The Essential Music Libary: Project Planning

For a couple weeks now, I’ve been toying around with the idea of trying to get the knowledgeable folks of the SDMB to try to reach a consensus on what exactly constitutes the essential music library. It’d be easy enough to start a single thread and be done with it, but I don’t think that’s quite enough. A single thread would provide a breadth that you’d be unlikely to find anywhere else on the internet, it’d be very unlikely to provide any significant depth.

With that in mind, I’d like to work out a series of threads that will provoke discussions on the major styles of music that are out there today. Here’s the list I’ve got so far:

[li]Avant-Garde/Experimental[/li][li]Blues[/li][li]Classic Rock[/li][li]Classical[/li][li]Country/Western/Bluegrass[/li][li]Electronica[/li][li]Jazz[/li][li]Metal[/li][li]Modern Rock[/li][li]Non-Western (aka “World”)[/li][li]Pop[/li][li]Punk/Post-Punk[/li][li]Rap/Hip-Hop[/li][/ul]

So here’s a couple questions for y’all. Is this list missing anything significant, and if so, what? And are these reasonable divisions that could be discussed in a thread or so? I think electronica in particular might need to be split, but I’m not sure about the best way to do it.

Once we have the list of styles, I’ll figure out the ordering. I will very likely start with the jazz, classical and blues threads because those are what interest me the most at this point, and I think they’re most likely to draw in other folks to the discussion.

With that, I’ll open this up for discussion. Thoughts?

Great idea. I’d love to be involved.

I’d suggest dumping classical - it really is its own medium, not genre - and could very easily turn into a 20+ page thread on its own. I’d focus on everything else to start with.

I also suggest a Reggae category, under which Dub, Rocksteady, Ska, and traditional Reggae would fall.

I’d probably also give Folk its own category, independent of Country/Bluegrass/Western. I’d put those under the blanket term Americana, which would cover everything from the Carter family to the Alan Lomax field recordings, to Hank Williams to Patsy Cline, and so on.

You say “Modern Rock,” but I’m not sure where original Rock and Roll (“Rock Around the Clock,” to pick a lame example) would go in your system. The stuff from before, say, the British Invasion is not generally called Classic Rock. There’s also the contemporaneous Rhythm and Blues music. RnB now means something totally different, but at that time it was basically black Rock and Roll. I suppose you’d make room for Elvis somewhere in there.

You also need space for various kinda of Funk and Soul music. And Gospel! There’s no Gospel in there, and very little American music exists without that.

I agree with Marley23. Also, Motown is conspicuously missing.

And, classic rock (and I imagine some of the other categories) could be subdivided, and essentials chosen for each of those subdivisions.

I think the vast number of recordings available and styles of music make it almost impossible to come up with a ‘short list’ of essential albums.

That said, I’d say step one might be to refine your genres more.

Tack on a catagory for personal favs, then you have one catch all thread for the stuff that falls through the cracks.

Love the idea though.
Abstract, DL


I certainly wouldn’t agree with dumping classical, but rather subdividing it into Classical, Opera and Contemporary Classical. The first two would be focussing on current & vintage recordings, performers & singers. The latter would be about composers, and would be the broadest definition of ‘classical’ music of today.

How is the OP planning on organizing discussion? Starting separate threads for each genre/sub-genre with links back to a master or index thread might be the way to organize this.

As for “classical” music, I disagree that it should be excluded, however it might be more manageable to break it down into the commonly understood eras progressing from the Middle Ages to Renaissance to Baroque to Classical to Romantic to Modern. Opera is probably deserving of it’s own separate category although there have been many genres since it was born in the Baroque era. Even so, we’re talking about a time span of a thousand years so any discussion will inevitably be far from adequate. Doesn’t mean we can’t give it a shot, though.

I’d dislike to see too much segmentation of classical music. ‘Middle ages’ & ‘Renaissance’ are pretty much meaningless terms. ‘Romantic’ when used as shorthand for ‘nineteenth century’ is thoroughly inaccurate. And it would suggest that you can’t discuss things across different periods, which can be unhelpful. For example, I’ve seen explanations of particular performance issues in Bach explained by way of Gershwin and Stockhausen, and in the opposite direction there’s plenty of twentieth-century music that is dependent on particular historical connections or contexts.

