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  #101  
Old 08-21-2019, 03:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Dinsdale View Post
I'll assume you actually don't perceive any element of snootiness in how classical music is performed.
You're the one who proposed the entrance of the concert master, subsequent applause, and tuning of the instruments as being an example of snootiness.

It makes sense to me to ask exactly what about this is snooty and why similar actions in non-classical performances aren't snooty.

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Fine. I - and I believe many others - feel differently.
This looks like an appeal to belief, a fallacy.

Basically what this bit seems to come down to is "I think it's snooty because I want to think it's snooty."

Given that "snooty" can be given a meaning that people generally understand, I should think that there would be less ambiguous examples of snootiness.
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  #102  
Old 08-21-2019, 04:37 PM
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You're the one who proposed the entrance of the concert master, subsequent applause, and tuning of the instruments as being an example of snootiness.

It makes sense to me to ask exactly what about this is snooty and why similar actions in non-classical performances aren't snooty.
In rock concerts the roadies tune the guitars. Orchestras can't afford that many roadies.
  #103  
Old 08-21-2019, 04:54 PM
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I do like classical music. But one thing that's harder to appreciate, when you're not hearing it in person, is the dynamics. There are pieces I love to hear live, because, heard live, they go from almost silent so it's like you're thinking the piece in your head, or sensing it in your bones, to bombastically loud, but yet not overpowering.

On a recording? This doesn't work. First you have to turn your sound up really loud, for the quiet parts. Then you have to jump up and turn it down so it doesn't shatter your speakers, and make your windows rattle. . .
In other genres of recorded music, they use compression to minimize the difference between the loud and soft parts. For whatever reason, they don't use compression much in classical music. One of the reasons I prefer chamber music or solo piano works to symphonic stuff.
  #104  
Old 08-21-2019, 04:55 PM
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But does anybody dance to it ? (the listener, not the ballet)
I guess you aren't aware that the third movement of a classical symphony was a dance. And that all of Beethoven's 7th symphony is dance related.

No, they are not going to make you shake your booty, but if that is what is important to you you must think that disco is the absolute height of western music.
  #105  
Old 08-21-2019, 05:08 PM
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Once I went to a concert because my cousin was playing. I didn't see a piano, and I hadn't got a program when I went in, so I asked the lady [sic!] next to me if I could have a look at her program, just to get an idea when my cuz might be coming on. She said: "I don't have a program. I know what I'm listening to."
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Originally Posted by Inigo Montoya View Post
Sounds like someone who knew the music, but had never felt the music, and so she was insecure for knowing, deep down, she never groked the music. Let's give her points for trying, but she still fails.
Geez, guys, maybe she did in fact know the music, and therefore just didn't bother to get a program!

I'd like to say that I have an idea why classical music is not so popular anymore, but it would be mere conjecture. I do know that in the prime's of people like Leopold Stokowski and even Leonard Bernstein, you could come across it being played on the radio, if even accidentally. Are kids still forced to take piano or violin? I was introduced to the concept of classical music thru the Peanuts, specifically Schroeder's love of Beethoven. Wasn't exactly who Beethoven was back then, but I knew he was someone adults probably liked. Anything then that was "adult" seemed appealing to me, so I checked out a Beethoven album from the library. Listened to it once and took it back, but at least I had an inkling what it was all about...
  #106  
Old 08-21-2019, 05:15 PM
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I guess you aren't aware that the third movement of a classical symphony was a dance. And that all of Beethoven's 7th symphony is dance related.
And not only that, the seventh is "the apotheosis of dance", as the great German composer Richard Wagner famously described it. But more important, I mentioned the 7th earlier, and now you brought it up again. Yay! Please join me in imploring everyone here to listen to it at least once. Paraphrasing David Letterman, who many times said of bands on his show, "that's all ya need right there!", it's got everything you need in a symphony. Anyway, pedantic begging mode now over...

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  #107  
Old 08-21-2019, 05:47 PM
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One thing I don't get at all is musical theater. Sometimes they're fun, but generally I feel like I'm sitting through a couple of hours of alternating not-great dialogue with not-great songs. People go for it though, so I guess I must be overlooking something.
Some musicals are wonderful -- I'm thinking of Oklahoma or Hello, Dolly.

Other musicals have a great song or two and that's it.

There are some musicals that are shite. I'm thinking of Clue, which I saw a few years ago. That was a big waste of money.

Sturgeon's Law applies to everything.

