Composer's Corner

• Sep 8, 2020 - 14:31

A transcriber's nightmare? A composer's delight? I know that our notation system has gone through revisions since it's inception. Stockhausen made a strange departure in notation. I'm kind of intrigued by the idea of addressing foundational weaknesses in our system and how it might be improved by degrees.
The Clairnote system seems to do this, with it's more accurate distancing of pitches on the staff. The modification to the staff is only slight. Clairnote might be a good system to get children started on reading and writing music. Can the two programs (Musescore and Clairnote) be merged? They are both open source, but someone said that it's foundational system, Lilypond, is not compatible. How long would it take to develop an interface?

To put my interest in context, Steve jobs once said that he thought that the Microsoft Word program was competitive because he designed it with a selection of fonts. For me, the inclusion of different systems is like the choice of fonts. To be able to view and work with your music in an alternative universe, yet with translation between those worlds. I think such options would give Musescore a competitive edge over even the commercial products out there.

And, no, I don't expect the masses to pop up say "Oh Yeah!" in unison. What are the advantages and disadvantages? What groups does one or the other option benefit?

Transcribers can still preserve the works of the past in the traditional system. I alert you that we are in a transition from transcriber to composer software, so expect many issues to arise that come from composers and for different ways of thinking about this program in the years to come.


In reply to by xavierjazz

Maybe Cage was trying to say "My music will be around for a lonnnng time?" As opposed to the Stones? I think one could make the point that classical music is different than pop in that it holds the interest much longer.

In reply to by bobjp

It is, yet it was probably developed with the authoritative direction of transcribers. We'll look into this some more. It's another thing to develop this project further with the direction of composers. And we are probably headed for a bit of a culture clash between the two groups. That's the reason for me wanting to back up and take a bigger, larger or general view of things.

In reply to by mike320

Right. We are moving from notation for transcribers to a system that is more focused upon composing. That means we need to talk about a Composer's Wizard. I believe that The Wizard was designed primarily by and for transcribers. That's fine. Now we need to revisit those notions.

In reply to by Rockhoven

What the heck is a "transcriber"? Is that an "othering" word used by haughty composers to minimize all other users of music software? (Yes, I have transcribed music from one instrument to another, but I don't think that's what you mean). Or does it mean a "copyist" such as myself (at times) who copies music from printed sheet to digital "sheet"?

In reply to by Rockhoven

The notations are standard practice and the engraving practices are being improved and are expected to be much better in version 4.

The playback of these notations is in need of being revisited. We'll see how easy the integration from a user's point of view is as version 4 starts getting stable enough to truly test.

In reply to by mike320

It seems to me that there are three types of users:
1. Engravers. Someone who is "type setting" a score and parts for publication.
2, Transcribers. Someone who is (for example) rewriting piano music for orchestra.
3. Composers: Someone intent on creating new music.

All three need the best note input possible.
2 and 3 need the best playback possible. Which is more that just better sound fonts.

I am referring to processes. I have done my share of transcription. Does anyone specialize in one or the other? Or are we all transcribers/composers? Meaning that we transcribe and compose. Because the processes are not the same.

In reply to by Rockhoven

Sorry to blur this distinction. But when I prepare scores of Baroque ensemble music, I always have to use my skills as a composer not only to compose a continuo realization, but to recognize textual errors (e.g.., wrong notes) and invent and justify solutions. Of course reading a book out loud is not the same as making an address of your own, but the two processes are intimately connected (i.e., how'd you learn to think and speak).

I think I said elsewhere that the most prolific composers determine what is "good." This work by Cage makes him the most prolific composer to ever have lived. In comparison, Bach wrote a mere 175 hours. This piece is extremely difficult to perform live. Wait until we hear the section of staccato notes!

I'm speaking from my own experience. I began with Musescore by transcribing theory books and my own notebooks. The New Score Wizard is ideal for transcription and probably for composing in the style of previous periods. But I subscribe to 21st Century common practice, and now that I am using Musescore more for composing, I find that the Wizard is an obstacle.

So let's compare notes. What are your processes for composition? Transcription work is a different process. 21st Century practice requires the Wizard to have a modified set up or a "Composer's Mode." That's the way I see it. But I spose you see it differently. So shoot.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc - You are a composer? I think that is what you said. But you do not seem to be a fan of 21st century common practice. So what is that? The development of the New Score Wizard does not seem to be informed by the latest processes. How do you go about composing?

A transcription has the benefit of a completed score for reference. The title is the first thing you encounter when copying. The next thing is the time and key signatures.

