All Classical Music Sounds the Same?

October 4, 2004 at 02:43 AM · how much does it irritate you when someone says all classical music sounds the same? from a scale of 1 to 10...and none of that "just let them be they dont understand" stuff...this must eat up EVERY classical music lover one way or another...im a 10...i just everyone to understand my connection to Tchaikovsky's music...it drives me wild if i cant show someone the beauty of classical music even if i try...*frustrated* help come back to sanity

Replies (51)

October 3, 2004 at 08:37 AM · i just want everyone*

October 3, 2004 at 08:38 AM · help me come back*

(see how frustrated i am...i cant even form sentences)

October 4, 2004 at 03:50 AM · I'm not sure about all music sounding alike, but you westerners all LOOK alike...LOL

October 4, 2004 at 04:29 AM · LOL...I hate to say this...but there's an awful lot of classical music out there that does sound alike...and lot that isn't very good...;)

October 4, 2004 at 04:30 AM · In my opinion most new music compositions sound the same; horrendous. Lot's of these composers are simply politicans to me. They are able to sell a non product pretty much. I am a strong advocate against bad new music. I feel as long as this kind of music is written by these "composers" and supported by the classical music world some possible new fans of our field could be turned away.

October 4, 2004 at 04:52 AM · i feel the same about classical. i dont blame people for saying a lot of it is boring, because the fact is it is. turn on the classical station and what is on? bland songs with no exciting theme. the worst is serialism, i cannot begin to describe my hate for it.

why would complexity of music matter when your playing live? its fine for learning more about music itself but I cannot fathom sitting through a 12 minute song with randomly generated chromatism. its just not realistic.

on the other hand, there is a lot of great classical out there, I'm a big fan of Bach. I love his themes and intriguing songs, that are actually fun to play.

so bad composition usually ruins the genre, not just 12 tone scales either-people out there can make normal scales extremely boring.

i forgot the name of the song but it was one of those contemporary composers, and for about 5 minutes there was a bunch of notes coming at constant 8th notes-epitomizing boredom.

whenever I make music, it ALWAYS has to be the very best and epic I can make it. I do not know how people come up with such compositions that are so bland.

October 4, 2004 at 07:09 AM · N.A. Mohr - what 'classical' music are you referring to?

It is unfair to dismiss a lot of modern music on the basis of misunderstanding it - it is obviously not designed for aesthetes, but serialism (for example) follows in a logical development of Western classical music - and Schoenberg was a very good composer. He definitely knew what he was doing.

Carl.

October 4, 2004 at 02:11 PM · At the risk of being run out of town ;), here are examples of works I've listened to recently (the recordings I've now listened to several times to give them a chance) and that I still find...dull...to the extreme...

1. Walton: Violin and Viola Concertos (Nigel Kennedy). This seems a very popular work among classical musicians...but I can't stay awake...

2. Shostakovich: Cello sonata Op. 40 (arr. for viola) and Viola Sonata Op. 147. A few bits and pieces of interesting material...essentially lost in an ocean of boring.

3. I don't have the specific pieces at hand...from a concert I attended last weekend... but a trio and quartet by Dvorak (and I'm usually a fan). However the quintet was delightful.

October 4, 2004 at 02:20 PM · I'm obviously still missing some 'essential' understanding of what's hot and what's not.

It seems heresy to say 'I don't like classical music' or to have that opinion dismissed as uneducated. And maybe, coming from someone with absolutely no background in anything classical it is...but regardless there is something about the classical music they've listened to that just didn't draw them in at all. And rightly or wrongly the classical music world has lost a potential listener.

I don't have a strong classical background. However, I play the violin, viola, mandolin and have figured out the basics of the piano. My kids play the oboe, flute and tenor sax. We're currently in big classical 'phase'.

I also have for what it's worth...a couple of University classes in Music (Basics and History).

With this background I'd like to think that my opinion isn't entirely uneducated. But maybe I'm wrong. However, if the average audience participant needs much more background than I have, I think the whole process is becoming very elitist...and not for the better.

However I also think it's wrong to just say that anything labelled 'classical' must be good and those that don't appreciate it just don't have the wherewithall to do so.