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  #108  
Old 08-21-2019, 06:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Fiddle Peghead View Post
And not only that, the seventh is "the apotheosis of dance", as the great German composer Richard Wagner famously described it. But more important, I mentioned the 7th earlier, and now you brought it up again. Yay! Please join me in imploring everyone here to listen to it at least once. Paraphrasing David Letterman, who many times said of bands on his show, "that's all ya need right there!", it's got everything you need in a symphony. Anyway, pedantic begging mode now over...
Robert Greenberg's section on the Seventh in his Beethoven Symphonies course was titled "The Symphony as Dance." You nailed the fourth movement, I wanted to mention that all the movements were dance related.
  #109  
Old 08-21-2019, 07:25 PM
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I can't find the source, but I saw an article which says that opera vocals sound the way they do because audience needs to hear it. It's a genre that never adopted to the invention of microphone.
That would be Broadway music, or soundtracks from musical productions.

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  #110  
Old 08-21-2019, 07:27 PM
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But does anybody dance to it ? (the listener, not the ballet)
What about the minuet? The waltz? The polonaise/polska? Flamenco?

~Max

Last edited by Max S.; 08-21-2019 at 07:27 PM.
  #111  
Old 08-21-2019, 07:35 PM
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That may be true for you, I can't think of any examples from my own life where that has been the case.
Do you ever read satire? I'd imagine that it's nearly impossible to enjoy a work of satire entirely on its own merits, without any idea of what it's satirizing.
  #112  
Old 08-21-2019, 07:44 PM
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I know that some people think classical music is boring, but I've never thought so. I was planning to say I like just about all genres of music (which you'd know if you saw my cd collection), but I really hate country and country performers. Total turn off.

But I adore Prokofiev. And Stravinsky! Heh. a billion years ago I was in a record store (heh) in Century City buying an LP of L'Histoire du Soldat. The clerk noticed what I was buying and said a guy came in a day or two earlier and asked for The Sacred Printer. The clerk said what? And the guy said, yeah, The Sacred Printer by Stravinsky.
  #113  
Old 08-21-2019, 08:20 PM
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...I was planning to say I like just about all genres of music (which you'd know if you saw my cd collection), but I really hate country and country performers. Total turn off.

...
Hmm - Patsy Cline? Emmylou Harris? Johnny Cash? ...
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  #114  
Old 08-22-2019, 02:53 AM
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The clerk noticed what I was buying and said a guy came in a day or two earlier and asked for The Sacred Printer. The clerk said what? And the guy said, yeah, The Sacred Printer by Stravinsky.


I like classical, even though I'm not knowledgeable about it. I came to it a bit late in life, dragged in somewhat because I came to like ballet first.

I find this whole thread very reminiscent of various threads we've had about abstract art.
  #115  
Old 08-22-2019, 04:10 AM
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I'm not particularly an opera fan, but there are many brilliant arias in opera.

Opera... is certainly pretentious today, but it wasn't always.

At its height in Italy in the 19th century, opera was popular entertainment. It wasn't regarded with reverence. The audience shouted comments, booed if they didn't like the performers, walked in and out during performances, treated popular singers like rock stars. The words matter in opera, as much as in country music or folk songs, and the stories are the soapiest of soap opera stories (there's a reason it's called 'soap opera'). Melodrama and high emotions are pervasive. Many operas are set in 'exotic' locations - ancient Egypt, Japan, medieval Italy, or have fairytale or fantasy elements. They appealed to ordinary uneducated people in Italy.

American musicals like Oklahoma, Show Boat, Guys and Dolls, etc. are simply an evolution of opera, converted into English and into American culture.

To get a sense of opera, go back to singers like Mario Lanza. His recordings are decent quality, but his style is an older, less pretentious style. He sings with real emotion and cares about the words.

The movie The Great Caruso (1951) is well worth watching as an introduction to opera.

Montage from the movie - very short scenes from:

- Il Trovatore ("Don't forget me, Leonora, farewell!")
- Rigoletto (Duke of Mantua tries to seduce a girl)
- Tosca (Guy is about to executed the next day - 'Life has never been so dear to me.')
- Cavalleria Rusticana (Village tavern scene)

Watch it as soapy Italian melodrama with music!

Also from The Great Caruso, a couple of scenes from the opera Martha - and Caruso (played by Mario Lanza) falls ill in the finale.

Last edited by GreenWyvern; 08-22-2019 at 04:12 AM.
  #116  
Old 08-22-2019, 05:30 AM
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Do you ever read satire? I'd imagine that it's nearly impossible to enjoy a work of satire entirely on its own merits, without any idea of what it's satirizing.
I read "Alice in Wonderland" and "Gulliver's Travels" as a kid and "Animal Farm" and "1984" as young lad without any knowledge of their background. I enjoyed them immensely on their own merits and as I've learned more about them I can honestly say that their emotional impact is not any greater now. From an academic and intellectual point of view I know more but I don't believe I am more effected by them or enjoythem more.
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  #117  
Old 08-22-2019, 06:29 AM
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Opera... is certainly pretentious today, but it wasn't always.
Disagree. An opera is an opera. It's the same opera today as when it was written.