Think about how we composed with paper. All I needed to do was put a pencil to the staff and I could fill in whatever i wanted, in any order that I wanted. For me, the last item I consider is a title. That could come months later. I don't need it, and it's an obstacle for me to have to fill out. This could be fully automated and make more sense. All I need is a one step button for a grand staff, and automated filing. I don't need anything else. If I do need something like a key or time sig, I can drag that into the score when I'm ready. These are not the first things I consider.

The very first thing that I consider is a campaign to amass a large number of miscellaneous items, such as melodic and rhythmic motifs, and chord progressions. I need hundreds and thousands of items before I even get anywhere near a plan. I have a choice. I can notate these items with a system that is composer friendly, such as a Tascam handheld DR40 linear PCM recorder or Musescore. i would like a composer's wizard that functioned more like my DR40. My DR40 does works by hitting one button. It sets up a score for me which will allow any instrument or sound on the planet to be accurately recorded. And it automatically files it for me with the date and serial number.

Don't sarcastically ask why I need Musescore. I don't think I should be forced to use one or the other. I would like both. I would like all of my mscz files to be able to be copied into a folder along with my dated audio scores and for them to all fall into order together. The format is for today would be 200908 with a running serial number: 200908_0000. It is incredibly convenient and logical. I can find stuff easily. I can scan these lists of numbers and tell where I was and the types of projects I was working on at the time. It's a general listing and coding that informs me of where all of these thousands of scraps of information are. I can tell by scanning with my eye that a file dated 140724_1957 was recorded in Mexico City in 2014, in the latter part of July, and that I was almost 2000 items into a project.

I would also like these files to be able to be joined together and the dates transferred into the text above the staff. Then I am ready to sort stuff into titled projects. The final score is going to be assembled in a DAW. This is 21st century common practice. Talk to professional musicians and this is how we do it. Scored parts come to the composer randomly to be assembled later.

I need Musescore for other things like transcription of ideas and theories and analysis. But when I am writing and recording, I mostly use it to generate sound clips for manipulation in a DAW. Every time I get an idea, I have to go through this score setup with the Wizard, thus it's an obstacle for me.

Of course, if this is not your experience, then you won't understand. I can understand why you would think that the New Score Wizard is sufficient when you have a completed score or you are composing a full score for performers to read. I just don't work that way. I have produced lots of compositions, but I have no full written scores. For each work, the completed score is in the DAW. The written score is now only a tool for getting a documented audio score. Like the Beatles, who scored their works directly on audio tape.

The entire scoring or notation process was upended by Les Paul in the 1950's. The individual instrument staves are replaced by audio tracks. We study the Beatles in theory classes using not only written scores, but by listening to the individual audio tracks. Just like we learn to listen to Bach by singling out bass lines, melodies, and voices from the contrapuntal texture. For modern works, the audio score is the primary source and the final word on what should be played. The Analogues are a band that faithfully reproduce the Beatles catalogue. they get the best information from the audio recordings. this is 21st century common practice.

Well, that poops me out. I'll spellcheck this later. Viva la revolución!

In reply to by Rockhoven

>>> [...]For me, the last item I consider is a title. That could come months later. I don't need it, and it's an obstacle for me to have to fill out. This could be fully automated and make more sense. All I need is a one step button for a grand staff, and automated filing. I don't need anything else. If I do need something like a key or time sig, I can drag that into the score when I'm ready. [...]

You've been given that functionality right here:
Too bad you seemingly haven't had a moment to try it out in these past two weeks.

In reply to by Rockhoven

Rockhoven - Just because you compose a certain way doesn't mean that many others do the same as you. Don't need a title, hit NEXT. Grand staff? Easy to find and select. Don't want the other stuff? Click through it. Those of us who purposely compose and aren't jotting down random ideas, use all those settings. I write mostly filmscore type stuff for small orchestra. I have an idea of a general mood. I set up the score and start writing, and see where the music takes me. All for the therapy of it.
You do know the Beatles recorded everything because none of them ever knew anything about notation. Not that they ever needed to. They made more money than anyone ever before them. Plus they had a genius engineer.
Many composers I know of use notation to write their music, then move to a DAW to get the sound right. Or just work in a DAW directly. This is fine unless they need a score for real players because DAWs suck at scores.

In reply to by bobjp

You did not understand. With paper, I can just start writing. all I need is a staff. I don't need the Grand Wizard. And I need automated filing. The Tascam does this logically. There are no arguments, no nothing. This is how I have to notate because I can't get a score in one click. ONE click. No Next buttons. One. That is the loneliest number that you'll ever do.

