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Is it possible to write and produce pop music without knowing how to play instruments and having much music theory background? Where to start from?

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I like to sing and hope to be able to have my own songs one day. I do not play instrument (I learnt a little bit of piano and guitar in the past). I haven't really studied any music theory either. I know the basic from the music classes I took in middle school. I would like to find out if it is possible at all to write songs and produce them myself in such a case?

Is there any music software out there that is for people like me who did not receive much music education but are very interested in writing pop music? Is there any website that helps you learn the minimum in order to write and produce music in a prompt manner? (I am hoping to be able to start writing soon) What is the minimum I need to learn and know in order to write and produce?

I always have the impression that pop music is easier to write than classic music, as it's less strict and it can be creative. Is that correct or no?

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The short answer is yes, absolutely. A very large number of rock and pop musicians, including some of the most famous, cannot read music and simply write their songs (if they are songwriters as well) down by working out the melody on an instrument and memorising it. Then they get on stage and play and hopefully everyone buys their records.

The long answer is a bit more complicated and it will necessary to explain a little about how the music industry works. Although there are plenty of people who write, record and perform their songs themselves (and even, thanks to the internet, market and distribute the records too), most performers are just that, only performers. They simply sing or play instruments and are the 'big name' on stage. There will be somebody else who writes the songs (not necessarily even in collaboration with the artist; the major record companies have huge libraries of songs in storage which can be pulled off the shelf for new artists to perform. Many of these are never recorded; I remember being told as an undergrad that only something like 40 per cent of songs written get recorded and of those only about 10 per cent get more than one radio play), another person who will make backing arrangements, an army of engineers who will record and produce the music, and another army or agents, fixers, managers, and marketers who try to make the record commercially successful. So I should make it clear that it's very rare for one person to write, perform and produce their music as it's such an enormous operation. If you are a singer/songwriter you would usually hire a studio and recording engineers to record your music - although of course dance music and similar styles can be produced using nothing more than a laptop with appropriate programs on. You might want to read a few books on music production and the music industry in general.

The great Hungarian composer Béla Bartók always maintained that music composition cannot be taught (even when he was teaching it himself!). What he meant was that the student must ultimately teach themself. There are plenty of useful books and websites explaining how to write songs and the basics of theory - just type something appropriate into Google or look in the library - but really the most constructive thing you can do it simply to 'noodle' on the piano or guitar and work out what sounds good. This is, I speculate, how most good songs get composed. As I mentioned above, not being able to play an instrument or read music is not necessarily a problem, although it's useful. Nor is not having studied theory. However, it is a distinct advantage being able to write down music in order to communicate it to others, and I would strongly recommend this to anyone involved in music. 'Music theory' as we understand it, is obviously useful to everyone, but it tends to be most applicable to the western art music tradition rather than the popular song tradition so I wouldn't get too worried about it. An equally useful exercise would be just to listen and analyse a lot of songs in order to hear what 'works'. Start by writing based on the music you like and as you get more confident you will become more individual. That said, do read books about songwriting and composing (note the distinction - writing lyrics and then setting them both require equal skill). As for software, well, there are a few programs out there that may be helpful depending on what type of music you want to write. The main notation software programs are Sibelius and Finale which are as good for writing pop music as classical - although they're not cheap and assume some musical knowledge to use. Cubase is much more geared towards pop music, you can imput music through a MIDI keyboard connected to your computer and then add drum tracks etc. There is a program called Logic which I don't know much about but I think it's like a more sophisticated version of Cubase. Again, not cheap, and I wonder if you would benefit more from pop guitar lessons, which would give you a knowledge of the mechanics of music in a practical way.

Is pop music easier to write than classical because it is freer? I'd say it was easier to write, but because it's more formulaic rather than freer. It is almost exclusivly tonal, underpinned by common drum patterns and chord progressions, and is almost always structured using a common verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus layout. The most creative part of pop music is in the production the use of technology to create new sounds, particularly in genres like drum and bass and dance music. That's not to say you can't write a song that is memorable and individual, but becuase the music has to have widespread appeal and be of a certain length, the parameters tend to be narrower and the content more familier. Classical music is hard to compose at first because there are fewer rules to grab on to, but once one has discovered how to write, the freedom becomes wonderful. It would probably be fair to say that pop music is easier to write, but because of this, it is harder to write well.

