Serious Music, Seriously

It’s long puzzled me why serious music isn’t enjoyed by most of the teeming millions. I heard that it’s because the beat is often not constant & pervasive. A failed attempt was tried to add a heavy beat called “Hooked on Classics”, unaccepted by classical buffs or thoes that require a steady “rock” beat. Is this the reason, or does it just overload the brain cells of most listeners? Try it, you’ll like it!


So only classical music is “serious?” That’s pretty pretentious.

Did someone open a can of worms in here?

Not! :slight_smile:

A heavy metal band would give the brain cells a bit more stimulus.

I think the reason that classical music is not “pop”, is because you need to make an active choice to intently listen to classical music to fully appreciate it. A lot of people aren’t prepared to commit the attention it requires to really get it.

OOPS, I lit another fuse! !! SORRY!

I am very serious about a lot of music, thank you very much. All I know is that I met a classical violinist from our locak state symphone and invited him to see Joe Satriani, a guitar virtuoso.

His reaponse? Running out after maybe two songs complaining about the colume, though commenting he “liked the way he threw his guitar around.”

I mean, I’m sure these feelings are not indicative of every classical musician/fan, but it’s what a kiddie would say…

Seriously though, The Three Tenors sold a decent amount, and symphony orchestras, operas and what have you have their own niches that, while smaller than the Tupac’s and Britney Spears’ of the world, is still far larger than some niches that I particularly enjoy and find very serious… say The Velvet Underground or Slayer.

Brian O’Neill
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OOPS, I lit another fuse!!! SORRY! It’ll show up on another forum, no doubt! It seems I hit a raw nerve! I’d just like to know, that’s all. Peace to rock fans far & wide!

I think you have to actually burn calories to appriciate the classical music experience. Thats why lazy people like me rock. Rock does the thinking for you, so to speak. Listening to classical music is supposed to improve ones ability to learn. This year students in some of our more troubled elementry schools here in town will be greeted with classical music in the morning. I guess some music really does calm the savage beast.

“His reaponse? Running out after maybe two songs complaining about the colume,”

Have you ever experienced the “colume” :slight_smile: at a symphony concert?
I don’t think most people go to symphonies to hear the music as much as to be exclusive.
Witness the dress codes etc.

I hope not to light another fuse! When I was a youth , (lo, these many years ago) much of popular music was classical music adapted to current tastes. With the advent of R&R, Pop music took a giant leap backward (IMHO), Appealing to the more primitive in us. I noticed that there were classicial music grads in our nmidst, I pointed my question to them, who may be as bewildered as I am. To say that one must “listen” to classsical, is nonsense! Much is very “backroundable” & has a heavy beat. Sorry if I offend anyone!


I think there are two things that hurt classical music in today’s world.

  1. Classical music pieces tend to be very long. A person who isn’t used to listening to it is less able to maintain interest over the course of even a single movement. Also, life is much faster paced today, and people rarely have time to sit and listen to a full composition. (Though they still have time to watch an inane episode of “ER”. Go figure.)

  2. The growth of the recording industry has taken the emphasis from the composition and given it to the performer. This can be demonstrated by the fact that most people know who performs their favorite songs, but only a handful can tell you who wrote it.

To elaborate on point 2: If you hear Beethoven’s 9th Symphony performed by the Chicago Symphony, it will sound pretty much the same as if it were performed by the London Philharmonic. The differences will be subtle. However, popular music performers tend to be very distinctive. You could hear a dozen groups do “Louie Louie” (as I have) and every one of them will be different.

I remember that THe Swedish Rhaphody was #1 on the charts along with the 18th variation by Paganini. Were the kids smarter then? NO! My point is that the popular music today is not our choice, but that of the recording industry & the media. Youth are easily steered, affecting their choices in life. It’s been my observation, That the youth today are missing too much in life due to instilled prejudices from the media. Enjoy rock! but not to the exclusion of other music!..'see ya later, Carl

Gee, Carl. That sounds a little paranoid.

