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Classical music

Parent categories: classical - music

People: Claude Debussy - Johannes Brahms - Erik Satie - Igor Stravinsky

Related: art music - classic - tradition

In the early 20th century, African-American music such as ragtime and early jazz transformed American popular music but these genres also strongly influenced many European classical composers, especially the French composers Erik Satie, Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. Since the 1960s, jazz has steadily been accepted as a part of the Western canon, most classical music radio stations, such as Klara in Belgium, play jazz as a regular part of their programming. [May 2006]

Contrast with: folk music - popular music

The printing press paved the way for classical music -- Tyler Cowen


Johannes Brahms Classical Music: Of or relating to European music during the latter half of the 18th and the early 19th centuries.
Of or relating to music in the educated European tradition, such as symphony and opera, as opposed to popular or folk music.

The nature of classical music

In a Western context, "classical music" is a somewhat imprecise term, but there are a number of ways that classical music is identified. First, classical music is a written musical tradition, preserved in music notation, as opposed to being transmitted in recordings or as folklore. While differences between particular peformances of a classical work are recognized, a work of classical music is generally held to transcend any particular performance thereof. Works that are centuries old can be, and often are, performed far more often than works recently composed. The use of notation is an effective method for classical music because all active participants in the classical music tradition are able to read music. Normally, this ability comes from formal training, which usually begins with learning to play an instrument, and sometimes continues with instruction in music theory and composition. However, there are many passive participants in classical music who enjoy it without being able to read it or perform it.

Another important characteristic of classical music is that it is felt by many to represent a form of "high" culture. Particular works of classical music are often venerated, even to extremes--thus, for instance, the 18th century writer E. T. A. Hoffmann loved Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's music so much that he changed his middle name to Amadeus. Performances of classical music take place in a relatively solemn atmosphere, with the audience maintaining (ideally) silence during the performance, so that everyone can hear each note and nuance. The performers usually dress formally, a practice which is often taken as a gesture of respect for the music, and performers normally do not engage in casual banter or other direct involvement with the audience.

The other side of concept of "high culture", of course, is snobbery, and participation in classical music has for centuries been, for some, the result of a desire for prestige. Because classical music represents high culture, parents over the last several centuries have often made sure that their children receive classical music training. They are often motivated by a belief that such training will permit their children to lead richer, fuller lives; or by a belief that such training instills a useful sense of self-discipline.

Written transmission, along with the veneration bestowed on classical works, has important implications for the performance of classical music. To a fair degree, performers are expected to perform a work in a way that realizes the original intentions of the composer, which are often stated quite explicitly (down to the level of small, note-by-note details) in the musical score. Indeed, deviations from the composer's intentions are sometimes condemned as outright ethical lapses. Yet the opposite trend--admiration of performers for new "interpretations" of the composer's work, can be seen, and it is not unknown for a composer to praise a performer for achieving a better realization of the composer's original intent than the composer was able to imagine. Thus, classical music performers often achieve very high reputations for their musicianship, even if they do not compose themselves.

Another consequence of the veneration of the composer's written score is that improvisation plays a relatively minor role in classical music--in sharp contrast to traditions like jazz, where improvisation is central. Improvisation in classical music performance was far more common during the Baroque era, and recently the performance of such music by modern classical musicians has been enriched by a revival of the old improvisational practices. During the Classical period, Mozart and Beethoven sometimes improvised the cadenzas to their piano concertos--but tended to write out the cadenzas when other soloists were to perform them. --http://www.wikipedia.com/wiki/Classical_Music

20th Century classical music

20th century classical music was extremely diverse, beginning with the late Romantic style of Sergei Rachmaninoff and the Impressionism of Claude Debussy, and ranging to such distant sound-worlds as the complete serialism of Pierre Boulez, the simple triadic harmonies of minimalist composers such as Steve Reich, the musique concrète of Pierre Schaeffer, the microtonal music adopted by Harry Partch, Alois Hába and others, and the aleatoric music of John Cage.

Among the most prominent composers of the 20th century were Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Giacomo Puccini, Claude Debussy, Arnold Schoenberg, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Igor Stravinsky, Dmitri Shostakovich, Benjamin Britten and Aaron Copland. Classical music also had an intense cross fertilization with jazz, with several composers being able to work in both genres, including George Gershwin. An important feature of 20th century concert music is the existence of the splitting of the audience into traditional and avant-garde, with many figures prominent in one world considered minor or unacceptable in the other. Composers such as Anton von Webern, Elliot Carter, Edgar Varèse, Milton Babbitt, and Luciano Berio have devoted followings within the avant-garde, but are often attacked outside of it. As time has passed, however, it is increasingly accepted, though by no means universally so, that the boundaries are more porous than the many polemics would lead you to believe: many of the techniques pioneered by the above composers show up in popular music by The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Mike Oldfield, Nirvana and in film scores that draw mass audiences.

