Author Topic: Popular and Art music  (Read 5470 times)

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Ron

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Popular and Art music
« on: May 17, 2013, 08:14:22 AM »
The relationship between "serious" art music and popular music is one I have meditated on occassionally. The music I heard on the radio from 1955 to 1975 had a profound effect on me personally, colouring and helping to shape my musical--and other--thinking. I could, for example, happily listen to the sequence of C - A minor - F - G7 for hours, shading it with subtle--and not so subtle--colouring. Something like Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale" can play endlessly in my brain.

So, I was interested in Annie Lennox's recent address at Berklee: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SRy6AsgFno&feature=youtu.be
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Michel.R.E

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Re: Popular and Art music
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2013, 09:09:36 AM »
nice mix of the two worlds: Annie Lennox "Into the West"
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

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gogreen

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Re: Popular and Art music
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2013, 11:25:06 AM »
That message was pretty uplifting and inspirational for graduates--just as it should be. Brought back a lot of memories for me, too. Thanks for the link!

Ron, your comments really got me thinking!

This afternoon I was listening to Elvis Presley singles from the late 1950s and early 1960s and Beatles tunes from the first few albums. It made me confirm for myself what's a "classic." Artwork, music, literature and films become "classics" by their enduring popularity. Most of us know every word and musical inflection of those Elvis hits and Beatles songs. We never tire of this music, and we glean new insights hearing the music again and again. This quality, or qualities, defines "classics." A work becomes a "classic" by crossing this mysterious line somewhere, sometime.

I believe the same musical elements throughout history make works "good," and the kind of music or time when it was created doesn't matter. This idea applies equally to, say, Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven and to the Beatles and Elvis Presley (or to those who wrote and arranged the songs he performed). For this reason, I often switch between listening to, say, the Beatles, my favorite original Broadway cast show recordings, and a variety of orchestra ("classical") music. From all these different genres, I get the same aesthetic feelings because the elements of their "classic-ness" are the same.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2013, 11:27:52 AM by gogreen »

Ron

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Re: Popular and Art music
« Reply #3 on: May 23, 2013, 09:50:41 AM »
My wife Ann edited medical journals for a living. I help by checking out the citations (references) for her. This is an excellent opportunity for me to listen to music uninterrupted because reference checking is all mechanical (copy, paste, search).

This morning I listened to Paul Hindemith's "Symphony Mathis der Maler" on Michel's recommendation. Wonderful work, filled with intriguing developments. I estimated I had about 10 minutes' more checking to do in the current paper I was working on when it finished, so I picked Joe ****er's Woodstock performance of John Lennon's "With a Little Help from my Friends."

Now the Hindemith work was very satisfying on an emotional and intellectual level. The Lennon piece is hardly a challenge technically. Pretty straight forward, actually. But, I felt more strongly drawn emotionally to Lennon than to Hindemith. Odd how that works. Of course, a performance by Joe ****er is bound to be more emotional than a performance by a major symphony orchestra.

BTW, it is surprising--and somewhat discouraging--how often medical researchers get their references wrong. Now I know that they don't actually do their references themselves--that's what grad students are for--but, still, you'd think that in a field where accuracy is of critical importance....Scarey: sometimes research papers have errors that are corrected in later editions. If it weren't for me catching them, none of these "errata" would get reported.
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tbmartin

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Re: Popular and Art music
« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2013, 10:35:19 AM »
Off topic: Interesting how Joe's last name causes a problem in the internet age. Same reason my company blocked access to a site that was discussing a boring insurance regulation simply because the regulation had the bad luck of being "Regulation #30" and regulation titles are traditionally written in roman numerals. You do the math.

Back on topic: I'm often drawn to unusual chord changes, especially those that lead to a modulation. I've been know to hear one in a popular song and then try to do something similar in my own work. Not always with success, but at least I learn something in the process.
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Michel.R.E

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Re: Popular and Art music
« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2013, 10:35:58 AM »
We must listen to music very differently.

I can't get "more involved" in a pop recording than a classical one, unless the classical one is of really bad quality.

I can't think of a single piece of popular music, a "classic" or otherwise, that comes even ankle-high to Mathis der Maler.
And I don't even think that the Mathis symphony is necessarily one of the "great works" of the 20th century.

These Beetles tunes, they have catchy hooks, fun rhythms, etc... and they are imminently forgettable. It's just repetition, nothing develops, it's stated, it's repeated, it ends. I don't find anything noteworthy or stimulating in that. There is no room for it to build in your memory, for your understanding of the work to grow, to mature. There is nothing to learn from it.

It's like eating chips, or whipped cream... an immediate "pleasure", some sort of temporary satisfaction, but in the long run, it's empty, devoid of real depth.

I love the songs of ABBA. To me, those are "classic" pop songs. They're enjoyable, and often times, the refrains get stuck in my head for a good long while. But that's about it. After a few hours of hearing the chorus from "Lay All your Love on Me" trotting around in my head, repeatedly, it DOES get quite tiring.