Hope this is of some use to you.

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lol. Pop music is easy. Just verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge maybe, chorus, chorus. Three chords, maybe four, loud guitars, annoying vocals, showoff drums and idiotic lyrics.

Of course, we're talking about pop music here, not art.

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lol. Pop music is easy. Just verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge maybe, chorus, chorus. Three chords, maybe four, loud guitars, annoying vocals, showoff drums and idiotic lyrics.

Of course, we're talking about pop music here, not art.

Ignorance apparently is bliss.

Pop and art mean nothing.

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Really good pop music is definitely harder to write.. and I'm talking about the genius stuff here, the kind of stuff Mozart only wished he could write. I really hate when people don't understand the perfection in certain pop music, I used to be somebody who thought exactly the same thing that pop music sucks and is extremely easy to write. In fact classical music is really easy to write, but pop music is much harder. It's so easy to be repetitive and boring in pop music, but classical music is innately more interesting in its complexity. Once you have the complexity down, being interesting is much less of an issue. With pop, since there's much more of a formula, by now every song has probably been written (although this obviously isn't the case). So naturally you have to break the formula and make it work in the same way romanticism did with classical and just as trashingly as it probably seemed at the time. People are going to realize in couple hundred years how good certain arists were in the 60's, and they already do. I find the romantic period dreadfully boring and monotonous the way I used to think of pop, but I quickly realized that I didn't take life all that seriously and that it takes a really stuck up person without a life to not appreciate contemporary music. It's so much harder to write a convincing pop song than to take some classes in counterpoint and write a decent fugue. Until you listen to and appreciate the gems in contemporary music, you'll never really understand classical music. Yesterday is pretty much just as good as Mozart's 40th symphony. The only difference is complexity in execution, but the inspiration is equally as rare and beautiful.

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Really good pop music is definitely harder to write.. and I'm talking about the genius stuff here, the kind of stuff Mozart only wished he could write. I really hate when people don't understand the perfection in certain pop music, I used to be somebody who thought exactly the same thing that pop music sucks and is extremely easy to write. In fact classical music is really easy to write, but pop music is much harder. It's so easy to be repetitive and boring in pop music, but classical music is innately more interesting in its complexity. Once you have the complexity down, being interesting is much less of an issue. With pop, since there's much more of a formula, by now every song has probably been written (although this obviously isn't the case). So naturally you have to break the formula and make it work in the same way romanticism did with classical and just as trashingly as it probably seemed at the time. People are going to realize in couple hundred years how good certain arists were in the 60's, and they already do. I find the romantic period dreadfully boring and monotonous the way I used to think of pop, but I quickly realized that I didn't take life all that seriously and that it takes a really stuck up person without a life to not appreciate contemporary music. It's so much harder to write a convincing pop song than to take some classes in counterpoint and write a decent fugue. Until you listen to and appreciate the gems in contemporary music, you'll never really understand classical music. Yesterday is pretty much just as good as Mozart's 40th symphony. The only difference is complexity in execution, but the inspiration is equally as rare and beautiful.

Ditto. :)

I totally agree.

Just for an example... the bass line in Michael Jackson's Billy Jean, is imo the most groovy and beautiful bass line ever played or written. So much with so little.

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Hello Everyone,

My self Andersion.

I really like new songs and always i listen new songs

Here we are discuss about:Is it possible to write and produce pop music without knowing how to play instruments and having much music theory background? Where to start from?

A music producer is someone who is responsible for getting an artist (or group of artists) to produce a compact disc that will make consumers want to dash to their music emporium of choice, purchase it, and leave trails of receipts, stickers, and shrink wrap to their stereo systems.

Get the equipment

Start by constructing the base melody of the song

Add ambience, effects, transitions, and other background loops.