I use written notation. I wouldn't be whining and drooling and babbling if I didn't.

In reply to by Rockhoven

But with paper, You have to shove all the stuff off the piano bench on to the floor. An action that only gets you in double trouble later. Then you have to shew the cat off the keyboard cover. Then you get it half open and it slips out of your hand because there is jelly on it (where did that come from?), and it smashes your other hand. Fast forward through the trip to the ER, and now you have to find your staff paper. Next, you have to find the pencil sharpener. And then figure out how to hold the pencil in your thickly bandaged hand.

In reply to by Rockhoven

Yes, I am a composer, and a 21st century one, using 21st century methods, whatever that means - it just doesn't happen to mean the same thing as what it happens to mean to you. Don't confuse the century with the person. You have a workflow you like that involves DAW software and daily logs, that's fine, but don't assume everyone who works in the 21st century uses that same workflow.

Anyhow, I think everyone would agree that in any century, if someone happens to often create scores of a single type - for you it might be a grand staff, for another it might be SATB on four staves, for another it might a lead sheet, for another it's always an SATB choral score, for another a marching band, whatever - then it would be nice to have a button to easily create scores of that type. No one objects to the idea of an "easy" button that would simplify the process a tiny bit, removing those extra five seconds of think time - from your day.

And indeed, for that subset of people who only create scores of their preferred type, then this button might be all they need. But for the vast majority of us in the 21st century, we write music of different types, for different ensembles, in different keys and meters, and thus we would only use that "easy" button sometimes, and the rest of the time we would continue to want to specify the instrumentation etc for each score. So the wizard continues to serve its purpose for the 21st century.

In reply to by Rockhoven

This discussion is probably dead by now, but I can't resist jumping in: I don't understand how you can see the score wizard as an obstacle and relate this to the 21st century way of composing? For one thing, you don't need to complete all steps in the wizard, and you can also create styles/templates for reuse. As for the title - let's say that you are working on a couple of new projects in parallell and you need to save the incomplete work - before you assign titles, as this is the last thing you do as you say. How would you locate those projects on your computer if they don't have some identification? Musescore use the title as the file name, and you can call your work in progress WIP1, WIP2 or whatever you like and change that later, but you still need to assign a name/title. Whether that is the final or preliminary title is irrelevant. I regard wizards as a "Good Thing" in all user interfaces that rely on some user input to get started, but the wizard should be flexible and all fields should be changeable later. Just my $0.02. Btw - I am probably a bit biased beeing a programmer :-)

Then we need to get composers and professional musicians to crawl out of the woodwork and tell us how they work. Because I don't think that the vast majority of us write scores or write completed scores. We work in bits and pieces. Hip Hop groups will compose a collection of 1000 rhythms just to get a few to work up into an album. I think you are speaking from inside some "classical" bubble. I'm talking real world nuts and bolts over here.

You can test a prototype of what I suggest. Just pick up your handheld recorder and start logging your ideas. Now try that with Musescore. I am speaking from experience. I write and record every day and the Wizard is an obstacle.

In reply to by Rockhoven

I am a composer/player and write charts for my bands predominantly. Most of my work is Jazz of the Americas, Afrocuban, Brazilian, post bop and my own style. I do lead sheets and charts for others but I have no interest in following any particular styles. I am a well trained musician. originally classically with over 60 years experience, I understand what goes where generally and do not write things that are difficult for players to read. I have a style that is very easy to read and is quite different than others use. I use the jazz font and jazztext. Players really like my charts because of clarity and ease of reading. I developed it to make reading as easy as possible, bolds, boxes, circles ..... I put things where players expect them.

I write for players. I write specific arrangements, usually with blowing sections. The only use I have for playback is to check for accuracy as to accuracy of accidentals. As I say, I write for players.

I was involved with MIDI when it first came out, did some work for Yamaha and Roland and decided I had no interest in playing with machines. I still feel that way.

I find using MS as a composition tool much more time consuming than pencil and paper, although when I am fairly close to what I want I often write it out in MS and print it out for more in depth work with a pencil.

For me composition is a labourious process, especially using a notation program, but I am grateful for MS as my penmanship sucks.

I hope this helps. Thank to all (so many) who have made this as good a program as it already is.

In reply to by xavierjazz

xavierjazz - Thanks for that input. I know what you mean. Here is how I would notate with paper. i would not even put a clef, because if I'm a bass player then the bass clef is already implied. The only time I would use a clef is when it was an instrument other than the bass.