However, some opera fans are certainly pretentious. Whole venues are pretentious. The Met, in NYC, is pretentious.

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In other genres of recorded music, they use compression to minimize the difference between the loud and soft parts. For whatever reason, they don't use compression much in classical music. One of the reasons I prefer chamber music or solo piano works to symphonic stuff.
It's hard to grasp the full dynamic range of (some) classical music listening to the devices on which recordings of that that music is typically played back.

When I was a kid, my father allowed himself one indulgence. He didn't have a sports car, or go out a lot, or have expensive hobbies. But he did have an amazing stereo system (which we kids were not allowed to touch, ever). Separate power and pre-amps for each channel, huge and amazing speakers, a turntable that looked like something out of a science fiction movie, and lots of tubes that glowed when the whole thing was turned on.

On the right equipment, you really can hear the full dynamic range. But that equipment isn't available to most people. I don't have anything like that today.

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Some musicals are wonderful -- I'm thinking of Oklahoma or Hello, Dolly.

Other musicals have a great song or two and that's it.

There are some musicals that are shite. I'm thinking of Clue, which I saw a few
I wish I knew more about musical theater. The only songs I know I know because I've listened to them performed by jazz musicians. Which is, obviously, a whole different thing.

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I like classical, even though I'm not knowledgeable about it. I came to it a bit late in life, dragged in somewhat because I came to like ballet first.

I find this whole thread very reminiscent of various threads we've had about abstract art.
I came to classical music early in life. It was the only music I heard at home when I was growing up. I came late to rock music -- didn't hear any until I was in high school (in the 70s). I loved, and still love, rock, or at least some rock. Who wouldn't love rock if your introduction to the genre was hanging out at CBGB listening to the Ramones?

But I'm glad I grew up on classical. My worry about my own kids growing up on pop music is that their attention span for music will end at five minutes, and they'll only be able to appreciate simple harmonies and melodies and rhythms.
  #118  
Old 08-22-2019, 08:09 AM
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I read "Alice in Wonderland" and "Gulliver's Travels" as a kid and "Animal Farm" and "1984" as young lad without any knowledge of their background. I enjoyed them immensely on their own merits and as I've learned more about them I can honestly say that their emotional impact is not any greater now. From an academic and intellectual point of view I know more but I don't believe I am more effected by them or enjoythem more.
You keep mentioning emotional impact. If the only enjoyment you're getting is on an emotional level, you're missing a lot.

Classical music, like virtually any other art form, has at least the potential of appealing to the head and the heart. (And, in the case of music, I might add, to the ears and to the feet: It can make you think; it can make you feel; it can be catchy "ear candy"; it can make you tap your toes.)
  #119  
Old 08-22-2019, 09:19 AM
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You keep mentioning emotional impact. If the only enjoyment you're getting is on an emotional level, you're missing a lot.
Not sure I understand you. I don't think enjoyment is quantifiable other than by referring to the emotional impact experienced. The emotional impact you experience may be increased by additional knowledge and the ability to analyse. That is nice for you but I can't see how you are enjoying it any more than I am and I can confirm my enjoyment levels are not enhanced in that way so "missing out" is not an accurate description.

I listen to the Enigma Variations without any prior knowledge and put my enjoyment level at a 9/10.
I research Elgar and the background to the piece and when listening again I put my enjoyment level at 9/10

I don't enjoy the music any more in the latter scenario.

Certainly I end up better educated, I know more about the world, I may understand more about the motivations and be able to see exactly what is happening. But....at no point do I think any of that helps me enjoy it more. Perhaps I just experience music in a different way to you, the visceral experience of it is what matters to me.
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  #120  
Old 08-22-2019, 09:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Novelty Bobble View Post
Not sure I understand you. I don't think enjoyment is quantifiable other than by referring to the emotional impact experienced. The emotional impact you experience may be increased by additional knowledge and the ability to analyse. That is nice for you but I can't see how you are enjoying it any more than I am and I can confirm my enjoyment levels are not enhanced in that way so "missing out" is not an accurate description.