Now it's time to create a drum beat

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Really good pop music is definitely harder to write.. and I'm talking about the genius stuff here, the kind of stuff Mozart only wished he could write. I really hate when people don't understand the perfection in certain pop music, I used to be somebody who thought exactly the same thing that pop music sucks and is extremely easy to write. In fact classical music is really easy to write, but pop music is much harder. It's so easy to be repetitive and boring in pop music, but classical music is innately more interesting in its complexity. Once you have the complexity down, being interesting is much less of an issue. With pop, since there's much more of a formula, by now every song has probably been written (although this obviously isn't the case). So naturally you have to break the formula and make it work in the same way romanticism did with classical and just as trashingly as it probably seemed at the time. People are going to realize in couple hundred years how good certain arists were in the 60's, and they already do. I find the romantic period dreadfully boring and monotonous the way I used to think of pop, but I quickly realized that I didn't take life all that seriously and that it takes a really stuck up person without a life to not appreciate contemporary music. It's so much harder to write a convincing pop song than to take some classes in counterpoint and write a decent fugue. Until you listen to and appreciate the gems in contemporary music, you'll never really understand classical music. Yesterday is pretty much just as good as Mozart's 40th symphony. The only difference is complexity in execution, but the inspiration is equally as rare and beautiful.

You seem to know a lot of things about very interesting subjects! The things Mozart wished he had written... You found a letter of him expressing his jealousy towards John Lennon?

And you known the parameters by wich to compare Yesterday to Mozarts 40th symphony? I think a lot of us are very interested in what parameters you used!

I'm glad you came to the conclusion that the Romantic period is dreadfully boring AND monotomous. It's important to favor the one musical period over the other!

To top your deep knowledge of the musical world, you seem to be in full awareness of how to write good pop and classical music! Amazing! So, if I learn to write complex classical music I'm actually already there! I have written an interesting classical piece of music. Wow, I never knew it was so easy to convince the "Judges of classical music". I spent so much time trying to think of interesting melodies, but that's all for nothing. I'm glad I came across your post!

For a convincing pop song I need to break the rules and wait 100 years for it to be appreciated though. So, Lady Gaga was written and recorded in 1910 then? Or.. This is difficult stuff, you know.

I assume the sarcasme came across. If not, it was.

To the OP:

Siwi's post has a lot of things that can be helpfull to you.

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Really good pop music is definitely harder to write..

Yep.

Think James Brown, Little Richard, Michael Jackson.

It's easy to write a "successful" pop song. It's not easy to write great music that happens to be pop. In my understanding, many of the best pop artists do have training.

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Most pop singers barely have a range over an octave or 2, so I suppose you can write pop music without knowing anything about music....

probably because it doesn't sound like music anyways j/k

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Short answer - NO regarding theory. Even studying jazz and blues you must know the scales, and the chords and rhythms. it may be by ear but you gotta to know it and be able to show it someone. So learn your theory. You don't have to to go to the point of reading Forte, Lewin etc to write pop, but these days there are amateurs who have taken Schoenberg melodies (tone rows) and created very short barbershop quartet pieces because they know theory!

BTW here is the clip

As for an instrument, not necessary to play an instrument but it does slow you down. I think if you do anything, learn the basics of singing and hone your sight singing skills and get to a level you could sing intermediate level pieces. Join a choir too - that way you get to participate in more complex works.

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lol. Pop music is easy. Just verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge maybe, chorus, chorus. Three chords, maybe four, loud guitars, annoying vocals, showoff drums and idiotic lyrics.

Of course, we're talking about pop music here, not art.

Hey, your headinbutt syndrome seems to be acting up. Might wanna get that looked at. What gives you the right to decide what's art and what isn't? And you should probably listen to some really high quality pop before you make these broad, arrogant, and even stupid statements. I don't care if you're joking or not, I'm gonna pull the liberal card and say that I take offense to that statement. I'm a writer of pop music myself, in addition to more traditional classical styles. Are you saying my music isn't art, because I only used 4 chords? It's ridiculous, closed-minded people who talk like this that drove me to leave the forum in the first place, all those years ago. You don't me to leave again... Do you? :sadtears:

High-quality pop:

The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds

U2 - Most of their records

David Bowie

Michael Jackson etc.

The list is endless. So let's not say things like "pop music isn't art" unless we know what pop music is. Every genre has alot of crappy stuff. We put classical on such a pedestal because all we remember is the good stuff. We forget that Haydn and Mozart weren't the only composers in the Classical Period. There were thousands of composers of the time who wrote utter crap, I'm sure. Let's be honest here.