My daughter and I have been attending a fair number of performances lately (despite being a small city with very sad shopping ;) we have a surprisingly active music community). As I look around the audience I'm already recognizing the same small group of die-hards. It seems a pity that all the years of learning and practicing needed to get to the point where you can perform credibly in public draw such a small audience.

If so many of the works aren't 'boring' - why isn't the audience larger?

...now, give me a minute to head for cover...:D

October 4, 2004 at 04:35 PM · It's true that the audience for classical music is much smaller than (I think) it could be with better marketing. But 'classical' music, by its very definition, is art music -- as opposed to popular music. This isn't to say that classical music can't be popular, it's just that some of it is an acquired taste, just like Cubism or dada.

The mistake that I think is made too often by the music world is to try and guess what the public will like. Many times I've been surprised by the willingness of an audience to go on a journey of discovery with you.

Just two quick examples: way back when, my student quartet was asked to do a runout concert at a retirement center. The only piece we had ready was Bartok no. 1. We thought that it would be a disaster -- giving these people heart attacks when all they wanted to do was listen to some pretty music. But they responded enthusiastically, even though most of them had never heard the piece before.

Another such experience happened with my quartet recently, playing a sequenza by Hildegard von Bingen (for a wedding processional, no less). We were sure that only the bride was going to like it, since she had requested it. But the people at the wedding enjoyed it so much that we played it again during the cocktail hour.

There are pieces that grab you on a visceral level right away, and there are pieces that take a few listenings to get to know them. It's difficult for us as musicians to decide in advance which ones the public will like, so our only choice is to play them and let the people choose. That's the only way to find the music that's not 'boring'.

October 4, 2004 at 04:34 PM · Your points are very fair.

It is my belief that sometimes the best things take time to appreciate - and the things which can instantly be appreciated (aesthetically) sometimes seem superficial after a while. Coffee, for a lot of people, disgusts at first. But after a while, it becomes essential.

One of the things I love about composers like Brahms, Beethoven, Sibelius etc etc is that you can listen to the same works many times and keep finding things that are new and special.

It is also very important to distinguish between 'classical' music (in the loose meaning of the term) and 'popular' music, and how 'popular' music developed.

Essentially, classical music can be structurally, harmonically, and sometimes (though not necessarily) rhythmically more complex than a lot of popular music. There are of course many exceptions. I don't profess to know much about 'popular' music, but I think it is fair to say that the structure and harmony is generally predictable. What makes Shostakovich (for example) really interesting music is that he altered form, harmonic language and structure in subtle ways to suit his ideas of musical expression. Thus, to really understand a lot of classical music, you need to become really familiar with the medium, and sometimes it is necessary to listen to a piece several times to really understand and appreciate it.

Of course it takes time to do this - and it isn't as instantly gratifying to listen to a Shostakovich sonata as it is a Puccini aria - but patience really does lead to great things.

Carl.

October 4, 2004 at 05:04 PM · To be honest, I thought 'classical' i.e. orchestrated stuff sounded all the same when I didn't play the violin. But as soon as I took up the violin, I just seemed to do the exact opposite. I think it's because not many people take instruments seriously or have the money to take one up therefore they don't feel involved in the music. When I was just playing the piano I thought orchestrated stuff to be very dull but when I took up the violin all the tunes that the string section played just seemed to involve me more and I started to enjoy it more. Ya, I think you get the idea. :P

One-Sim :)

October 4, 2004 at 05:48 PM · I definitely get a 10 on the annoyance list...

because all classical music doesn't sound the same. People who say it does can't be listening to it too closely. There is 'good' and 'bad' classical music - what defines it as one or the other is based on the individual listener - but please, don't say it all sounds the same.

However, with a few exceptions, when I listen to my brother's rock music, a bunch of that music seems to sound the same to me. Then, after I listen to it for a few days - or by the end of his vacation - I can really get into it. Then it takes awhile for me to re-adjust to classical.

I wonder if classical and rock music are musically exclusive?

October 4, 2004 at 07:51 PM · I used to think all celtic jigs sounded pretty much the same, until I really got to know some better. I used to think a country music sounded the same - until I got to know some songs better. I used to think that all accordian music sounded the same, until I got to know it better. Obviously these people who think all classical music sounds pretty much the same just need to hear a lot more of it.

