no guitar training whatsoever. I just have a great ear thanks to my classical upbringing. "

My grandma was able to play the intro to Beethoven's 5th after only 5 minutes, with no violin training whatsoever, and she's stone deaf.


April 15, 2008 at 06:41 PM · Classical and non-classical: They just have different business models in the end maybe. The classical equivalent of the Sex Pistols would never get a recording contract and therefore never be heard and never get famous like Johnny Rotten or Sid Vicious. The business model for classical is stodgier and therefore less of the music is heard and then sold on CDs etc. One is not necessarily lower or higher. One is just sold in "bulk" and the other isn't. Sorry for the goofey metaphore. Therein the source of my MTV VH1 analogy. Classical recordings hover around the big 5 and certain conservatories and a few new soloist are almost annointed contracts from the recording industry. ELP for example recorded some Coplin and that was on a rock album. A huge audience heard their music compared to classical recordings. There is the answer maybe to "why is so and so not more famous..." Maybe their potential audience doesn't know they exist.

April 15, 2008 at 07:05 PM · Perhaps if Yo Yo Ma bit the head off a chicken at the end of a concert...

Or if Joshua Bell would gyrate his hips while playing such as Elvis did...

It would also be waay too obvious to pass joints around during a sit down symphony performance.

Trying to visualize a mosh pit in Carnegie Hall...

April 15, 2008 at 08:46 PM · I agree with using 'non classical' instead of Rock, cause it should include many genres...

IMHO, it's not about genres, it's about quality...It seems that certain level of musical knowledge is needed to fully appreciate music of above average complexity and beauty. Unfortunatedly, that level of education is reached only by a very tiny minority in the population.

That would be the explanation of how people with so low musical level (examples...Britney Spears or most rap singers in the US, most Reggaeton 'musicians' in latin america, with simple tunes repeated over and over and labeled as 'songs') can sell their 'music' that much.

And again, this is seen in any genre of popular music.

Even within the classical music happens something like that...Vivaldi's Four Seasons has and edge over Bach's Chaconne regarding popularity, isn't it?

IMO, if some approaches like the venezuelan 'El sistema' or what is done in UK (they admit to have copied the venezuelan system to take that to the UK and they'll have a ton of money in budget increase, even in there's a link about it), could enhance tha musical knowledge in general population, setting a better scenario for classical music or rich&complex music of other genres to be better appreciated, don't you think?

April 15, 2008 at 08:23 PM · Okay, this may offend some people, but I feel like it's the truth on this subject. Comparing the vast majority of rock or pop music out there to classical is like comparing basic math to college level calculus. I do enjoy rock, but I know what it's there for-easy listneing. If I want to be intellectually stimulated or be moved emotionally it has to be classical. After fooling around on my friends' guitar for 15 minutes I was able to play the intro to Sweet Child of Mine and I have no guitar training whatsoever. I just have a great ear thanks to my classical upbringing. The violin has frets, guitar has no frets. The violin has a bow, the guitar has a pick. The violin has the most awkward position of all to acheive comfort, and consequentally, attaining such a position and level of comfort has an enormous affect on your progress. For the guitar, you just lay it across your leg or it can hang from your shoulders by straps. And electric guitar is much easier than acoustic guitar, or at least my guitar playing friends all think that. And when any of them try my violin, they just put it down after a couple minutes and shake their head in bewilderment. It would take me weeks to get them to play in tune with proper position and a decent sound. And I do love the guitar by the way, I have plans of learning this summer.

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