So, just because your definition of pop annoys you, it means it's not art. Well, I could say that the paintings of Da Vinci annoy me (which is not true, I'm just giving an example) or that the music of Debussy annoys me (which actually is true.) Does that make either one of them "not art?" No. It's all opinion. If a million people thought the same as me, does that make it more true? Not in the least. So yeah. Opinion. You can have yours, let's just not state it as fact. Mmk? Mmk.

Oh, and YOUR MOM's lyrics are idiotic. :thumbsup:

But... That's just my opinion. :D

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High-quality pop:

The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds

U2 - Most of their records

David Bowie

Michael Jackson etc.

What the-!!!

Where's JAMES BROWN on that list?! And Stevie Wonder?!

Dang, man. ;)

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What the-!!!

Where's JAMES BROWN on that list?! And Stevie Wonder?!

Dang, man. ;)

Haha, sorry. Haven't ever really listened to either of them. And I don't want to recommend or not recommend music I've never heard. ;)

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lol. Pop music is easy. Just verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge maybe, chorus, chorus. Three chords, maybe four, loud guitars, annoying vocals, showoff drums and idiotic lyrics.

Of course, we're talking about pop music here, not art.

I think you need to listen to Pink Floyd's Echoes. Or does that not count as "pop"?

[rambling]I don't think I will even use the term pop to refer to my music, or any music that I like any more, it just has so much negitive connatations. I'll call what I used to dub "pop" soft rock. Because when I say pop, the first thing that pops into most people's minds is "Lady Gaga" or "The Black Eyed Peas".

And nothing wrong with them, it's just not the type of music I am talking about. Heck, they are more techno than "pop" IMHO they just happen to be popular at the time. hence, "Pop" which has sort of a dual meaning.[/rambling]

I find it sad when people think that 8 chords is a lot for a song... Post-Prog & jazz, yayyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!

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Sigh.

Unfortunately I return to this thread to find a needless and petty argument with little thought behind it on either side.

Alex: your argument - more a rant really - is based on the assumption that only the status of 'art' can define the quality of a piece of music. Pop music generally isn't art and neither should it be; its remit is to give instant entertainment and should be judged in such terms without shame. Conversely, Bruckner does not provide a good environment for dancing - in fact we would be as wise to complain of how poor classical music is at this than at how a drum machine fails to reach dizzying heights of contrapuntal transcendence. In short, you conflate quality with function.

BDW-Musician expresses numerous illogical and non sequitur arguments, although they are wrong for pretty much the same reasons as above. He also contradicts himself on several occasions. I take particular objection to two statements; firstly '...the kind of stuff Mozart only wished he could write'. Johann Christostamus Wolfgang Theophilius Gottlieb Mozart had a fairly astonishing ability to compose music that was well-crafted and considered tasteful by the standards of the late eighteenth century. Seeing as his operas, concerti and chamber music were widely celebrated in his lifetime and have had a continuous performance tradition since, one wonders quite what Mozart would have wished to improve upon. Secondly '...you have to break the formula and make it work in the same way romanticism did with classical and just as trashingly as it probably seemed at the time'. Apart from falling into the simplistic trap of assuming that people all woke up on January 1st, 1800 and decided that the Romantic Period had now begun, this assertion is simply wrong. Periods of music history are defined as a scholarly convenience many years after thay are supposed to have occured; styles gradually change over time and there was certainly no sudden throwing out of the 'classical period'. Beethoven and Berlioz were thought wild and futuristic in their lifetimes (as were certain works of Mozart and Haydn, interestingly enough) yet they wrote fugues (a sixteenth-century texture), used sonata forms (the dominant structural form of the eighteenth) and were in no doubt as to the use of tonality. The somewhat amusing thought of nineteenth-century composers beating the bejesus out of what had preceded them is misguided - the older music was frequently used as a point of reference to criticise contemporary music of the time. As an afterthought, I look forward to those pop artists who will, as you say 'break the formula', and start writing songs with invertable counterpoint, irregular time signatures and Saami joiking.

'...classical music is innately more interesting in its complexity. Once you have the complexity down, being interesting is much less of an issue.' You state that classical music is more interesting because it is more complex. You then contradict this by saying that once we are used to this complexity, the interesting-ness is diminished. So is it interesting or not!? Classical composers don't build in complexity for the sake of lip-service to a stereotype, or to confuse those who are unused to the style, you know. It's simply how they think music should sound.