I listen to the Enigma Variations without any prior knowledge and put my enjoyment level at a 9/10.
I research Elgar and the background to the piece and when listening again I put my enjoyment level at 9/10
I'm not talking about things like biographical background on the composer. I'm talking about the content of the music itself beyond its strictly emotional appeal. Things like the structure, the "plot," the development (as Les Espaces Du Sommeil discussed in Post 40), the way the music conforms to or defies the expectations it builds up in the listener.
  #121  
Old 08-22-2019, 09:33 AM
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What about the minuet? The waltz? The polonaise/polska? Flamenco?

~Max
Flamenco is classical music?

Which anyway brings up something else: "classical music" is a very wide range. I suspect whomever first came up with that idea of indicating notes as dots on a set of lines would have been extremely surprised if he could hear Horst's Planets. It certainly isn't something I'd be wanting to listen to during breakfast when my brain is still half awake but then, neither is Aserejé.
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  #122  
Old 08-22-2019, 09:47 AM
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Saintly Loser @117: “The Met, in NYC, is pretentious.”

Hey! They’re giving us Porgy and Bess next month! You callin’ my boy Georgie “pretentious?”

And the last time I attended was for Parsifal.. The cast did the entire second act ankle-deep in the blood covering the stage. Cool beans!
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  #123  
Old 08-22-2019, 10:02 AM
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Why does classical music always have the same instruments and structure? As if through out time, only violins, cellos and flutes existed.

Where are the jams Richard the Lion-Hearted grooved too? Why isn't Platos favorite song considered classical?
  #124  
Old 08-22-2019, 10:36 AM
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I'm not talking about things like biographical background on the composer. I'm talking about the content of the music itself beyond its strictly emotional appeal. Things like the structure, the "plot," the development (as Les Espaces Du Sommeil discussed in Post 40), the way the music conforms to or defies the expectations it builds up in the listener.
I'm primarily interested in what the music does to me, not how it does it.

All the aspects you mention are open to study and analysis, as would be the ingredients of a fine meal or the aromatics given off by a fine wine but knowing more about them doesn't make it taste any better to me.
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  #125  
Old 08-22-2019, 10:48 AM
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All the aspects you mention are open to study and analysis, as would be the ingredients of a fine meal or the aromatics given off by a fine wine but knowing more about them doesn't make it taste any better to me.
Um. Please don’t take this the wrong way. Why do you then like hanging around a message board devoted to fighting ignorance?

If you acknowledge that knowing more about an art or science or whatever would increase enjoyment, why state proudly that you prefer not to learn?
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  #126  
Old 08-22-2019, 10:54 AM
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If you acknowledge that knowing more about an art or science or whatever would increase enjoyment, why state proudly that you prefer not to learn?
I think you've misread me. I say that knowing more about the music has not increased my enjoyment of it.

And I am a scientist. My job actually demands that I explore and understand complex situations in order to develop understanding and solutions. Knowledge and learning is a wonderful thing.
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  #127  
Old 08-22-2019, 11:10 AM
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I'm primarily interested in what the music does to me, not how it does it.

All the aspects you mention are open to study and analysis, as would be the ingredients of a fine meal or the aromatics given off by a fine wine but knowing more about them doesn't make it taste any better to me.
Some people do experience things differently when they know how the different parts interact to create the whole. Some do not.

If you appreciate music form, and take the time to study it, the difference when listening is that you think to yourself, that's neat how they transitioned from this to that, I like how this instrument in this movement reminds me of X, this is an unusual scale with a haunted theme, etcetera. It is like identifying with lyrics or being awed by vocal range versus simply liking the sound of the singer's voice. It is the same difference between saying you like music, and being able to point out which specific series of sounds you appreciate. For some people, the ability to identify what exactly you like about something, or to appreciate the inner workings of a thing, in fact heighten the experience.

I am not saying that learning music theory is necessary or even that it makes listening better. This is all subjective. Different people like different things, for example I am perfectly happy appreciating automobiles without any want or will to understand all of the inner workings. I love pretty cars, but I'm no car lover. Some people call that ignorance, but they're snoots. I think it's bliss.

~Max
  #128  
Old 08-22-2019, 11:19 AM
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Some people do experience things differently when they know how the different parts interact to create the whole. Some do not.

If you appreciate music form, and take the time to study it, the difference when listening is that you think to yourself, that's neat how they transitioned from this to that, I like how this instrument in this movement reminds me of X, this is an unusual scale with a haunted theme, etcetera. It is like identifying with lyrics or being awed by vocal range versus simply liking the sound of the singer's voice. It is the same difference between saying you like music, and being able to point out which specific series of sounds you appreciate. For some people, the ability to identify what exactly you like about something, or to appreciate the inner workings of a thing, in fact heighten the experience.
Which is all fine, it may well heighten the experience that they personally would otherwise have had but I don't think it means they extract any greater enjoyment overall than the person who does none of that. Nor is one approach in any way "superior" to the other or evidence of greater intellect. It was phrasing that suggested as much that I originally objected to.
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  #129  
Old 08-22-2019, 11:20 AM
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Why does classical music always have the same instruments and structure? As if through out time, only violins, cellos and flutes existed.