Look at it this way. Suppose the media is in on some conspiracy to deprive the masses of great art against their will. How long would it be before some media genius says, “Hey! If I give the people great music, they’ll listen/watch my station and forget about all the others!”?

Like much else in life, there isn’t any great conspiracy. We are the authors of our own doom.

I listen to classical music, jazz, and 60’s to 90’s rock, and appreciate works from all of those genres. There is a huge variety of classical music out there, from operatic things to Vivaldi to Stravinski to Bach to Liszt. There’s not much it all has in common, really. There are some really cool but very short classical pieces, under 30 seconds in length, and there are some very long, many-hour symphonic things that you need an entire evening to take in.

But I think there are a few things that hurt classical music as a “popular” format these days. One is that generally speaking, rock is more “instantly gratifying”. There’s a very clear thumping beat, there are almost no dynamics (it is all compressed to one volume level in the mastering process), and it tends to be short and musically very simple.

Of course anything you say about a genre of music is by nature a generalization. But in contrast, much classical music has an enourmous dynamic range (not so good for playing over the radio), large variations in tempo, themes that unfold over a longer period of time (not so good for today’s 60 second attention span), and often classical pieces spend much more time before the final “resolution” of the tension that’s produced by straying from the song’s resolution key. Also, it has very soft, sedate passages which are meant to be heard in contrast to loud, furious ones, but who these days will sit through 15 minutes of soft, slow music? It takes more effort to appreciate the whole of a large work, than to appreciate a small standalone rock song that’s never more than 5 or 10 seconds from resolving to a base chord.

Also generally speaking, it requires much more musical talent to play classical music than rock. For instance, I am an amateur pianist (about 19 years experience), and while there are certainly talented rock pianists out there, a very large fraction of rock piano is just pounding out repeated chords. By contrast, many of the works of Liszt, Chopin, and others are enourmously harder to play, so this tends to limit the interest among novice musicians. Almost anybody can learn to bang out a rendition of Stairway to Heaven, but only a handful of people in the world can really play some of Chopin’s harder piano compositions.

All told, I think classical music, just very generally speaking, is less accessable than rock, and thus cannot be as popular. I don’t see that as either good or bad; it just is. I surely spend more time listening to rock than to classical - i guess perhaps a 4 to 1 ratio. But probably my top 5 favorite works (in all genres combined) are all classical pieces. (Many of my least favorite works are also classical pieces).


Satriani is a genius.

As I said, classical music is far less exclusive than a lot of influential artists in the past such as The Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart, Pere Ubu, The Ramones and Graham Parsons. And it also has more fans than current (and older) faves of mine such as Sonic Youth and Motorhead.

And I’ll bet you that more people own something by Pavarotti and/or The Three Tenors than own something by Frank Zappa, a rock icon if there ever was one…

As such, classical music is NOT ignored as much as critical influential (read: serious) rock music.

In fact I was told by classical music buffs that unlike pop music, where marginal talents generally outsell more critically acclaimed artists, in Classical music, the most poipular players (i.e. the ones who you will see on Letterman and The Today Show) are usually the most talented.

That’s an interesting point Satan. Does classical music have the equivalent of the Dave Clark Five, the Bee Gees, or Brittany Spears? Composers who were immensely popular in their own era, but who later generations didn’t listen to? If Beethoven and Mozart are the Beatles and Pink Floyd of classical music, who is the Bay City Rollers?

Salieri comes to mind.

Also J.S.Bach’s sons - C.P.E., J.C., etc. (but not P.D.Q.)

The good points you all have made here could also be applied to art forms other than music - painting, literature, etc.

The way I see it is that individual classical songs may be more “accessible” than individual rock songs, but that the genre as a whole is not. It’s clearly not hard to find individual exceptions.

Also, some classical themes are very famous, the sort of things almost everyone has heard even if they can’t recall the composer. But I think that’s sort of an orthogonal concept.

To me, songs can be too well known. I love classical music, but I am not likely to sit down and listen to Beethoven’s 5th, since I’ve heard it used too many times in used car commercials and cheesy low budget advertising to ever really enjoy it. Rather an undeserved fate for a worthy piece of music, IMHO.