I can't say the same for any piece of classical music. When I get a work I particular love trotting around in my head, I have LOTS of material to work with, I even have potential directions that the original composer didn't take. I sometimes find myself reworking, rewriting, and reinventing snippets of well-known classical repertoire in my head. There's no way that could happen with a pop song.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

Periwink

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Re: Popular and Art music
« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2013, 11:22:45 AM »
I think what makes 'good' music (or let's just say memorable music) is for the most part a 'catchy tune', whether you implement this tune in a classical, pop, or any other genre doesn't matter much when done right.

I agree that the music, in lines of melody/harmony/and rhythm, does not develop much in most pop music, though this is compensated by development in the form of lyrics. The emotional intensity in the Joe ****er performance comes from what he says.
Honesty doesn't serve the self; it serves the truth.
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Ron

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Re: Popular and Art music
« Reply #7 on: May 23, 2013, 12:53:14 PM »
Joe ****er's name was not filled with asterisks when I typed it.   ???
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gogreen

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Re: Popular and Art music
« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2013, 02:44:42 PM »
Quote
These Beetles tunes, they have catchy hooks, fun rhythms, etc... and they are imminently forgettable. It's just repetition, nothing develops, it's stated, it's repeated, it ends. I don't find anything noteworthy or stimulating in that. There is no room for it to build in your memory, for your understanding of the work to grow, to mature. There is nothing to learn from it.

It's like eating chips, or whipped cream... an immediate "pleasure", some sort of temporary satisfaction, but in the long run, it's empty, devoid of real depth.

I suppose we might define "depth" differently. Some people might find Blind Lemon Jefferson's music or Elmore James' material shallow and insignificant--I find some of it remarkably deep, satisfying, and lasting. For me, as I said, I understand the same "depth" in Mozart and Beethoven, for example, as I do in some "popular" music.

Ron

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Re: Popular and Art music
« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2013, 03:10:28 PM »
Ella Fitzgerald just had an outline of her music in the form of a jazz lead sheet, whereas Stephanie Blythe (Metropolitan Opera) has every note and articulation laid out for her. I'm not saying one is better than the other; but the musicianship of both is of the highest order. Yes, lots of "pop" music is like eating chips and whipped cream, but there is also a lot with depth, both musically and emotionally.
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gogreen

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Re: Popular and Art music
« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2013, 03:56:58 PM »
Quote
Yes, lots of "pop" music is like eating chips and whipped cream, but there is also a lot with depth, both musically and emotionally.

Yes! Thanks, Ron--that's exactly what I was trying to say. Now it's time to listen to Elmore James' "Dust My Broom." Now that's a classic!

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Re: Popular and Art music
« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2013, 04:41:31 PM »
Thanks Art. I did not know Elmore James, but what a journey that led me on:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKo80b-QfK0 Elmore James: the original

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIAl0qezGds Taj Mahal; deconstructed, reduced to the basics

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49Qdwlvf0FQ ZZ Top; musically the most experimental, but very brief.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAg-JBBty6w Erja Lyytinen; very cool, laid back.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yxo3_eysbsM Gary Moore; loved the guitar work and the little twists he put into the vocals.

Isn't the internet an amazing place. I did all that in an hour.





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Michel.R.E

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Re: Popular and Art music
« Reply #12 on: May 23, 2013, 04:53:07 PM »
the confusion/confrontation here is brought about by a difference in how we see/hear music.

I never take interpretation into consideration when judging the "worth/value" of a piece of music.

A great performer can make the must insignificant and trite piece of music seem "great". It doesn't elevate the music in any way.  It simply demonstrates artistry on the part of the performer.

"Musicianship" of a performer has absolutely nothing to do with the quality (the ability to be "a classic") of the music itself.

Popular music, abstracted from any performance, is inherently less complex, more formulaic, less original, and less deserving.

I am certain that Ella Fitzgerald could perform "Believe" with a bunch of her friends and make something interesting out of it.  It wouldn't change the fact that the song is the most insipid pap possible and has absolutely zero inherent qualities.

performance = one thing.
the music itself = a completely different thing.

"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

gogreen

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Re: Popular and Art music
« Reply #13 on: May 23, 2013, 05:02:34 PM »
@Ron: I understood immediately after listening to Elmore James' guitar work in "Dust My Broom" where Chuck Berry got his style. There sure are a lot of "Dust My Brooms" on YouTube! Ah, but ZZ Top brings back fond memories from long, long ago... Thanks for that research!

winknotes

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Re: Popular and Art music
« Reply #14 on: May 23, 2013, 06:22:22 PM »
For me the blend between classical and pop lies in jazz artists like Gil Evans Orchestra or Mel Lewis/Thad Jones or a jazz artist who lives locally and I've admired for years Steve Allee

Anyway for me there's usually, not always of course, some interesting counterpoint, development, interesting harmonic language and rhythmic interest and variety.  The development is not classical at least as I understand it.  There's not generally an exploration of remote keys unless a soloist ventures "outside" the prescribed chord changes. 

However I also understand that for some these types of pieces could be considered trite and that's fine.  I really can see both sides of the coin.   
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