Where are the jams Richard the Lion-Hearted grooved too? Why isn't Platos favorite song considered classical?
I take it you're not familiar with Historically Informed Performance.
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  #130  
Old 08-22-2019, 11:44 AM
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Why does classical music always have the same instruments and structure? As if through out time, only violins, cellos and flutes existed.
It doesn't. Different ensembles used different instrumentation. Chamber music (say, a string quartet) is still classical music.

And even the full symphony orchestra evolved between the Baroque and Romantic periods as instrument technology advanced. The clarinet, for example, did not really exist before 1700, and only was adopted as a standard orchestral instrument in Beethoven's time.

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Where are the jams Richard the Lion-Hearted grooved too? Why isn't Platos favorite song considered classical?
Musical notation was an innovation of the Middle Ages, so we have little record of what music Ancient Greeks listened to. But music that's "considered classical" has always been "art" music -- ballads and other "popular" tunes such as would be played by wandering minstrels is old, but not usually considered "classical".


Powers &8^]

Last edited by Powers; 08-22-2019 at 11:44 AM.
  #131  
Old 08-22-2019, 12:09 PM
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Give me a good old Sousa march that I can tap my toes to!
How about a good old Beethoven march? Michael Haydn? Strauss?
  #132  
Old 08-22-2019, 12:49 PM
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Is classical music, just orchestral music that hasn't reached a certain age yet?
  #133  
Old 08-22-2019, 12:54 PM
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It doesn't. Different ensembles used different instrumentation. Chamber music (say, a string quartet) is still classical music.

And even the full symphony orchestra evolved between the Baroque and Romantic periods as instrument technology advanced. The clarinet, for example, did not really exist before 1700, and only was adopted as a standard orchestral instrument in Beethoven's time.
There's also polyphonic choral music, with usually 4-8 different voice parts and perhaps an organ. There were many great 16th and 17th century composers of polyphonic music such as Palestrina, Monteverdi, Allegri, Gabrieli, Lotti, Victoria, Tallis, Gibbons, Byrd, etc. Some of Bach's choral work. Composers have never really stopped composing music like this, mainly sacred music, and some contemporary classical composers still continue to do so.
  #134  
Old 08-22-2019, 01:00 PM
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Is classical music, just orchestral music that hasn't reached a certain age yet?
No, it has nothing to do with age. There are many contemporary classical composers.

And classical music isn't only orchestral music, it includes chamber music, opera, and choral music.
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Old 08-22-2019, 01:03 PM
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Hmm - Patsy Cline? Emmylou Harris? Johnny Cash? ...
Rats. You picked the few I actually like. And I have an unreasonable fondness for the song El Paso.

Re: opera. I saw an old movie when I was a kid where Lily Pons sang The Bell Song from Lakme. It gave me shivers...I loved it so much. I must admit I often prefer some isolated arias vs. the entire opera, but I don't hate opera. Got to see a beautifully sung staging of Turandot at the L.A. Music Center at least ten years ago. Weird staging and costuming though. I leaned over to my companion to say that Calaf looked like John Travolta in Battlefield Earth. He laughed and said the woman next to him just told her husband that he looked like a Klingon.

Who doesn't love Nessun Dorma?

Last edited by carrps; 08-22-2019 at 01:03 PM.
  #136  
Old 08-22-2019, 01:06 PM
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@Novelty Bobble - If you know more about the internal structure of a piece of music, you hear more. And if you hear more, you enjoy more.
  #137  
Old 08-22-2019, 01:16 PM
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@Novelty Bobble - If you know more about the internal structure of a piece of music, you hear more. And if you hear more, you enjoy more.
I hear all the audible sounds that are available, same as you do.

The analysis of the music may give you pleasure but it is purely a subjective claim that you make for you yourself and no further.
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Old 08-22-2019, 01:27 PM
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I hear all the audible sounds that are available, same as you do.

The analysis of the music may give you pleasure but it is purely a subjective claim that you make for you yourself and no further.
I think you're either deluding yourself, or arguing for the sake of arguing. But I'll leave it at that.
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Old 08-22-2019, 01:49 PM
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I think you're either deluding yourself, or arguing for the sake of arguing. But I'll leave it at that.
Either that or perhaps you are simply unable to accept that some people experience art in different ways to you, that people can indeed gain their maximum enjoyment from music without the need to analyse it deeply?
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Old 08-22-2019, 02:34 PM
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Rats. You picked the few I actually like. ...
Yeah - I doubt any reasonably intelligent person with a relatively open mind could reject an entire category of music. (Of course, there is the added difficulty of "categorizing" artists.)