'People are going to realize in couple hundred years how good certain arists were in the 60's, and they already do.' If they already do, they're not going to take a 'couple hundred' years to realise how good the 'certain arists' are, then! (You also assume vinyl, CDs and whatever other media the music is transmitted on will survive future wars, environmental catastrophe, etc).

'...it takes a really stuck up person without a life to not appreciate contemporary music' - I assume you refer to pop music, in which case you're just wrong - some of us have wonderfully interesting and open-minded lives and yet aren't interested in what the record industry thinks is good for us. If you are referring to contemporary classical music, I sympathise, although tend to be more tactful toward my audiences.

'Yesterday is pretty much just as good as Mozart's 40th symphony.' - but have you heard the 41st? Joking aside, John Lennon has attempted to compose various choral works in the classical tradition. Cynics may interpret this as rejecting the Beatles stuff, but it's generally agreed by the majority of people to be pretty naff.

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Sigh.

Unfortunately I return to this thread to find a needless and petty argument with little thought behind it on either side.

Alex: your argument - more a rant really - is based on the assumption that only the status of 'art' can define the quality of a piece of music. Pop music generally isn't art and neither should it be; its remit is to give instant entertainment and should be judged in such terms without shame. Conversely, Bruckner does not provide a good environment for dancing - in fact we would be as wise to complain of how poor classical music is at this than at how a drum machine fails to reach dizzying heights of contrapuntal transcendence. In short, you conflate quality with function.

So, what gives you the right to decide whether pop in general is or isn't art? Let alone whether it should or shouldn't be? I can understand that you think it's trivial. But I think there is music by Schubert and Mozart that is trivial. Does that mean it's not art? And I wasn't ranting. :P That's the issue with the internet. The whole tone of the thing is lost. Not to say that there wasn't sarcasm there, though. ;)

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So, what gives you the right to decide whether pop in general is or isn't art? Let alone whether it should or shouldn't be? I can understand that you think it's trivial. But I think there is music by Schubert and Mozart that is trivial. Does that mean it's not art? And I wasn't ranting. :P That's the issue with the internet. The whole tone of the thing is lost. Not to say that there wasn't sarcasm there, though. ;)

Two music degrees? Having read countless books and journal articles on all aspects of music? Being humble enough to revise my opinion when confronted with evidence contrary to my thoughts? This may sound arrogant, and indeed I hate to have to have to pull out this card, but there is a serious point to this; namely that some of us have opinions which can be justified with evidence and are based on serious and considered study of our position. I notice from your introduction here that you intend to go to university, and I hope that you learn this important skill during your studies. You will win a lot more debates that way.

In any case, your original post - and I'm prepared to ignore the spelling mistakes and ad hominums littering it ('headinbutt syndrome' indeed!) - is really rather unhelpful to abrella's original question. You take offence at us making the distinction between 'pop' and 'art' music, but tell me this: how then is she supposed to ask what she has asked? Abrella clearly understands 'pop' music as meaning the type with guitars and drums; she doesn't make any value judgements about it but simply asks how one can 'do' it. I will be absolutely clear: labeling something as 'pop' or 'art' music is NOT a judgement of quality, merely a definition of genre! Tokkemon's post was somewhat imflamatory but is actually closer to the point than might be apparent: sometimes we have to make unhelpful distinctions just to be clear what we are actually talking about. In fact, what are your definitions of 'pop' and 'art' music, if you indeed make a distinction?

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Two music degrees? Having read countless books and journal articles on all aspects of music? Being humble enough to revise my opinion when confronted with evidence contrary to my thoughts? This may sound arrogant, and indeed I hate to have to have to pull out this card, but there is a serious point to this; namely that some of us have opinions which can be justified with evidence and are based on serious and considered study of our position. I notice from your introduction here that you intend to go to university, and I hope that you learn this important skill during your studies. You will win a lot more debates that way.

