Saturday, May 05, 2007

Myths of Music

Right now there is a good discussion going on at Crooked Timber about the distinction between folk music and popular music. Names like Bartok, Lomax, Elijah Wald, and Brittany Spears are being tossed around, so be prepared to duck if you get involved.

My bleg of the other day has been woefully neglected, so I am going to try again. Here is a list of myths about contemporary music. Add or subtract in the comments.

1. There is a distinct difference between contemporary classical music and contemporary popular music.
2. Contemporary classical music (hereby abbreviated CCM) is atonal.
3. CCM is ugly.
4. Nobody really likes CCM.
5. CCM is unnatural, it doesn't follow the laws of acoustics and cognition.
6. It is because of CCM that classical audiences are shrinking.
7. All CCM sounds the same.
8. Music should always sound pretty or pleasant.

So, I've left the list at an annoying 8, with at least two more myths to make the decimal system happy. You don't want the decimal system to cry, do you?


Patty said...

First of all, every time I see CCM I have to remind myself that you aren't writing of Contemporary Christian Music since that's what that music is called. (And there is (was?) a mag called CCM.)

In any case ... I think another myth is this:

9. CCM may not be beautiful, pretty or pleasant.

10. CCM should not have form.

Scott said...

Ooh, #10 is good, though I would change it to "CCM never has [perceptible] form."

Patty said...

Change as you will. :-)

I DO think #9 is true too, but perhaps you disagree ... these days so many frown on beauty, in so many art forms. "If it's beautiful it can't be good art." But maybe you agree with the statement?

I think beauty can have great depth, but I think some are wary or completely disagree with that.

But then I'm an oboe player ... ;-)

Scott said...

Ah, I didn't understand the perspective of #9 at first. I think one of the wonders of art is that meaning can be expressed in countless ways, which can include both pretty and ugly.

Unknown said...

I think we too often conflate "pretty" with "beautiful". Music can be pretty w/o being beautiful. Some pretty music can be so banal that you have to occasionally check to see if it is still playing.

Number 6 is incredibly important, and why I am so adamant about ending the Style Wars in criticism.

Scott said...

Steve, I agree. Likewise, a piece of music can be beautifully ugly.S

Anonymous said...

(Apologies if this is a repost - I couldn't tell if Blogger had saved it)

I've been thinking about this Scott, and rather than come up with general points I keep getting drawn to specific myths about individual composers/works (which I guess isn't really what you're after). I like the ones you have so far though, especially number 5. Here are some though:

Contemporary composers don't know what they're doing: if they were any good they'd be able to write proper tunes.

CCM is music made by ivory towered composers for ivory towered composers.

Serialism was the best/most important thing to happen in CCM.

Serialism was the worst/least important thing to happen in CCM.

Scott said...

Tim, those are good. I brought up the ivory tower myth during the symposium, in relation to the shrinking audiences idea.