October 4, 2004 at 08:06 PM · ...of course...but if your initial response to classical music is that you don't like it ...you're not going to make the effort to listen to more of it...

...I hate canned spinach - even after one taste...yet, I have tried to like canned spinach...I am open to liking canned spinach...I have tried various brands of canned spinach...but I cannot overcome my inital dislike to canned spinach...and I would take it very badly if someone insisted I were a lesser mortal for not liking canned spinach...

:)

October 4, 2004 at 09:50 PM · Ah, yes, but would you try some fresh spinach sauteed in olive oil, garlic, butter, dash of salt and pepper, or a spash of balsamic vinegar?

People hate classical music much of the time because they haven't been properly exposed to it. I thought I hated sweet potatoes, but it was the can I hated, not the potato.

October 4, 2004 at 09:56 PM · That sounds quite tasty actually.

Carl.

October 4, 2004 at 10:14 PM · ...well, you got me there...I do like fresh spinanch...and I don't mind fresh spinach cooked...

...it's the canned stuff I can't get past...:D

October 4, 2004 at 11:27 PM · joseph, it depends what rock were talking about. if were talking about pentatonic rock, then yes it is very exlusive, but there is music that has classical licks and such (neoclassical being a prime example).

And its true that music shouldnt always be made for people, but when your playing for people OF COURSE your gonna want to care for them. everything then changes.

I dont believe the more bland composers would listen to their own music.

It's hard for me to understand how they can ramble on for 10+ minutes, because i've always thought that EVERY bar of a composition must have a specific purpose and be musically enthralling, at least that is my work ethic.

October 4, 2004 at 11:34 PM · in an attempt to not generalize, i will say that from my experience, every person that i know to be truly intellectual individual either listens to or highly respects/understands classical music. Im almost positive i can generalize about everyone...but then again...i dont know everyone!

October 4, 2004 at 11:44 PM · ...sounds like a definition for elitism...

October 5, 2004 at 06:52 AM · If listening to classical music is elitist, then so is reading great literature. It can be life changing if it is given time - so don't shy away from Dostoyevsky or Brahms because it's more difficult to understand (or more 'intellectual') than watching TV or listening to rock music.

Heck, if that's what elitism means, then I'm all for it.

Carl.

October 5, 2004 at 07:10 AM · I do think this "debate" is in danger of becoming ... "I listen to and enjoy classical music therefore I am more intellectual than you.."

Enjoyment of music is very personal, and although I can understand peoples frustration with someone who claims not to like classical music "because it all sounds the same", but at the end of the day if they don't like it, they don't like it. They shouldn't be condemned because you think that they're not "intellectual" enough to understand it. That's not elitism (in my book) thats prejudice!

October 5, 2004 at 12:56 PM · "If listening to classical music is elitist, then so is reading great literature. It can be life changing if it is given time - so don't shy away from Dostoyevsky or Brahms because it's more difficult to understand (or more 'intellectual') than watching TV or listening to rock music.

Heck, if that's what elitism means, then I'm all for it.

Carl. "

Well, that's certainly not what I was implying. Elitism implies exclusivity. I don't like suggestions that someone must be a moron if they don't like everything that is labelled as 'classical'. I'm also saying that not all classical music is good. And just because something is labelled as classical doesn't automatically elevate it to some pinnicale of musical excellence.

Martin Usher summed it up nicely. Thanks! :)

"I do think this "debate" is in danger of becoming ... "I listen to and enjoy classical music therefore I am more intellectual than you.."

Enjoyment of music is very personal, and although I can understand peoples frustration with someone who claims not to like classical music "because it all sounds the same", but at the end of the day if they don't like it, they don't like it. They shouldn't be condemned because you think that they're not "intellectual" enough to understand it. That's not elitism (in my book) thats prejudice! "

October 5, 2004 at 01:17 PM · ...btw...couldn't sleep last night...listened to Sarasate (played by James Ehnes)...luv it! ;)

October 5, 2004 at 08:18 PM · I certainly don't think that one has to be of great intelligence to enjoy classical music - but it is true that to really understand a Bach fugue or a Brahms symphony as anything more than a constant stream of pleasant sounds you have to be of a reasonable level of brightness. You certainly don't have to be a genius, but there's no denying that a lot of 'classical' music is more difficult for the average listener than pop music.