Hell, in the right mood and setting, I can imagine the right opera - or even rap - impressing me positively. But I can safely say the majority of those types of music that I have heard do not appeal to me.
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Old 08-22-2019, 02:45 PM
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Remember the Harry Nilsson song with the lyric, "you put the lime in the coconut and drink 'em both up?", etc? There are no chord changes in the song and it's played over a C7th chord all the way through. Contrast this with, say, a Mahler symphony, with multiple chords, key changes, modulations, etc. Now, as many times as I heard the Coconut Song growing up, it was only recently that I learned about its one and only chord. Listening to it again, I appreciated it on a different level. It keeps its interest to the listener despite its relatively simple structure. In the same vein, I appreciate a Mahler symphony apart from the music itself as to it's chordal structure, modulations, etc as mentioned. To some, this double-enjoyment is a big thing, but to others, it is not. For me, I like knowing these sorts of things, but they don't make the music more appealing emotionally to me. Why does this idea seem to be a requirement for some people here vis a vis Novelty Bobble?

Last edited by Fiddle Peghead; 08-22-2019 at 02:46 PM.
  #142  
Old 08-22-2019, 03:18 PM
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Why does classical music always have the same instruments and structure? As if through out time, only violins, cellos and flutes existed.
It doesn't all have the same structure. Not even close.

Far less so than rock music, that's for sure, which is all pretty simple. Pentatonic scales, three or maybe four chord harmonization. Simple chords too.

As to instrumentation, the range of instruments used in classical music is far, far wider than the range of instruments used in any kind of pop music. Or even jazz.
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Old 08-22-2019, 03:39 PM
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For me, I like knowing these sorts of things, but they don't make the music more appealing emotionally to me. Why does this idea seem to be a requirement for some people here vis a vis Novelty Bobble?
It is the musicians I would expect to have at least a journeyman's knowledge of music theory (if only so they can proceed to break the rules), not the listeners. How many people would take up listening to music if it required a couple of years' study before you could hear it? (And you can't appreciate music before sitting down and listening to loads of it.)
  #144  
Old 08-22-2019, 05:11 PM
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Western Music History


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Originally Posted by Sitnam View Post
Why does classical music always have the same instruments and structure? As if through out time, only violins, cellos and flutes existed.

Where are the jams Richard the Lion-Hearted grooved too? Why isn't Platos favorite song considered classical?
Well, in western music history, and I hope I didn't get any of this wrong:

Ancient Music
(before 800 CE)

SPOILER:
Tonal music as we know it did not exist during the time of Plato. Ancient Greek "songs" were really monophonic chants: poems sung on and accompanied by instruments playing on a single mode. Lyre-players usually fixed the cross-bar for the duration of the poem, so that the instrument only played one mode, like a guitar without a fretboard. They would use one hand to mute certain strings, then strum all of the strings at once, producing a tetrachord and probably copying the vocal melody note for note. Pan flutes were crafted for a single mode as well, and flautists would carry a set of eg: Dorian and Phrygian pipes. The aulos was a double-reed instrument that might accompany Dionysian chants. You can find an example of ancient Greek music (as we understand it) near the end of this video.


Medieval Music
(1200 CE - 1500 CE in England
800 CE - 1400 CE for the rest of Europe)

SPOILER:
Until the late medieval ages, western music was mostly the human voice. At first it was plainchants, which means a single monk or bard singing a single melody line, or a group all singing the same exact note. Children's songs are plainchants, like "Ring around the Rosie" or "Pop goes the Weasel". Sometimes, in folk settings, they would have a musical instrument doubling the chant (as in ancient times).

Sometimes they added a second voice singing the same melody in parallel, either a perfect fifth or full octave above the main voice. This is called organum. Organum was probably developed after rediscovering ancient Greek culture. This is still considered monophony but it was a new and important development in western music theory. English musicians preferred thirds to fifths though.

Also around 900 CE monks realized that changing pitch more than once while singing a single syllable sounds nice, and thus introduced the melisma into western music theory. Think of the "Glo-oo-ooo-oo-ooo-oo-ooo-ria" from "Angels We Have Heard on High". Earlier compositions drew upon syllabic meter, which means one pitch per syllable. People also started using new instruments such as the fiddle (a bowed lute) which could reproduce that sliding pitch.