As a composer, I just want to get stuff down quickly and conveniently. The ideas come randomly and end up as miscellany. The best way to start organization is with automated filing. It's not the same experience as transcribing a completed work. I know that professional musicians would agree that writing software is too much of a hassle. I use it, but I use it much differently than these classical composers do, and i am very aware that it is an obstacle to have to start a new score for every small bit that comes to me at odd times. i want it fast and efficient. One step with automated filing. State of the art.

In reply to by Rockhoven

And there-in lies the problem. Everybody wants quick and easy.
But nothing really good ever came quick and easy. Nothing that will be important is quick and easy. In 100 years, how many Beatles songs will be around? Yet there is no reason to believe that the G minor Fugue will not be as popular as it is now. Art is not quick and easy. It takes work. An incomplete composition is not a composition. It's a work in progress.
When I write a song, I don't use notation. Just lyrics and chords. I pass those around and we knock it out. But I don't take that kind of work as seriously as my orchestra pieces.

In reply to by bobjp

Ho! So we should draw our own staff paper and throw Musescore out? We should not even purchase printed staff paper because it's quick and easy? You are employing rhetorical loopholes. I'm talking the reality of the situation, Bobbers.

In reply to by Rockhoven

So am I. You miss my point, entirely. ANY method of working with any aspect of music (or anything, really) involves some kind of hassle to get it going. You want to add yet another layer to the Wizard. Yet another button to push. For me there is a long list of things that would actually make MuseScore better software. Far more important than the Wizard.

In reply to by Rockhoven

I write jazz, pop, classical, and many other styles. Don't assume everyone works the way you do, or that the way the vast majority of notation programs has no relationship to the way the vast majority of composers work, just because you personally work differently.

In any case, as I have said, if you have some special unique workflow for which a daily log is important, then it sounds like a great job for a plugin customized to your particular needs. If you can convince someone to write it for you, and then enough other composers start using it to, someday it could even become built into MuseScore. Meanwhile though, since everyone works different, we provide tools that support all the different ways real composers work. And yes, that does mean it might take you an extra five seconds to create a new score to your specs.

Although actually, I don't see why you don't just use the default empty score - that's what I use all the time for just jotting down ideas or testing things out. If you'd rather it be a grand staff, fine, just create one and specify that as your startup score.

Am I going to become a better composer because I filled the titles in on my files rather than using an automated system? Is my music going to be better because I jumped over hurdles to set up a simple grand staff?

On the contrary, I can improve if I am not wasting my time on such things and even more if I am not wasting my time arguing with people about a very logical design improvement.

In reply to by Rockhoven

No, like I have said multiple times, if you personally prefer computer-generated titles rather than ones you choose yourself, I encourage you to find a plugin programmer willing to code something up for you. Probably wouldn't take but an hour or two.

And once again, we all agree that someday it might be nice to have a "generate new score of my favorite type"
button. No argument necessary. But it's pretty unlikely this would do the title the way you prefer though, because that's just not useful to most people and would be a step backwards as they would have to delete that title in order to enter a meaningful one. When creating design improvements, its important to consider the needs of the many, not just the few. Still, if some day int he future many people request this, sure, no doubt that could be added too.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

They could switch the mode in preferences. There could be a composer's mode and a transcriber's mode

Yes, there is nothing to argue about, but there is a lot to discuss, and it's very relevant to the development. (Put that one to a pop tune.)

Marc- You say that just because I am doing something it doesn't mean that other people are doing it that way, but then you assume that they are doing it your way. This is just as false as the notion that developing new notation systems is "unpopular." The fact is that the method I have described is immensely more popular than yours because many more people use handheld audio recorders for notating musical ideas. the method is to click a button, the recorder sets the "score" and it automatically files the item for you. And since these people are using recorders they are not here, which leaves you with the false impression on this forum that your ideas are "popular" when they are not.

Do you want some data to back this up? We have a record of how many downloads have occurred? Then we'll ask around and find out how many musicians use handheld recorders to notate their music. And how is that music developed? By loading it into DAW. This is the reality of the situation and it all began with audio recording and then the multitrack method developed by Les Paul. Les Paul and the Beatles, along with Cage and Stockhausen established the foundations for 21st century common practice.

In reply to by Rockhoven

It's true I assume I assume people do things the way MuseScore, Sibelius, Finale, and pretty much all other notation programs work. And I do think it's a pretty reasonable assumption. Aft6er all, they really have no choice but to work this way, because the type of workflow you describe isn't supported by any other notation program I am aware of. And since notation programs are developed by people who write music, and since their development is informed by feedback from users, the fact that notation programs are designed this way is decent evidence that this what users of notation programs want. I've also read tens of thousands of forum threads here over the past decade and can't remember a single other request for the sort of automatic logging feature you advocate.