Is it really so bad that one has to be bright to understand some great music?

Carl.

October 5, 2004 at 08:31 PM · Mohr, you seriously need to give the Walton concertos another chance, especially the viola concerto, which is one of the best works for the instrument. I simply cannot understand how anyone would find that piece boring or dull, and am in fact rather offended by that comment. Try listening to Paul Newbauer's recording; it's much better than Kennedy's.

October 5, 2004 at 08:49 PM · "Is it really so bad that one has to be bright to understand some great music?

Carl. "

It's not bad...but I still think there are some unfortunate negative connotations some apply...:)

"Mohr, you seriously need to give the Walton concertos another chance, especially the viola concerto, which is one of the best works for the instrument. I simply cannot understand how anyone would find that piece boring or dull, and am in fact rather offended by that comment. Try listening to Paul Newbauer's recording; it's much better than Kennedy's"

Okay...I'll try Newbauer's version when I run across it...but there's nothing to be offended about by my finding it dull...

...LOL...obviously a sign of something...(bad?)...

...all joking aside...thanks for the reference...

October 5, 2004 at 09:39 PM · It takes a bit more intelligence to be able to write actual exciting music...

October 5, 2004 at 10:05 PM · Ed,

Nothing could be more true.

Carl.

October 6, 2004 at 09:38 PM · I think quite a bit of music styles sound the "same" until you get into them a bit, that's why its not fair to judge a particular style of music, until you've given it a good chance

October 7, 2004 at 01:07 PM · Hi everyone,

Whatever the comments may be, and whether they're correct or not, I think one thing's been forgotten. It all depends on what the listener can connect to, and what makes that person feel good. I mean, whenever I listen to "pop" music after a while, I think it all sounds the same. (of course I still can't stan more than 10 seconds of it). So it really depends on the person. Some of my friends who were long time pop listeners, told me that they were actually tired of pop music, and thought it had reached it's maximum rate(whatever that meant). And they actually asked me to suggest some classical music to them. So it really depends on what we feel when we listen to every genre of music.

Sheri

October 7, 2004 at 08:58 PM · I am a big classical music lover, and I don't think it's all the same. How I tell the difference between pieces is I close my eyes and see what kind of a picture it creates in my mind. See, people who aren't much into classical music don't go down enough into the music and hear the beauty. They can't hear the emotion, or the masterful playing. I guess us classical music lovers just see and hear the beauty, and take the time to notice the brilliance in it.

Sara

October 7, 2004 at 09:03 PM · And on a kind of different subject, here's something that pisses me off a lot: Why do we hear of homeless musicians who have incredible talent with a classical instrument (ex. violin), and these pop singers (ex. Britney Spears) who have no talent whatsoever and are making millions? Some things in this generation I just don't understand.

Sara

October 7, 2004 at 10:42 PM · Forgive my cynicism: Because a homeless guy fiddling away isn't sexy enough.

Carl.

October 7, 2004 at 11:41 PM · Greetings,

unless it`s Mattias,

Cheers,

Buri

October 8, 2004 at 01:13 AM · I almost have the opposite problem. Because I'm a teen and a serious violinist, most people think that I'm weird and that ALL the music I ever listen to is classical. Not true! I do love classical, but I also love almost all styles of music and even if I don't like some styles, I am able to appreciate the music. It gets frustrating when people think I'm so snobby and narrow-minded!

October 8, 2004 at 04:20 PM · I think some people like more complexity in their life than other people, so they are going to be drawn towards certain types of music, movie, food, etc. It depends somewhat on what you've been exposed to, and enjoying the complex does not necessarily preclude enjoying the simple. That is, you can get a buzz from Beethoven at one moment and The Clash at another without being certifiably schizophrenic.

October 8, 2004 at 06:23 PM · Or you can get a buzz from both at the same time -- witness the Moody Blues.

Actually, my favorite mix of classical tradition and popular music currently is Metallica's S&M album with San Francisco Symphony. Even though Michael Kamen was never one of my favorite film composers, he did a pretty good job of adding to the band's primal rhythms and tritone-laden chord structure. And it's great for getting your frustrations out.

