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Reddit - Art vs. Popular music (Read 955 times)

Offline cuberdrift

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Reddit - Art vs. Popular music
« on: July 19, 2019, 12:55:03 AM »
I made this thread on reddit concerning the divide between what musicologists denote as Art or Popular music.

I will just copy paste the post there and inquire on your ideas on the topic:

I just want to narrow down how musicologists in general classify "Art" from "Popular" music.

The Wikipedia entries, which are asserted to come from reliable sources, state that "Art Music is music that implies advanced structural and theoretical considerations or a written tradition", and "Popular music is music with wide appeal that can be enjoyed by people with no musical training" (or something like that).

They also point out a general "triangle" of music into three categories: Art, Popular, and Folk music.

I just have some issues with this, that I need to clarify.

By saying that art music has by definition "advanced structural and theoretical considerations" - this implies that a given piece of music must inherently have complex theory behind it, right? But what about simple songs, minuets, and other basic forms that were developed but considered "Art Music"? These range just around a couple of minutes long and often have simple forms (Binary, ABA, etc.).

The article also states that "some forms of Jazz" are considered art music. This suggests that music does not have to be notated to be considered art music. It also implies that some popular music can be considered Art Music - I don't exactly know what kind of Jazz won't fall under Popular Music. This means there are music forms that can be considered both Art and Popular music.

I'm just into this because it seems important what sort of music is given a serious treatment and is included in books. I would like to clarify the divide observed by scholars that separates the two forms of music.

My own definition, based on what I observe:
- Art music refers to music that 1) belongs to a long, highly evolved musical tradition (by this I mean the music has undergone a lot of developments through the ages, say at least 50 years), 2) which has attained a high degree of complexity and 3) which has a systematised way of instruction and study.

This should fit Jazz (which is generally considered Art music today but not in the past) and non-Western classical music (e.g. Hindustani music which isn't notated but is complex and has a systematic way of instruction), justifying why not all "classical" (Western notated music) music is Art music.

This also negates some complex music (e.g. Prog Rock, grindcore, etc. which uses advanced techniques but isn't taken that seriously) which is not that old and does not have much systematic training and education behind them (the same applies to Bebop, which was only considered Art music once scholars put it on paper).

This will also imply that Art music is not based on inherent traits (e.g. Bebop or Erik Satie's music not being considered Art music during its conception) but on a "scholarly perception".

So, any ideas?

So, any ideas? Would want to know.

Regards,
cuberdrift

Offline ranjit

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Re: Reddit - Art vs. Popular music
«Reply #1 on: July 19, 2019, 05:37:56 AM »
I took a look at the Wikipedia article on Art Music.
So, here's the thing... vague terms such as these are not amenable to precise definition. They will be used in many different ways, to mean many different things. And none of those meanings may be considered 'wrong'. Unlike in the hard sciences, definitions need to be taken with a grain of salt in most other disciplines.

Initially, Wikipedia states the definition of art music which you describe. But then, under the header "Definition", are listed a number of similar, but slightly different characterizations of what "art music" constitutes. In particular, I'll quote the one you mention.

Quote
Musician Catherine Schmidt-Jones defines art music as "a music which requires significantly more work by the listener to fully appreciate than is typical of popular music". In her view, "[t]his can include the more challenging types of jazz and rock music, as well as Classical".
Now, this definition is clearly different from the one at the beginning of the article. And according to her understanding of what art music is, the more challenging types of jazz and rock qualify as well.

Offline cuberdrift

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Re: Reddit - Art vs. Popular music
«Reply #2 on: July 19, 2019, 05:52:04 AM »
I took a look at the Wikipedia article on Art Music.
So, here's the thing... vague terms such as these are not amenable to precise definition. They will be used in many different ways, to mean many different things. And none of those meanings may be considered 'wrong'. Unlike in the hard sciences, definitions need to be taken with a grain of salt in most other disciplines.

Yes, noted.