It's true that people not using notation programs use something like you describe, but that's not as relevant to the design of notation programs as the experiences of people who are using notation software. Just as I wouldn't take feature included in notation programs as must-haves in handheld audio recorders. Plus, handheld audio recorders don't prompt for titles almost by necessity, because their user interface doesn't include a QWERTY keyboard, so entering titles is awkward.

So anyhow, yes, it's "just" an assumption on my part, but one that is pretty well backed up by evidence I think. Still, I'm not attached to this thought. if new evidence comes in that some previosuly-silent majority actually does want the feature you describe, then no doubt it will get implemented. I'm not trying to impose my will on anyone, I'm just trying my best to read the pulse of the thousands of users who post here or in the other forums where I interact with them, to help make MuseScore the best program it can be to meet the needs of the most.

Again, if you want the feature for yourself, probably you can hire a programmer to create you a plugin you can start using next week. If you want to sell other people on the idea, see if you can drum up support here. Then if enough people really do say they love it and want to see it in MuseScore, I have no doubt it will happen.

Anyhow, if someday a new logging feature gets added, I just ask we don't label it composer versus transcribe, because it has absolutely nothing to do with that. I composer a lot. I trandscribe a lot. I do a lot of other things at lot. At no time do I personally yearn for a new mode, so a mode named after the activity makes no sense. What you describe is logging, so call it what it is - a log. Whether it's a "mode" or just a single command is also something yet to be determined, but right now I'm not seeing any advantage to a whole new mode for this relatively simple feature.

Again, for all clarity and in all openness. Your requested daily log functionality has been available as a plugin for over 2 weeks now. This is already your third post in which you claim this functionality is missing in MuseScore you need a 1-click solution.

The plugin gives you a 0-click solution after initial setup. Try getting less than that.

il mio pensiero, anziché andare sull'evoluzione della scrittura musicale e di conseguenza dei software dedicati a questa, va purtroppo, alla consapevolezza che c'è una totale assenza di compositori validi. Meditiamo...
Buona musica a tutti.

Jeetee - Who developed this plug in?

Claudio Riffero - No one can say what is classical. Bob Dylan is pure classical if you go back to the Greek tradition of the poet who recites to the harp. In that sense Hip Hop is pure classical because the music is subordinated to the lyrics. After Equal Temperament got it's footing, even before in the Baroque period, music became very elaborate, assumed dominance over the words, and became "classical.'

Cage is certainly a genius, if genius is to have produced a work that is both simple and profound. Yesterday he changed chords and today we are still on that chord. He attempts to ensure that his music will play longer than Bach's - over half a millennium.

In reply to by Claudio Riffero

...4′33″ è una composizione del compositore statunitense John Cage (1912-1992), composta nel 1952 per qualunque strumento musicale o ensemble; lo spartito dà istruzione all'esecutore di non suonare per tutta la durata del brano. Nelle intenzioni dell'autore, la composizione consiste dei suoni emessi dall'ambiente in cui viene eseguita.
La durata particolare della composizione è un riferimento allo zero assoluto: infatti, quattro minuti e trentatré secondi corrispondono a 273 secondi e lo zero assoluto è posizionato a -273.15 °C, temperatura irraggiungibile, come il silenzio assoluto.
...quella che preferisco, scherzo ;)

In reply to by Rockhoven

Hey Rockhoven,

The plugin was written by me specifically to address the request you had made. I figured out it was fairly easy to write such a plugin and that way you won't have to wait for MuseScore to have such a function built-in (if it ever does, which imho is currently not on the schedule).

I haven't heard Marc's music. I spose it would have to be 21st century because living in the 21st century, we only have 21st century common practice as a resource. Even if you try to produce 16th or 17th century counterpoint, it's not going to be the genuine article. It's going to be 21st century.

What is 21st century common practice? It would seem that we would have to review 20th century common practice to learn this. After our explorations, I think we will arrive at digital technology. The use of music writing software, forum sharing, digital recorders and the DAW are all 21st century common practice. Still, it might be useful to trace all of this back to the 20th, to the first Edison cylinder recorders. We could even trace back to sheet music, Tin Pan Alley and the piano roll. How is music made and distributed? Then, of course, we will have to get into the Bolshevik Revolution and the fall of the world economy. Who knows where this could lead? Wherever it goes, BSG will be out there in front!