October 8, 2004 at 07:52 PM · If you analyze this on a different level, you could say that all violins sound the "same" opposed to trumpets, drums, etc.

October 9, 2004 at 06:49 AM · Face it: the masses that make up populations are on average... Average. They go for sub-par music because they have average intelligence, and cannot relate to the high quality creations that come from geniuses like Bach and Beethoven. Be proud if you like classical music. Be discriminating in your selection. Not all "classical" composers were automatically brilliant, but music that has stood the test of time is more likely to be of higher caliber. There will be music from every generation and varying genres that meets this level of genius, so don't snob all contemporary creations. Just be aware that there's a lot of junk being pumped through the radio station to appease the masses of "average" people that have little understanding of music and what makes a high quality piece of music.

I compare it to the difference between dime-store romances and classic literature, or the difference between paint-by-number and museum art. Or wine coolers and a good vintage wine. You get it, right? I think it's perfectly fine to say you have better taste if you prefer Beethoven to Britney Spears. But it's okay to enjoy a box of Kraft mac n' cheese every once in a while too, just don't call it art.

October 9, 2004 at 07:26 AM · Various genres have their unique merits. Ignorance/time is more of the issue versus intelligence. Walking around with a superiority complex isn't going to help the "classical" dimension. Understand that people have their own tastes, and that even repetitive simplicity does have something to tell you ;-)

October 10, 2004 at 12:34 AM · Quote "Face it: the masses that make up populations are on average... Average. They go for sub-par music because they have average intelligence, and cannot relate to the high quality creations that come from geniuses like Bach and Beethoven. Be proud if you like classical music. Be discriminating in your selection"

I'm sorry Emily - i just can't agree. I find that there are many types of music that I connect with. The Beach Boys can make me as sad as the Sibelius violin concerto. Equally Red Hot Chili Peppers can make me as up beat as Beethoven's 3rd Symphony. Sometimes i think that "classical" musicians feel that they are better than "ordinary" people because they feel that what they listen to is more intellectual than others.

October 10, 2004 at 06:21 AM ·

October 10, 2004 at 08:26 AM · Martin, I kind of agree with Emily in some respects. If The Beach Boys can make you as sad as the Sibelius concerto - are you sure that you're listening to the Sibelius concerto on anything more than a superficial surface level? Some music can move us immediately, because superficially it sounds happy or sad or whatever. But sometimes there is a lot more to that music than the initial 'emotion' it produces.

So if you like Red Hot Chili Peppers, that's fine, but it is quite possible that you do so because you listen to music for very different reasons to me (I am under no circumstance claiming that my reasons are any more worthy than yours).

Look it this way: a few weeks ago, my brother was arguing that Bob Dylan's music was far greater than Beethoven's. Was he really talking about the music, or merely Bob Dylan's lyrics? If you stripped away the lyrics off music and just had someone singing the same notes but in ancient hebrew, would the music really stand equal next to Beethoven or Bach? I think that the problem in talking about music is these days lyrics are far too often confused with 'pure' music as such. I don't think you can truly say you appreciate the music (and strictly the music, not including the words) of Red Hot Chili Peppers unless you are prepared to listen to them forever more without lyrics.

Carl.

October 10, 2004 at 08:50 AM · Carl - i can appreciate some of what you say but I think my point is this: It's not that I think the Red Hot Chili Peppers write more intricate music than Bach, Beethoven, Sibelius etc that would be daft. What I think classical musicians (not wanting to make sweeping generalisations here!) get hooked up on is thinking that because Bach was a genius - that if the "average" chap (or chapess)doesn't like Bach it's because they don't "get" his music. And to be frank - Bach can bore the bejeezers out of me. I think i get annoyed over this particular subject because i've heard too many classical musicians dismiss people out of hand because they listen to dance music for example. What i dislike is the fact that immediatly i compare The Beach Boys to Siblelius for how they make me feel i am acused of being a sub standard classical musician - i must have only listened (or played for that matter) the sibelius on a superficial level. Anyway i'm going to leave it there because i must be getting boring now.

Right where did i leave that play along with The Beach Boys CD.......... ;-)

October 10, 2004 at 10:24 PM · Ha, I wrote some of that knowing that I would shake things up a little. I could have used more gentle persuasion, but I didn't feel like it after having come home from the coffee shop, which played the oldies station for two hours as I sat quilting and thinking of all the music that I would have preferred at that point.