It wasn't until the twelfth century that French composers (such as Léonin and Pérotin) developed polyphony from melismatic organum. In English, it wasn't until the 1100s that French composers listening to the male choir singing one single note in a deep voice, and the female choire singing a melody that starts each stanza exactly one octave or perfect fifth higher than the men, realized "hey, what if we had them singing different melodies at the same time?" The movement away from monophonic chants to polyphonic music is called Ars Nova. But Ars Nova didn't reach England until the mid 1200s because England is far away and musical notation at the time did not convey enough information to recreate a song without hearing it first. I'm guessing it took some time for a guy from England to learn polyphony in France and bring it back to England.

I think the ecclesiastical music of England by the time of Richard I (c. 1200 CE) would have been Roman Gregorian chants, which would have recently replaced older Celtic chants. Folk music has not survived (only the monks would know how to write it down), although we know it existed and probably involved monophony.

And polyphony was a revolutionary idea, despite having existed for hundreds of years in virtually every other part of the world. Suddenly all that boring church music became less boring. I think the pope banned polyphony at one point, possibly because it was so pleasing that it distracted people from the religious nature of prayer. Further, having two voices makes it more difficult to understand the words being said. Later popes liked it and by the fourteenth century people were writing polyphonic masses and developing new technology such as the chromatic keyboard for the pipe organ. Lute players stopped strumming with quills as plectrums and started plucking individual notes, which is now called finger picking.

In the early fifteenth century, English composers such as Dunstaple and Power created polyphonic music using triads based on thirds and sixths instead of then-customary fifths and octaves. This contenance anglaise was influential in central Europe as England's armies (and music) marched across France, and marked the beginning of the Renaissance era in western music.


Renaissance Music
(1400 CE - 1600 CE)

SPOILER:
Influenced by contenance anglaise, contemporary Flemish musicians such as DuFay and Ockeghem used many triads when they developed and spread the motet form. The motet is where two voices sing different parts, but the Flemish motet has them singing different words in contrapuntal form. Originally one person (or group) would repeat the same word or phrase at one pitch, for example the first words in a stanza, and the second person (or group) sings a different melody with different words at another pitch. By the mid-to-late 1400s rich Italian nobles had attracted Franco-Flemish musicians such as Josquin de Perez to Italy, who would later dominate the music scene. This Franco-Flemish school of music was disseminated via the newly invented printing press, and their secular (chansons) and ecclesiastical works (masses) nearly define the early Renaissance in music.

Now the early 1500s, religious people started objecting to how complicated church music was becoming (again). With all the stuff going on, with ten people saying one word and ten people saying a different word, you can't really understand what is being said. Josquin, Palestrina, and others (now the "Roman" school) dropped the repetition from the motet form, so that one group sings very slowly to one melody while the other sings words to a faster melody. This technique is known as a suspension, and is not limited to choral music; in choral music, this made it easier to understand the religious text being recited. The Council of Trent (mid-1500s) agreed and ordered the Church to cut down on complex polyphony. As a result, ecclesiastic composers started developing harmophony, which is where a single melody is accompanied by chords as opposed to an independent contrapuntal melody. After that, churches started to sound like modern Roman Catholic churches do now, what with the organs playing a chord to accompany a single choral melody for important verses, and maybe splitting the choir and organ into multiple parts for the less essential verses.

In secular music, more and more complex polyphony made it impossible to understand the words. For the first time, composers developed wholly instrumental works. This coincides with advances in metalworking, trade, and manufacture that allowed for the invention or discovery of new instruments such as the recorder, natural trumpet, the cornetto (no modern equivalent), the viol (precursor to violin), clavicord, citthern (like a guitar), shawm (an oboe with holes instead of valves), etc. Still, you wouldn't expect to see more than a few instruments playing together (called a consort), and music was not yet written for any particular instrument.

Meanwhile, Italians adapted polyphony to secular poems and thus developed the madrigal form (eg: Luzzaschi or Marenzio), which is sung a capella (unaccompanied, in the chapel). This became very popular and quickly spread to Germany and England.

Rome was sacked in 1587 and musicians fled to Venice, founding the Venetian school (these schools are not physical establishments, by the way). Probably inspired by the opposing choir lofts in St. Mark's Bascilica, the Venician school under Willaert and Zarlino started to develop antiphony, which is a sort of call and respond approach. One half of the choir might sing, then the other half sings back at the first half, and the organ played alongside both, much like a congregation and preacher do today, but with music. Venician antiphony inspired the secular concertato, an instrumental form of choral antiphony developed by the Gabrielis in St. Mark's. One group of instruments would play, and another group would respond.