In reply to by Rockhoven

Don't know if you're slamming me or praising me. I am (stylistically) a very conservative composer, although I do use digital aids such as MuseScore, and, notably, Virtual Pipe Organs, which comprise (IMO) an even Rockhoven-radical sea change in the workflow of composing organists. I'm not sure I believe in the relevance of either of the terms "classical" or "common practice" any more (for 20th and 21st century art).

In reply to by [DELETED] 1831606

The term "common practice" has been used to describe aspects of music of the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries In terms of what combinations of notes, intervals, chords etc. were used, without regard to what type of pens, parchment, paper, even instruments, employment or religious or rehearsal situations or other workflow issues composers used, or the origin, purpose, and meanings of their works. I think since 1920 or so there is nothing remaining common in (even Western) music in that regard, although some musics resemble music of the past more than others. To arrogate and repurpose this term to describe workflows and hardware/software and assert some kind of linking continuity with its past use seems (to me) intellectual chicanery.

In reply to by Rockhoven

That's a fine use of your and my and others' time. I looked at your profile -- it is empty. The number of people who enjoy or learn from your nonexistent work is zero. I don't understand your purpose here, and the message you just typed almost certainly violates terms-of-service. I make music here, and teach others who thank me daily for my help with traditional composition. Other than starting flame wars, I don't understand what you do here. You are quick to call others "trolls".

In reply to by Rockhoven

Believe it or not, I have no interest in arguing (!), just helping users get the most out of MuseScore and helping improve MsueScore to meet even more of the needs of even more users. Sometimes that does indeed mean having hard discussions about what users actually want, but I should mention I'm just one developer. If you really want to influence the future direction of MuseScore, the way to do that is by participating in the various threads started by our head designer, @tantacrul, where he is showing ideas and collecting feedback.

FWIW, regarding my music - I would call it 21st century in the truest sense of meaning, I take my influences from all music that has preceded me and try to add my own voice to that. So you will see me creating some music that is directly inspired by the music of the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, or Romantic eras, some music that derives more from 20th century "classical" composers, also a healthy dose of jazz (both notated and improvised), plus the pop/rock music I grew up with, and also influences from the music of other cultures such Hindustani music etc.

For me personally, this happens to all revolve around either improvised or notated music, not so much building music through recording technology. Not that I have anything against it, it's just not my medium of choice.

I have been contemplating this piece by Cage since the chord changed. I have never heard this piece and never will. No one ever will. If this piece is played twice, Cage's music will still be around more than 1250 years from now, and no one will have actually heard it, except for very tiny bits of it.

The name of the piece is As Slow As Possible, so we can imagine that the chosen tempo for the first play will be superseded by an even slower tempo in the second play. Therefore, it is easily conceivable that Cage's music will be played 2000 years from now without anyone having heard it. That is pure genius. It is not complicated. It is simply simple and yet deeply profound.

Those of you who have an unshakable faith in the written score should be proud. This pushes the written score to it's maximum limits, if there are limits.

In reply to by Rockhoven

It seems to me that if this were genius, then anyone should be able to see it. But I think it a sure thing that had I written this, there would be a big yawn from the world. No one would try to play it. No one would give it a first glance. The Only reason this getting played is because it is Cage.
The same ting would happen if I dumped a few cans of paint on a canvas. No one would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for it. Even if it looked just like one produced by a famous artist.
"Unshakable faith in the written score" is a curious statement. It is the only way for real musicians to perform most music. How do you foresee an orchestra performance without printed music?

Bob - There was a time when I would have made the same judgments on all of modern art.

xavierjazz - Yes, this is a work of art in the same sense that Bach's Cantatas and the Art of the Fugue are works of art. That does not eliminate them as music. ASAP is a work of art and a musical piece, originally written for piano and runs from 20 to 70 minutes because it has no tempo marking, unless the title is a tempo marking. So, since it is written music and is performed on a piano or organ, it is music, and music is art. So it's both. But it's good that you take note of that. You and eye may eventually see i to i.

This piece raises many philosophical and physical questions. Spose this piece is performed 10 times, with a deceleration of tempo each time? Spose they just keep decreasing the tempo 25,000 or 200,000 years from now? Cage says that this piece is akin to 4' 3" in that they are related by silence. That makes sense. If you decrease the tempo until it is "as slow as possible" won't the pitch descend? It would seems to be so since eventually the waves themselves would become distorted by elongation and a longer wave is going to sound at a lower pitch. The work also appears to be designed to disintegrate into silence, like a Picasso sculpture will disintegrate over time from oxidation.

I say it's genius because it is both simple and profound.

