Thursday, July 31, 2008

What is Classical Music?

Today's question arose out of a conversation that I had on the way back from Stratford with Ann La Plante, general manager of the Alliance for Canadian New Music Projects regarding exactly what, in this postmodern age of culture- and style-hopping, constitutes the meaning of "classical music". Is it the body of music constituting the western classical tradition of the last few centuries? Did it come to an end with the birth of atonality over a century ago? Or is it a constantly developing and expanding umbrella of styles with rapidly disappearing boundaries? Although this may seem like a purely academic question, I assure you that there is a huge amount of arts funding that hinges on just where the boundaries of classical music lie.

Leave your comments below with your answers to the following question:

What is Classical Music?

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What is your core repertoire?
What are your peak musical experiences?

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  1. Tough question...
    I would consider classical music to be anything that has elements of "classical" construction, ie., having elements that are based on previous forms of accepted forms of classical music.

    So, because Mozart and Beethoven are accepted forms of classical music, their music can be used as a basis for future forms. Looking forward into the mid 20th century classical music would contain works by Schoenberg, Berg and Webern and their 12 tone compositions. We can then extend this definition into moderns works by Ferneyhough and Ligeti.

    Unfortunately, this definition would also include nearly all forms of popular music today.

    So, a further classification is necessary. Perhaps, classical music is also music that attempts to provide something new in terms of music understanding. So, most popular songs are original, but not necessarily advancing music understand. However, if we add that classification a number of Mozart's works wouldn't fit as they are wonderful pieces of music, but were not really an advancement of what any other piece did during his day. There are also a number of "urban" pieces that might fall into the category of classical as they definitely are advancing what we understand in terms of music - with new uses of electronics and mixing techniques.

  2. Yes, these are imperative questions, and the story of our lives as 'classical music' teachers...for added insight check out' or, if so inclined...
    ...speaking of things Berkley!