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Why is classical music unpopular?

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Hi!

What do you think is the main reason that classical/art music is nowadays so unpopular? And why was it more popular centuries ago?

because of...

- the music itself?

- the image of the scene?

- a lack of education?

-??

What is your opinion?

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Well, first of all, how do you define "unpopular"? There's a huge audience for classical music, probably larger than ever before. Just ask Andr

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I think it may mainly be because most modern classical music written nowadays doesn't appeal to an audience unless they have the background education. If the majority of the music being written was something that was easier to listen to without an education in music then perhaps it would not be so 'unpopular' with the population as a whole. As to older music (say pre-schoenenburg or whatever) perhaps becuase no new music is being written people do not have the renewed interest to listen to that music as much as other music?

I guess the real question about my opinion is whether this is the fault of the composers not writing more accessible music or the listeners lack of musical education. I wouldn't really like to say.

There is certainly not a lack of modern composers - just look at this site.

Just an opinion...

Oscar

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Guest jfmayii

To many, it sounds out-dated and many find that it's too complex to follow. Contemporary commercial music is based on patterns on (i.e I, V, vi, IV, V7) and people who listen to this type of music have come accustomed to these repetitive patterns and catchy hooks. So sad.

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@firsty_ferret: Well, concerning specifically contemporary classical music and its "unpopularity" (which is again just a matter of perspective), I actually think a great part is the preconception that post-tonal music requires "knowledge" and needs to be "understood", which unfortunately is a preconception that is carried by both the avid listeners of that music (who tell others who don't like it "you just don't GET it") and the other side, who accuses that music of being "intellectual" or "cerebral".

But that's nonsense, in my opinion. Sure, if you want to hear every detailed cleverness in ANY music (be that "classical", "pop", whatever) you ALSO need some basic experience and possibly knowledge with that kind of music - but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the music without that knowledge. And the same goes for Boulez. And really, I find there's a lot contemporary "classical" music that is extremely approachable on a very "primal" basis, because it focuses on very direct gestures, dynamic contrasts, spatial movements, etc. which are things any child could grasp. (And interestingly enough, many small children have much less issues with hearing such contemporary music than many grown ups.)

Sure, you may not be able to enjoy the music "to its full extent", but listening to pieces like that could at least make you curious, a first step of "getting more into it".

But really, the way it's treated everywhere as "difficult, advanced stuff" doesn't do it much good. And that includes concert managers who program such contemporary works but then add lots of Mozart on top of it to "pacify" the audience. All this does is telling the audience "Sorry for programming something we knew you wouldn't like. So we added something for you to enjoy to make it up to you." No wonder people don't like it, when everybody's always telling them that they're supposed not to like it…

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I agree with you on most of what you say and respect your opinion on discrepancies :)

I find the part about children finding contemporary music easier to listen to than adults quite interesting... perhaps because they have not been 'exposed' to as much music and so aren't, for want of a better term, 'accustomed' to tonality/modality? Recently I've been writing an essay comparing forms of just intonation and equal temperament and a similar thing was found - those who were younger didn't have a preference to either whereas older people tended to dislike just intonation.

Food for thoughts :)

Apologies for going slightly off-track.

Oscar

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I'd also like highlight a side effect of this view of post-tonal contemporary music as being reserved for intellectuals. It brings with it the view of tonal music being superficial and less worth because of the non-intellectual part of it. I have seen this kind a few times and it saddens me. Just as atonal music doesn't need the intellectual, profound brand on it, so doesn't the tonal music need a brand of being shallow and prosaic. Just because John Williams (or at least his music) is hugely known by almost everyone in the western world doesn't mean it's bad. It's silly really, the value of being a suffering, broke artist is still something a lot of people regard high. Some people actually get famous because they deserve it. Now I'm not saying John Williams is a ground breaker but he is a skilled composer.

Anyway to bring this a bit more on-topic I'd like to point out that a lot of music made for movies and computer games have a relatively high standard and I think that's at least one of the things that certainly helps keeps art music alive and growing in the crowds, I for one became interested in classical music through the Star Wars music. The last thing I want is an elitist group being the only ones appreciating classical music.

Sorry if my points weren't clear, english is not my first language so I have trouble finding the words I want to say. :)

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I really think it all comes down to fashion. Why don't we listen to disco anymore? It certainly wasn't extremely complicated for the most part but still it went out of style. It didn't require a higher understanding of music than any other genre. It comes down to the generations views vs. the previous ones'. And they tend to differ greatly.