Good day! Way back in September (Sep 10, 2020 - 19:24 to be precise) Bobjp wrote:
"It seems to me that if this were genius, then anyone should be able to see it. But I think it a sure thing that had I written this, there would be a big yawn from the world. No one would try to play it. No one would give it a first glance. The Only reason this getting played is because it is Cage.
The same ting would happen if I dumped a few cans of paint on a canvas. No one would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for it. Even if it looked just like one produced by a famous artist."

This suddenly clicked with me the other day - 8 months later. Why is it that Cage can record random noise, Stockhausen can flip switches and dials to generate weird electronic sounds and it's "classical," yet when John Lennon and Yoko Ono did the same is was "Pop trash?"

Again, I'm listening to the old big bands like Artie Shaw and Glenn Miller. This stuff just sounds classical to me. If you asked me for classical music from the first half of the 20th century, my first recommendations would be Sousa, Joplin, Shaw, Ellington, Goodman, and such name. And my first choices in the latter half of the century would be the same names that you hear on Classic Rock radio. The first thing they call classical music is "classic." I would admit Jazz and Rock, but then I'd stop at Country and wouldn't allow it. I think class has something to do with it. What is it about Cage and Stockhausen that place them in a separate space from someone like Lennon or Ono?

BSG - I'm a generalist. I have not lost sight of the original question. The first question is: What's the difference between classical and pop music? I introduced another auxiliary question: What is common practice? But only with the hope that it might shed light on the primary question.

If changes in technology have nothing to do with common practice, then we can't say that it's classical music if it's written. But I don't think so. What makes "Sumer is acumen in" classical rather than folk? As a folk song it was transmitted orally and aurally, and it even acquired it's counterpoint by singing it as a round. Why is it mentioned in studies of classical music - because it is written? Why isn't Row, Row, Row Your Boat a classical piece? Why isn't Eleanor Rigby sung acapella considered classical?

This would seem to open an avenue for challenging your opinion. Yes, the common of the 16th and 17th centuries is an issue of changes in harmony, but that only makes me think that the change itself is what becomes a focus of common practice. IOW, the change in technologies in those same centuries are not a subject of common practice simply because there were no drastic changes to technology. The most important changes were in harmony. However, in the past century the most revolutionary changes were made in the technology of music production - so it's the change that must affect common practice. And it does, because many of the beatles songs can not be scored correctly. The score is scribed upon the magnetic tape. You have to go to the recording to reproduce the sound.

Another point: Never before in the history of music could the audible harmonic series be accurately transposed. So, technology does affect harmony. How could you notate the continuous micro-chromatic ascent of the theremin or the steel guitar? - with recorded sound.

In reply to by Rockhoven

Think of it this way: If Beethoven had written a symphony and incorporated Row, Row, Row Your Boat into one of the movements, it would not be a classical song. Orchestration does not change a genre.

Regarding music that only exists as a recording. As good as it might be, it is static. Music should be a living thing. No two groups perform the same piece the same way. This is worth listening to. We all have our favorite recordings of various music. How did we arrive at our favorites? We listened to different versions. Hopefully, some of them live.
So someone creates a recording. It is just the way he wants it. He declares it the only real version. This is never what music has ever been about.

Ah, Cage. I'm not sure he writes music as much as he write a process. Music is more than a process

BSG says (more or less) that common practice refers to the harmonic practice of a given period. Spose we were to take all of the melodies that have ever been composed, regardless of genre, and we sang them acapella. Would we be able to classify them by genre? This woud be a good test to see whether it really is the harmonic element that distinguishes classical from pop.

In reply to by Rockhoven

It makes me ill to return to this discussion, but that is not at all how that term is used, or how I use it, which are same. It refers to all the practices of European composers, harmonic, contrapuntal, tonal, etc etc. between roughly 1500 and 1900, before atonal music, Afro-Caribbean influences, etc. I'm not going to argue but I don't want to be misquoted. Don't use its name or mine as ballistics.


I can see the benefits for atonal music and for players of certain instruments and for experienced musicians, but I see great trouble in my usual music use case — singing tonal music.

Amateurs don’t really know or care whether a key is major or minor, but they do “pick up” the key listening while singing and get the semitone/tone steps right, and the regular notation accidentals help in the sense of “oh, I need to go more up/down than I normally would”. (This is also why I notice a substantial improvement in sight-singing when all courtesy accidentals have parentheses.)

Most publishers want to use really small spatium, and the Clair-thingy is even more affected as it has very small signs (the dots and accidental sticks) and very subtle differences in positioning that will easily get lost at small sizes, especially with an elderly audience (i.e. your typical choir nowadays).