In any case, your original post - and I'm prepared to ignore the spelling mistakes and ad hominums littering it ('headinbutt syndrome' indeed!) - is really rather unhelpful to abrella's original question. You take offence at us making the distinction between 'pop' and 'art' music, but tell me this: how then is she supposed to ask what she has asked? Abrella clearly understands 'pop' music as meaning the type with guitars and drums; she doesn't make any value judgements about it but simply asks how one can 'do' it. I will be absolutely clear: labeling something as 'pop' or 'art' music is NOT a judgement of quality, merely a definition of genre! Tokkemon's post was somewhat imflamatory but is actually closer to the point than might be apparent: sometimes we have to make unhelpful distinctions just to be clear what we are actually talking about. In fact, what are your definitions of 'pop' and 'art' music, if you indeed make a distinction?

I had spelling mistakes? Uh oh. :o I'm losing my touch. Oh well.

What Tokke was saying was clearly a judgement of quality, and alot of people around here think the same thing. You do not. I'm just wondering why people think that, because they don't like pop, that gives them the right to label it as "not art."

Bon Iver's album "For Emma, Forever Ago" would be defined as pop by Abrella's definition. Yet I find it to be a more eloquent expression of lost love than many of Chopin's piano works. I fail to see how it isn't art.

I fail to see how your stated reasons give you the right to decide what is art and what is not. I don't think anyone has this right, because art is subjective. My definition of art is "the expression of one's emotions, spirit or thoughts (the last, only to some degree. An ingredients list could be considered art by this definition.)" It has nothing to do with level of class or complexity, or even quality. Think of it this way. Comparing Mozart to Bullet for my Valentine is like comparing a Van Gogh painting to a young childs first drawing. Now, I would consider this early painting "art." If only, because it is the first step on the journey to becoming a great artist if the child wishes to become one. Pop is more technically juvenile than Chopin, yes. Much (not all) is used as a means for emotional and spiritual expression. THAT is my definition of art, as I stated previously. Isn't that the purpose of art, anyway? By your logic, I could compare a Da Vinci to a weird modern sculpture and come to the conclusion that the sculpture is not art. Is that true? Absolutely not. It's just different. I understand that you aren't judging the quality of pop by saying it isn't art, but I want to know WHY you say it isn't art. I know this has nothing to do with the original topic, but I can't let Tokkemon's statement go unanswered.

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Pop music generally isn't art and neither should it be; its remit is to give instant entertainment and should be judged in such terms without shame.

I have to agree with Alex on this one.

This statement of yours, while you may think it backed by evidence, is purely your own opinion. Which you are fully entitled to, I hasten to add, and is no less or more valid than anyone else's.

MUCH 'art' in the world is meant for commercial/entertainment/pop purposes. That does not make it less artistic or well-done as a medium of expression and aesthetic appreciation. Entertainment IS a form of art.

By your argument Mozart's divertimenti are not art, as they were written solely for the purpose of outdoor party entertainment (ie the name, "for fun"). Yet we still study them in uni because of Mozart's craftsmanship in fulfilling their set purpose.

I don't see how pop music is any different from that.

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We are entering the dangerous territory of semiotics. It is impossible to devise principles which we all agree on, thus we have to use imperfect boundaries and definitions. Perhaps a scale of degrees of 'artistic-ness' would be more satisfactory, although the human mind is poor at dealing with subtleties. However, for me, a workable definition of whether something can be tentatively considered an artwork should be approached through questions such as:

For what purpose was the cultural artefact in question created, and is there any hierarchy of purposes for its existence?

Is the cultural artefact intended to have any particular degree of longevity?

What degree of unique-ness does the cultural artefact possess? Is it intended to imitate, reject, or advance from other models?

Is the artefact considered particularly skilful or interesting, and can it be considered on several levels?

Does the artefact suggest being able to sustain various opinions on its interpretation?

What is the prevailing cultural opinion of the artefact?

On the other hand, perhaps it would be better to ask the question: What is definitely not 'pop'? Need there be a division anyway? I wonder if interpretation is a key issue here - would we agree that more 'artistic' cultural artefacts lend themselves to a broader range of interpretations by the beholder or performer rather than being handed out, ready formed, with little to 'work out'?

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Well, even by your definition, alot of pop could still be considered art. You just asked if there even need be a division. That's the whole point of my argument. I don't believe there IS a division. Pop is an art form, in my opinion. While it may not have as much creative depth or subtlety, I still think it's perfectly valid to consider it art. And I must say, your definition of art is fascinating. While it is not my personal belief that opinion defines art, it is perfectly valid and acceptable. Thank you for clarifying.

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