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I guess the same reason why people don't wear 18th/19th century clothes. Outdated, doesn't reflect the mood in popular culture anymore.

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"Classical music" serves a different function in modern society than it did in the 1700s...1800s....and up to the end of World War 2. Stuff changed, we don't have kids growing up playing 4-hand piano arrangements of Beethoven symphonies and stuff. Chances are they grew up listening to Motown or Zeppelin or something.

To many, it sounds out-dated and many find that it's too complex to follow. Contemporary commercial music is based on patterns on (i.e I, V, vi, IV, V7) and people who listen to this type of music have come accustomed to these repetitive patterns and catchy hooks. So sad.

Cite examples please, otherwise this post is moot

I really think it all comes down to fashion. Why don't we listen to disco anymore? It certainly wasn't extremely complicated for the most part but still it went out of style. It didn't require a higher understanding of music than any other genre. It comes down to the generations views vs. the previous ones'. And they tend to differ greatly.

Pop movements generally don't go out of style, they just keep evolving. Disco never went away or anything, there's been a resurgence of people utilizing a lot of aspects of disco music in Nu-Disco (it hurts me to type Nu instead of Neo, but whatev, that's what it is). Jamiroquai, Roisin Murphy and Lindstrom come to mind immediately......IN FACT

Nu-disco - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

There you go.

I guess the same reason why people don't wear 18th/19th century clothes. Outdated, doesn't reflect the mood in popular culture anymore.

It just serves a different function in most situations, this isn't 18th century Europe...stop wanting it to be.

To many, it sounds out-dated and many find that it's too complex to follow. Contemporary commercial music is based on patterns on (i.e I, V, vi, IV, V7) and people who listen to this type of music have come accustomed to these repetitive patterns and catchy hooks. So sad.

A lot of music I hear just watching TV is a lot more complex than that (I'm just talking about...hell....theme songs for shows). And you only listed completely diatonic chord relationships, are you implying that there isn't any music that moves outside of the home tonal region. Even there wasn't, why would that matter? That's gonna lead back to "omg music needs THIS and THIS AND THIS for it to be considered good".

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You have 3-4 generations now that have been taught that music is background noise... something to talk over. And you wonder why 'classical' music is unpopular? You have to actually 'listen' to classical music to understand it or appreciate it.

You can't listen and talk at the same time...

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Well, first of all, how do you define "unpopular"? There's a huge audience for classical music, probably larger than ever before. Just ask Andr

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I think that classical music is "unpopular" because of a variety of factors:

I. Classical music went out-of-favor when more musical styles/fads emerged.

II. Misconceptions regarding classical music (such as that it's only for smart people or that all classical music is boring).

III. The very style and structure of other styles of music being simpler and easier to follow without losing interest.

IV. Classical music is harder to understand from an emotional standpoint because there aren't lyrics with which to understand what the music is saying. (Even if a piece isn't overwhelmingly emotional from a harmonic or melodic standpoint, the lyrics can make up for it with a sad storyline [what comes to my mind is Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles].)

I find it kind of sad to see that a lot of people don't really get classical music. I'm glad that I do (to some extent :D).

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You have 3-4 generations now that have been taught that music is background noise...

I don't think that this is entirely true.

Artists like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Pink Floyd or Yes were quite popular at some point and I don't consider their music cheap.

And also today the popularity of bands like radiohead or dream theater proves that there IS a crowd that is interested in music that at least tries to be somewhat sophisticated! :)

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One interesting thing is how many people call classical music "complex", while a majority of it shares exactly the attributes the same people usually "accuse" pop/rock music of.

A majority of classical music is harmonically simple, built out of I/IV/V cadences with some variations now and then, has a strict and steady rhythmic pulse, and focuses mostly on "melody+accompaniment", without much counterpoint etc.

The difference between a baroque harpsichord in an ensemble and a rhythm guitar for example is often rather small - both serve the purpose of both giving the music a strong "beat" and providing a harmonic sequence, which is assisted by the bass instruments (be that a cello or basson, or an e-bass) and provides a fundament for the melody instruments.

Most 17th century music doesn't really do much with the inner voices, but concentrates on melody and a heavy bass, often with very repetitive harmonic structures, sometimes featuring a virtuoso soloist. Dynamically or in regards to timbre, usually not much happens.

Most 18th century music is built around melody+accompaniment schemes, is built out of straight 4 and 8 bar blocks, follows some established formal structures rather blindly, consists mostly of I/IV/V chords and the occasional vi, and is pretty much always written for the same few standard instrumentations.