I never once stated that any particular music was garbage. I bet you'd be surprised that my classical cd collection is miniscule compared to the number of techno cds I buy. I'm fascinated with the rhythmic layers, bass lines, and scraps of various sounds that can be assembled. I listen to Chemical Brothers, Crystal Method, Tom Petty, Foo Fighters, U2, and Cake, to name a couple off the top of my head. I don't even hate all oldies. Who can't say the Beatles came up with some pretty original, creative, amazing stuff? The Beach Boys have some pretty tight harmony, and they did an excellent job capturing the feel of the life of the California surfer in that time period. I find things to like in all kinds of music. I admire some artists' ability to capture certain moods or cultural/generational mindsets, for example.

I also don't feel the need to like every song of any particular compser/artist. Even Bach wrote a couple of which I'm not particularly fond.

My complaint is that so much airspace is wasted when radio stations all play a very narrow selection of unoriginal, sell-out music, when there's an infinite supply of creative, inspiring, well-written songs being overlooked. I draw the conclusion that this is because it's what the audience wants. Perhaps it's just that my local radio stations are bad.

Don't consider me an elitist just because I want something better than Britney Spears. I suppose I could reconsider the idea that everything I just mentioned could simply be my opinion and not fact, and that one could legitimately say that Britney Spears is every bit the caliber of Beethoven. The very thought of this makes my fingers cringe, though.

My unmarried name was Emily Steele, which is an anagram of "my elite else." I suppose deep down I really want to be elite. I refrain most of the time, though. :)

October 11, 2004 at 05:40 AM · I am a fan of techno too, its simple yet very inspirational.

as well as classic rock and the pentatonic scale. then theres Yngwie Malmsteen which I also enjoy (a music thats not palatable for many).

Of course I do believe there is music out there that is popular and very bad. there is bad classical as stated before as well.

One should never listen because of it's genre, but rather for it's individual melody.

October 11, 2004 at 06:36 AM · Did you consider what I said about lyrics? How is it possible to judge music by The Beatles (for example) against music by Bach if the basis for your judgement is a comparison of both the words and music of the Beatles against just the music of Bach? I firmly believe that if the lyrics were stripped away from pop music the music would often not stand on its own two feet. But that's just my belief, and perhaps I'm a snob, or an elitist, but that doesn't bother me one bit if it means I listen to the music I believe to be truly great. (By the way, I don't think all classical music is worth listening to - for example, I would under no circumstances have a desire to hear all of Vivaldi's concerti, and I think a lot of 'classics', such as Pachelbel's Canon are seriously overrated).

Carl.

October 11, 2004 at 08:02 AM · Pachabel's definitely overrated. Overused. Poor, worn-out cliche.

You know what gives me chills even when played poorly by a beginner student? The first movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. I don't know what it is about that piece, but it's magical and creepy and it never gets old, and it always casts a spell, as long as it's played ever so quietly, in whisper shades of indigo and grey. If a radio station were to play it, the respectable thing to do after the last note dies would be to just shut down and let there be uninterrupted silence.

That's an example of really good music.

October 11, 2004 at 08:24 AM · Sometimes when I am with friends that respect, but don't understand my link to classical music I do the following:

I have them listen to movie music: Star Wars, Schindler's List, all kinds of music. From there I will let them listen to programmatic music from the 4 Seasons to Shostakovich. Glass also does really wonders for a lot of people. Also I find, taking people out to concerts helps a lot. It is difficult for people to sit down in a chair and listen to music, often you will read a book or it will be some kind of background music. Classical music is too often used in one way or another as elevator music. However, bringing people into the concerthall is often eye opening. After the movie "shine" I took some friends to a concert where rachmaninoff 3 was played. From there we got into the Rachmaninofff Symphonies and from there the jump to Tchaikovsky was easily made.

However, if you ask your friends to come with you to a concert, you will have to show them that you are also interested in their music. To me all techno sounds the same, but sometimes I really do try to listen and understand why my brother likes it... And don't forget, sometimes people just don't like something. You will have to respect that, just as they will have to respect how much it means to you. Good luck!!!

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