I agree that the categorizations are more a matter of convenience and that there’s much overlap and cross-pollenization, etc. These merely put forward as a potential way of organizing discussion of such an unweildy topic.

Also, I’m not sure I agree about Middle Ages and Renaissance being meaningless. Since Baroque music has definite stylistic and compositional characteristics (notably polyphony and the birth of Opera) maybe a better way to define that era is pre-Baroque.

As for the ‘Romantic’ era, maybe calling it a movement is more accurate. I’m curious how you would describe the evolution in compositional music post-Beethoven.

‘Nineteenth century’ does fine for me. There’s not one single evolution, but a variety of concurrent developments. You’ve got to cover composers such as Schubert, who are on the trajectory that leads through to Mahler (cf the last song in Winterreisse), regional developments such as Russian & Czech nationalism, various operatic traditions, the beginnings of a Nordic musical identity, etc. etc. None of these easily fit into one label or category.

Maybe instead of Motown you can have Rhythm and Blues and Soul categories.

Well, then you’ll need a Funk category.

You also need a Gospel category.

Classical you might as well just split up into centuries, if you’re not going to do it alphabetically. You definitely need it in there, regardless. How can you leave it out of an essential music library?

World Music you could start subdividing by continent or region.

Film Soundtracks and Musicals should be in there, too.

You might want have some sort of straight-up Pop category to capture The Monkees, The Archies, Britney Spears, Back Street Boys, etc.

I’m glad to see some folks are interested. I was definitely worried about this one falling off the map. I’m not even going to try to keep the quotes in order here.

OK, those sound like reasonable changes.

Yeah, my terms are a little off there. I was hoping to split rock into two threads: one for everything from Elvis to about 1980 or so, and one for everything since then. I was thinking 1980 not only because it’s the halfway point in the current history of rock music, but also because that’s when punk had just happened and post-punk was starting to happen.


That’s about what I had in mind. This thread looks like as good a candidate as any for the index.

OK, that sounds like a good split. I was kinda hoping to concentrate more on classical pieces than performers/recordings to keep things a bit more accessible to people who aren’t already classical music buffs, but I suppose that would be rather difficult, wouldn’t it?

That’ll go on the list.

I’m kinda trying to avoid doing too many splits, for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t want to take 80 threads to do this–if possible, I’d like to keep it down to 20 or so. Second, there aren’t that many people who are interested in discussing the essential collection of modern shoegaze recordings. Long threads are fine.

Would film soundtracks fall under the category of contemporary classical?

Like I put in the list in the OP? :wink: If possible, I’d also like someone like Eve to come in and tell us about pop from the first half of the 20th century.

So so far, the new additions are folk, funk, soul, gospel, R&B, and Motown (if that doesn’t fall under some other category). I like the idea of GorillaMan’s split for classical, and I don’t want to split non-Western music because I want to keep the thread count down.

I’ll await more input today and post an updated genre list later tonight.

Not necessarily, because soundtracks are in a lot of different styles. While most scores are orchestral there are many that aren’t, so contemporary classical wouldn’t be a good place. Better to have it’s own category, IMO.

Heh heh, yep :wink: …in all seriousness, it could easily be a discussion of both together. But in some cases it’s hard to talk about pieces without talking about individual performances.

I think I’ll plump with mack on this, with hesitation. While some Morricone soundtracks, for instance, can meaningfully be be discussed alongside those by Shostakovich, Korngold or Walton, the soundtrack to Moulin Rouge hardly fits into ‘contemporary classical’! “Film music / musicals” seems a reasonable compromise, as long as you don’t object to some film music still making an appearance within the classical categories.

Keeping overlap out isn’t possible, so I’m definitely not going to worry about it.

ultrafilter - I admire your initiative and suspect that quite a few of us Music Loving Dopers (MLDs?) will benefit from your hard work, so thank you.

Question: What is your end goal?
Is it to just get a list within each genre - each list could be infinitely long?
Are you looking at putting a limitation or constraint to keep the lists manage-able? It strikes that if you just say “Blues” for instance, people can end up dog-piling on that and listing hundreds of names just for fun. How do you prioritize, sort, rate, whatever??
What will make the list: Band names, specific albums, specific songs, specific recordings?