At the end of the sixteenth century and early seventeenth century, musicians especially in Florence started looking back at ancient Greek culture and developed the monady. A monady is where you have one vocalist singing a melody over an instrumental bass line or basso continuo, provided by the lute, harpsichord, or organ. A similar form emerged in France from the older medieval chansons. This development of the bass against the treble is important. Similarly, people started to realize that music can in and of itself produce an emotional response in people; previously, it was thought that the (sacred) words did so. Mixed with the existing musical forms, these developments introduces the musical solo and tonality to western classical music.

Finally we have the invention of orchestration, which really brings the Renaissance era of music to an end and ushers in the Baroque or early classical music. (Well, some people say Renaissance music is classical, too.) The concertato style developed at St. Mark's Bascilica in Venice, and improved upon by those such as Claudio Monteverdei, prompted composers to write for different groups of instruments. They might say "we will have the trumpets call out first, and the strings will respond, and then have everybody play at once." This kind of thinking lead to larger musical ensembles such as chamber ensembles and, much later, orchestras. It also lead to "classical" forms such as the concerto grosso made popular by Corelli, the concerto championed by Vivaldi, and later the (vocal) cantata by Rossi, and much later the instrumental cantatas you may recognize by Bach. The monady in turn evolved into oratory such as those of Carissimi, and opera such as those of Cavalli.


I'm going to stop there. I hope you learned as much as I did.

~Max
  #145  
Old 08-22-2019, 06:46 PM
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It's hard to grasp the full dynamic range of (some) classical music listening to the devices on which recordings of that that music is typically played back.

When I was a kid, my father allowed himself one indulgence. He didn't have a sports car, or go out a lot, or have expensive hobbies. But he did have an amazing stereo system (which we kids were not allowed to touch, ever). Separate power and pre-amps for each channel, huge and amazing speakers, a turntable that looked like something out of a science fiction movie, and lots of tubes that glowed when the whole thing was turned on.

On the right equipment, you really can hear the full dynamic range. But that equipment isn't available to most people. I don't have anything like that today.
While your father probably had a terrific sound system a vinyl record is limited to about 70 db of dynamic range vs a CD with a dynamic range in the 90's.

But to your point. It's hard to grasp the full dynamic range of most any music. I don't think it matters in the bigger scheme of things when judging whether or not it's pleasing to listen to. At most, a good sound system enhances what you already like.

There is nothing you can do to opera that would make me despise it any less. I fully understand the skill involved but to me it's like listening to the best barking dog. It will never be anything beyond intensely annoying. More power to the people who like it.
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Old 08-22-2019, 06:48 PM
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How many people would take up listening to music if it required a couple of years' study before you could hear it?
Absolutely. That's why I was a bit annoyed at other people trying to tell Novelty Bobble how to approach and appreciate music.
  #147  
Old 08-22-2019, 06:53 PM
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Why does classical music always have the same instruments and structure? As if through out time, only violins, cellos and flutes existed.
Are you fucking crazy? Do you know how many different instruments are in a symphony orchestra, not counting the violins, cellos and flutes? And how many different ways they can perform in solos or smaller ensembles without any violins, cellos or flutes?

On the other hand, how many instruments are in a rock band?
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Old 08-22-2019, 07:17 PM
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On the other hand, how many instruments are in a rock band?
Does a synthesizer count as one, or....
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  #149  
Old 08-22-2019, 07:56 PM
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Are you fucking crazy? Do you know how many different instruments are in a symphony orchestra, not counting the violins, cellos and flutes? And how many different ways they can perform in solos or smaller ensembles without any violins, cellos or flutes?

On the other hand, how many instruments are in a rock band?
If you think of classical music as the original Phil Specter "wall of sound" they are conceptually similar. Many of the instruments are playing the same music to give it a richer sound that fills a music hall. Otherwise it would be music chaos.

If you listen to Santana you will notice that they bring instruments in and out of the foreground so there is a grouping of music and not an Indy 500 race to the finish with each instrument fighting for the lead.

Virtually every piece of music I like follows this principle and that includes orchestral.
  #150  
Old 08-22-2019, 09:04 PM
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Far less so than rock music, that's for sure, which is all pretty simple. Pentatonic scales, three or maybe four chord harmonization. Simple chords too.
I don't know enough about music to even join a conversation about pantatonic scales or identify rhythms. But I wouldn't think the above comment that rock music "is all pretty simple" or only uses simple chord is true. What about many songs and albums by Frank Zappa, Yes, Rush, King Krimson, Jethro Tull, Queen, Pink Floyd?

Last edited by Orwell; 08-22-2019 at 09:05 PM.
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