Quote
Initially, Wikipedia states the definition of art music which you describe. But then, under the header "Definition", are listed a number of similar, but slightly different characterizations of what "art music" constitutes. In particular, I'll quote the one you mention.
Now, this definition is clearly different from the one at the beginning of the article. And according to her understanding of what art music is, the more challenging types of jazz and rock qualify as well.

Well, you could agree to that, but the quote by Jones raises a second question - difficult to appreciate by whom? An Art Tatum recording of Tea for Two would surely be hard to understand for the average millenial, but a person of the same age as that millenial, during the time of.Jazz might easily understand it. Or a tribal person might be puzzled by a pop song, while an urban dweller by tribal chants, etc.

Thus, it implies that Art music is a relative phenomenon, more than an inherent one.

The problem is that some people, whp identify themselves as musicologists, will insist that there is a clear cut definition between art and popular music. This is contradictory, when they claim that jazz (obviously rooted in popular music) is art music. You'll see such arguments in that Wikipedia article's talk page.

Offline ranjit

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Re: Reddit - Art vs. Popular music
«Reply #3 on: July 19, 2019, 07:13:16 AM »
I think that at the core of the distinction is a difference in intent. As I think of it, art music is music which is meant to be listened to "actively", as an entity in its own right. This is generally not the case with popular music.

I wouldn't say that art music is entirely a relative phenomenon, either. Imagine that you are suddenly in an unknown country. How hard would it be to distinguish art music, folk music, and popular music? I would suppose it would not be very difficult.

As with all things, there will be music which is hard to classify. I don't think even musicologists say that any song can be easily classified as art music or otherwise.

Offline cuberdrift

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Re: Reddit - Art vs. Popular music
«Reply #4 on: July 19, 2019, 12:18:24 PM »
I think that at the core of the distinction is a difference in intent. As I think of it, art music is music which is meant to be listened to "actively", as an entity in its own right. This is generally not the case with popular music.

Sure, but I still think I need to reiterate the idea I expressed earlier.

Let's take an easy example. Say the Well Tempered Clavier by Bach and the 555 Sonatas by Scarlatti. They were written as exercises, not concert music. An even easier example? Religious music. Much of this is performed today formally, with viewers intending to listen to it as art music. This was of course not the case, as it was practised as functional sacred music for spiritual events.

So with this comes the relativity I talked about. But I feel that you understand what I'm expressing here.

In short, music not necessarily intended to be art music by its originator can be perceived as art music depending on the audience, and vice-versa. Is it art, then, according to the creator, or the listener? That's why one can't just go around pretending some written-out pop tune in the 1500s with a simple ABA form is art music and 100x superior to Bohemian Rhapsody.

Quote
I wouldn't say that art music is entirely a relative phenomenon, either. Imagine that you are suddenly in an unknown country. How hard would it be to distinguish art music, folk music, and popular music? I would suppose it would not be very difficult.

Sure, but relativity still takes a huge part in it. It's going to be pretty obvious to differentiate between Hindustani ragas and Bollywood songs, but what was the intent of the Hindustani ragas? It can get get deeper there.

Quote
As with all things, there will be music which is hard to classify. I don't think even musicologists say that any song can be easily classified as art music or otherwise.

Yes but some people in particular the people in the Wikipedia article kept stressing on a clear cut line. The problem is there are contradictions, as I wrote in my origina l post here.

Offline Bob

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Re: Reddit - Art vs. Popular music
«Reply #5 on: July 21, 2019, 11:04:35 PM »
Just skimming through the thread, it sounds too generalized to just split music into art, pop, and folk.  I think some opera (Puccini or Verdi I think) composers were "top ten" music composers.  Some of Mozart too I think.  If they're really going by popularity, then it's a completely different track for looking at things.  (And popular when?  When it was created or now or when?)  It's leaving out "world music" too.

I can see that there's music created as an art, just for itself vs. for entertainment or making money.  Something like minimalism but not be that complicated though.

And I can see a "pop style" type of sound/style, as opposed to popular by numbers.
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