Most 19th century music follows in the same vein, just throwing in some more leading tones and 7ths, using bigger orchestras, extending their development parts, and having both bigger jumps and more repeated notes in their melodies, aiming to be as kitschy as possible.

And yes, of course I'm exaggerating a lot there. It's all really not quite so straight forward. Nor is it in pop music. But the problem is that people listen to a piece by Bach and hear that he was a "baroque musician" and immediately take his music as a standard for "baroque music".

Not every classical composer composed the way Haydn composed.

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I think it mostly has to do with the fact that Corbin touches himself at night.

:D:D:D

lolwut

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Well, Mozart wasn't exactly the most popular musician in his time. Normal people (people who were not upper class) rarely listened to what we now call classical music in the Baroque and Classical periods. (I can't speak for the Romantic era, because the relationships between composer, patron, publisher, common man, etc. changed a lot in that time.) So, if anything, I think classical music might have gotten more popular.

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It's not really relevant to say that more people in sheer number listen to classical today than in 1800, because it's obviously not the best selling genre we have. But why is that?

Zeitgeist. Sign of the times. Same reason we don't wear the same clothes, eat the same food (yes, it's gotten less healthy, but even without considering that, we have different meals now than then); children play different games, we have different jobs. I don't even like most very mainstream music we have today, but I'll say that it is NOT sad and unfortunate that we have different music today than we did a century ago, and then a century before that and so on... to outright look down on contemporary music is silly and elitist (you could have legitimate reasons to dislike Lil Wayne or Miley Cyrus, as I do, but don't lump everyone in the same pool of mediocrity).

That wasn't directed at anyone in particular. Now, let me say this. It's very important to note the obvious fact that we have different technology than we did in the past, and how it pertains to this topic. Yes, we have commercialized music. Yes, sometimes it is background noise. Yes, people don't exclusively go to concert halls to hear organized tones anymore. And furthermore, even making music is so easy that now half the people you know do it; the internet is exploding with music boards, and the average one is teeming with amateurs who are trying to get advice (nothing against them). This is not BAD. The art hasn't been lost, just expanded.

The casual listener doesn't know it, and even many experienced listeners must be unaware, but without modern recording technology and the great-sounding mixes we have, commercial music might just be on the same business level as classical. In other words, if every country-folk recording was made with a simple process of hanging some mics over a few acoustic guitars, a bass, and someone singing, less people would buy it... and hip hop wouldn't exist. Today's listeners are addicted to the punchy, tight, clear and present studio sound, like the Classical era listeners were (are) addicted to the warm sound of horns and lush strings.

So when you're listening to a rock album, don't just go "Ah, these chords are simple and repetitive... people must have just gotten stupider"... realize that the sound processing itself is half of the composition, or more, as in some electronic music. I think studio engineers don't get nearly enough credit for this, because their job might just take more talent, and almost assuredly takes more equipment, than the musicians have themselves.

What I do take umbrage with is how singers, mainly females, can be glamourized and sexualized and then sound processed so that they don't need to be able to sing, much less write their own music. So Hannah Montana/Katy Perry/Lady Gaga might be the big thing at the moment. Big deal. We're at the point where we'll all move on to the next fad shortly. A better question would be, will there be any music created now that will be remembered a few hundred years from now?

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It's not really relevant to say that more people in sheer number listen to classical today than in 1800, because it's obviously not the best selling genre we have.

I don't know. For me, personally, the absolute number of people interested in some music (say, my own) usually matters more than "how well it's selling compared to the best selling genre". If 500 people came to a concert of me, I really couldn't care less if to some other concert 10000 come. As long as enough people come to a concert or buy a CD to "justify the effort", that's perfectly fine for me. Saying that classical music is unpopular is a bit like complaining that you only earn $100,000 a year, because there are people who make 10 million. Sure, depending on your standards, that is entirely "valid", but at least you should be aware that you're complaining on a rather exclusive level.

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That analogy doesn't really work, because you're comparing an abstract concept to a person. I'd love to play a concert to 500 people or make $100,000. I don't think people would argue that (maybe if they're already playing for more than 500). A better analogy would be, perhaps, a business. Exxon would hate to have a gross annual profit of $100,000 when Walmart is making $14,534,875,393,876.

So, what I meant was, technology has increased music listening universally, so you have to consider what would be listened to if people had CDs and iPods in 1800. There would be more people listening more often but it wouldn't be rock or jazz, eh?

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