It should be kept in mind that this article presents an overview of 20th century classical music and many of the composers listed under the following trends and movements may not identify exclusively as such and may be considered as participating in different movements. For instance, Igor Stravinsky may be considered a romantic, modernist, neoclassicist, and a serialist.

The 20th century was also an age where recording and broadcast changed the economics and social relationships inherent in music. An individual in the 19th century made most music themselves, or attended performances. An individual in the industrialized world had access to radio, television, phonograph and later digital music such as the CD. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/20th_century_classical_music [Apr 2005]

Art music [...]

Art music and concert music are terms sometimes used as synonyms of classical music. --http://www.wikipedia.com/wiki/Classical_Music

A Synopsis of 20th Century Art Music

by Rhys Chatham

Toward the end of the last century, equal-temperament and chromaticism presented composers with a new musical challenge, which Arnold Schoenberg liked to call the "emancipation of dissonance." The equal-tempered system, with its placement of semi-tones at equidistant intervals exploded previous notions of harmony, conceptions of chordal progression, and the tyranny of the triad. Pitch no longer had to relate to a tonal center implied by a key, but could exist as a thing-in-itself. The beginning of this century saw the invention of a new key: the key consisting of 12 semi-tones.

Although composers such as Busoni, Debussy, Ives, Mahler, and Scriabin intuited the implications of this new key, it was Arnold Schoenberg who first formulated a comprehensive theory for the manipulation and ordering of the twelve tones. Twelve-tone theory was extrapolated upon by Anton Webern and continued to be evolved by composers through the fifties, when it developed into the form known as serialism, or the International Style. By this time not only pitch was subjected to systematic organization, but other parameters of music as well: rhythm, amplitude, timbre, and dynamic. Rhys Chatham [...]


Reggae is a product of the union of West African rythms and European melody and harmony.

Only for Snooty Rich People?


According to conventional wisdom, classical music is understood only by trained musicians, and patronized only by snooty rich people who don't know what's going on but who regard the concert hall as a cultural country club.

Regular folks, it's said, just can't figure out classical music because it's too deep. The classics are not for timid souls.

Well, it's true that classical music can be complicated, and a lot of classical pieces are long. You can hear 10 rock songs in the time it takes to listen to Beethoven's Symphony No. 5.

But compare classical music with the movies. A good thriller has an extremely complicated plot, with unexpected twists and plenty of red herring. And on the subject of length, the fact that "Dances with Wolves" took more time to watch than five reruns of "Comer Pyle, U.S.M.C." didn't hurt its popularity. -- James Reel on http://www.azstarnet.com/public/packages/reelbook/

Electrifying Mojo [...]

The man known as The Electrifying Mojo, though a mysterious figure of the nighttime airwaves, is very real. From WAAM, to WJLB, to WGPR, to WCHB, and for a number of other stations, the man has made a definite (and sometimes defiant) impact on Detroit radio. It was in the early 1980s on WJLB that the Electrifying Mojo established himself as one of Detroit's musical icons. The show was called the "Midnight Funk Association" - less a radio program than an underground movement - and with it, Mojo had the ability to take the mainstream and turn it underground. And vice versa. It was the only program where the Supremes could coexist with Afrika Bambaataa and Was (Not Was). It was also here that many were introduced to Detroit techno. Detroit's reputation as the techno capital of the world was spread by the man who was an avid supporter of funk and innovation. When Mojo left WJLB and came to WGPR in the mid-1990s he would quote from a fictional work, the Mental Machine. Many listeners began asking for copies. Without missing a beat, Mojo became an author, creating the tome himself. A mix of poetry, art and commentary, it is now in its third printing. Mojo's stay on WGPR was about to take an interesting turn. Asked if there was a such thing as a black composer of classical music, he didn't have an answer. He found that, indeed, there were and he played the music on air. He assumed there'd be no problem playing "black music" on a "black radio station" - regardless of genre. That was not the case. He was given a deadline to cease playing classical music. He violated the deadline, and the show was canceled. Though, he stated that he wouldn't return to radio, Mojo threw everyone a curve by reappearing on WCHB. His Mothership soon landed at the station with a regular Sunday night spot. When Radio One bought the station, a number of popular DJs and programs were canceled - Mojo's was one of them. Never clearly photographed and slightly harder to catch than the Loch Ness Monster, Mojo's legend has grown through his communication with his listeners and his community activism.

Classic house

[...] See also: Rhys Chatham, 20th Century Art Music

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