Why do so few people listen to classical music today compared to forms of popular music?

Posted by on 2/03/2015 21:41 in Blog | Comments Off on Why do so few people listen to classical music today compared to forms of popular music?

Popular music has certain attributes that allow it to serve its purpose very well.

  • Popular music is almost always based on current known musical genres, so listeners are well-prepared to understand and connect with it. Popular music innovates but tends to pull from certain deep influences that the listener recognizes.
  • It aims to be immediately accessible, to make an instant impact on the listener. If modern music demands repeated listening and being open to new formal structures it is not be “popular” by definition.
  • The form is often a song with several verses, a chorus and instrumental accompaniment. This is an ancient structure familiar to everyone. These songs are usually short, with limited thematic development and have a repeating melodic line.
  • The prominent beat that characterizes much popular music serves to identify its style and genre on one listening.
  • The instrumental forces used in classical music do vary somewhat but the basic lead guitar, bass guitar, bass and vocals is a very familiar mainstay.
  • It is supports and is supported by other popular arts such as film and video, poetry, dance and fashion.
  • Popular music is often associated with contemporary political or social issues.
  • Most popular music is short, so demands a limited investment of time.

It is interesting that despite what is often its fixed and unvarying structure and form, popular music manages to escape the charge of conservatism. It is typically the province of young people who by definition don’t see themselves as conservative. Lyrics of popular music sometimes deal with relevant
contemporary issues, and periodically the category produces a new sub-genre that represents a marked innovation, such as jazz, blues or hip-hop.

My point is that popular music meets a specific set of demands that listeners have.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

Classical music serves a completely different purpose and has markedly different characteristics:

  • The range of forces used in classical music is extremely wide: chamber music, voice, the orchestra, choirs and choruses, solo keyboard instruments of many types, solo string instruments.
  • Musical form is equally varied: symphonies, operas, string quartets, oratorios, concertos, cantatas, masses, tone poems…which creates an immediate barrier to understanding.
  • Where classical music deals with explicit ideas – which is not always – such as religion, myth, historical developments, these are often at variance with modern preoccupations. Romantic love is the exception: a theme in common between classical and popular music.
  • Classical music involves lengthy development of ideas, is relatively complex, and frequently features groupings of musical ideas in a single work. Typically there is no immediately identifiable theme that underpins a single work, or if there is, it is complex, multi-faceted, and not immediately obvious.

None of this is to say that popular music is worse or better than classical music, but if listeners of one branch sit down and try to listen to the other branch without modifying their expectations, they are
pretty much doomed to disappointment.

I should also be clear that this is something of a simplification. There is some very demanding popular music, and there is some very “popular” classical music. With that qualification, the basic premise does seem to stand.

This chasm exists in many other art forms. When the “consumers” for want of a better word, have to make a significant effort to become familiar enough with the art to start enjoy it, then those consumers will be less numerous. Two centuries ago, some educated people read the classics in their original languages, because they were taught Greek and Latin. Almost nobody makes that investment today.

Within classical music there are sub-genres that are more demanding that not everyone enjoys, such as opera, pre-baroque music, and certain categories of music or composers. The late Beethoven string quartets and his final three piano sonatas for example are very complicated and involved and require much more of the listener than his earlier work, so fewer people are familiar with them.
Lovers of classical music (I am one) maintain that the effort required to learn to appreciate music is vastly outweighed by the ultimate rewards. But, in order to get there one probably has to have some leisure and intellectual energy, plus some early musical education, or someone to initiate you to classical
music. This is bound to be a subset of society.

The unfortunate aspect of this is that many people convince themselves that they don’t like classical music or they find it “elitist” or “old-fashioned”, when if they had an effective introduction to it they might discover an enormous source of pleasure.

Taken from Quora article of James Thompson

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