Just curious as to your thinking - I am NOT trying to rain on this parade, just want to see how this might play out…

Your list seems to be a good start, although I would have to argue against one Country/Western/Bluegrass category.

To be anything near properly indicative of the genre, both historically and today, you would need, IMO:

Country & Western: to include traditional country & western, texas swing, honky tonk and popular country music up to the Rhinestone Cowboy era.

Examples: Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Waylon, Patsy, Hank, etc.

Modern Country: late 70’s country onwards to today - this is a pretty weak genre, although it’s a wildly popular one, with plenty of hits. This encompasses everyone from Garth Brooks and Lee Greenwood to Shania, Billy Ray and Alan Jackson. Half of it is really rock with a slight swing and a heavy accent.

Alt-Country/Americana: modern country that doesn’t fall in the the above category - this is a wide category, but a fertile one. Examples include Uncle Tupelo, Old 97’s, Wilco, The Jayhawks, etc. There’s a recent thread talking about alt-country, but I’m too lazy to search for it. It’s got plenty of examples and a good knowledge base.

Roots/Americana: I spin off the acoustic side of Alt-Country to include such artists as Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams, Jay Ferrar’s solo acoustic work, Rhonda Vincent, Bob Cheevers, etc. A good listing of this type of artist is here.

Old Time: This is a traditional genre - to include Piedmont Blues, Appalachian Music, French Canadian, and English derivatives (based on Irish, Scottish and Northumbrian traditional music), as well as sea chanteys, whaling songs, and such. Artists such as Doc Watson would fall in this category, as well as such albums as Garcia/Grisman’s Shady Grove, which I would consider a must-have by the way.

Bluegrass: The classic high lonesome sound - bluegrass is a very specific genre, started by Bill Monroe, with a unique sound and history. Giants of the genre include Jimmy Martin, The Stanley Brothers, The Osborne Brothers, Del McCoury, Don Reno, Flatt & Scruggs. There was a significant ‘Bluegrass Revival’ that came about in the late 60’s-70’s, which also spurred significant popular interest in old-time and other folk traditions. This paved the way for Newgrass, which is a modern updating of the tradition - major lights of this style include the Peter Rowan, Seldom Scene, King Wilkie, AKUS, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck’s 'grass work, and so on.

Jamgrass: a variant of 'grass featuring a stronger emphasis on group improvisition yet still well within the 'grass world. The best known name would be Yonder Mountain String Band, but also to include Foghorn Stringband, Hot Buttered Rum, Tim O’Brien’s more recent work, and some of Grisman’s later work (although he crosses a lot of genres and is more rightfully his own genre which is called Dawg Music.)

There’s more, but at the risk of seeming overly pedantic, I’ll stop here.

And don’t forget folk and other non-country/mountain based acoustic musics… :slight_smile:
BTW, if you want to really dig into to the 'grass world, you should start with as it features the best of the web in terms of free, legal downloads of complete shows, a bunch of good radio streams, and a good representative catalog of the bluegrass/newgrass/jamgrass world, and a good bit of the grassier old-time music too.

I wouldn’t mind splitting it in two, but again, I’m trying to keep the thread count reasonably low. Having 6 threads for one style doesn’t work.

What’s a reasonable two-way split?

That’s pretty much what I’m going for. That way, if someone wants to check out a particular style, there’s a thread that we can throw at 'em with more than enough to keep them busy. The true essential classics will be mentioned over and over again, so I don’t think we need a specific goal for listing them.

Whether the list should include artists, albums, or songs is up to the people making it. If I’m checking out a style for the first time, I’d want a list of albums that I need to hear, but other folks might want a list of songs to download.

It’s your last quote that I am getting at - I can almost see a two-part thread: 1) to pile on with the names of artists within that genre, albums, songs, what have you. But AFTER that, some filtering of the list - so you (we!) end up with a short(er) list of essential albums and/or songs. You are driving and I am sure you don’t want it to be overly complex, so will leave it at that - maybe after a thread has progressed for a bit, you can summarize the list of names that kept getting repeated.