I’m not too sure how kids who grow up in the proposed system would fare, but I believe the lower barrier of key signature vs. dot pattern (which implies modes) helps in education as regards tonal music. (For atonal music, of course, you’d just leave it out… but then you’d also probably not use a key signature either? So no benefit for either side.)

If I have it right, common practice is the harmonic practice of the day or a period or an era, and is NOT technological improvements in recording, such as improvements to papermaking or printing of staves and pens and inks. This seems to be the argument that has been made previously as to my citing of recording techniques as belonging to common practice. I hold that position because new ink or paper technology does not affect the harmony, but audio recording did and still does continue to alter common practice because it does affect the harmonic practice in this era.

For the first time in history musicians could work directly with sound. They could record a bird singing rather than notate it for a flute or piccolo. They could also the tonic pitch of that bird song and the overtones of the harmonic series along with it and all of the successive pitches after the tonic and their overtones - a truer transposition than any orchestral instrument could achieve. The piano is in the key of A. The note A is the only note on the piano which is commensurate throughout. A1 is 55, A2 100, A3 220, A4 440 etc. No other notes on the piano are commensurate with each other. True transposition is impossible. Audio recording does affect harmonic practice.

Production methods are important to consider. The music of the Baroque was transformed in the Classical period due to better instruments with more power and sustain. I wonder if Bach would accept Ravel as "classical?" He might label that music as being from the "Bombastic Period."

On a lighter note, how can anyone hear this and not recognize it as classical music?

In reply to by Rockhoven

Why would anyone argue about any of this at all? To whom are you preaching? Why? Whom do you want to convince? With the fellow selling keyboards he couldn't play, I understood that he wanted to sell them (even if he denied it), and was seeking free labor. Why don't you write a book, or at least a blog? So you think "classical" means x y z and "common practice" means p q r and recordings obsolete notated music. Do you sell RAM, or tape? So what? Who asked? Why does the world need to know?

In reply to by Rockhoven

Uhm, sorry to break it to you, but, in Equal Temperament, which almost all piani are tuned in, all semitones are exactly the same width apart, and even in almost all nōn-equal temperaments, the frequency of a tone N₍ₓ₊₁₎ (where N is the note name) is exactly twice the frequency of Nₓ so I don’t know what you mean when you’re complaining about “commensurate”, and in ET, true transposition certainly is possible.

In reply to by Rockhoven

Ah, Rockhoven. I finally understand. You say the Beatles are classical. But they are classic. Two different words that do not mean the same thing.

Moreover, recordings alter nothing. They are stagnant representations. Musicians have always worked "directly with sound. They work with it live. They don't try to recreate the sound of a bird. They reimagine its essence. Far more creative than a recording of a bird.

True, recordings have let more people hear more music than ever before. But don't forget that one of the many things that broke up the Beatles was that their music became too complicated to perform live. They hated doing shows anyway.

"I wonder if Bach would accept Ravel as "classical?"
Instruments are only a fraction of the difference between music periods. True, more modern music tends to be constructed to be louder. Everything is louder now than in the past. Airplanes, trains, and cars make lots of noise.
Did you know that every Stradivarius violin (save one) has been re-braced, fitted with a longer neck and a higher neck angle? All to be able to be used in a modern orchestra.

Before replying to this latest barrage, I'd like to review the twists and turns of this discussion. I'll be looking at these two threads and outline the topic thus far.
March 20, 2020
March 28, 2020

I'll work my own summary up this month and you'll be able to do the same. We can fill in the gaps together.

To begin, Bob said on March 20th "Historically it's not accurate to say that rock or pop music is the classical music of today." That is the point I am arguing against. Somewhere along the way, I asked who the 2oth century masters of classical music were. I offered Sousa and Joplin. No one else made an offer. No one agreed to nor did they dispute my selection. To help nudge you out of the stupor, I asked what is the common practice of the 20th century? Again, I received no response.

I think we can make progress on answering these questions, which may in turn illuminate the main question. I have furthered my argument by offering analog and digital recording as the common practice of our current period. The counter to that was that production tools do not have a bearing on common practice. Now, I am demonstrating that the recording of music and its transposition constitutes THE (or one of the) peculiar aspect/s which distinguishes this period from all others.

Some of you are following these threads of thought. We now need to talk about the harmonic series and it's transposition. Something that Bach would approve of since this has been a thorny issue since day one. I say that the transposition of the harmonic series could not be affected completely and accurately until the introduction of analog recording. After the analog period and the beginning of the digital, transposition can no longer be accomplished with the same accuracy. So, we first need to look at the harmonic series, the different tunings, and transposition in the analog period.

Some of you might want to review those links and note whether your own questions are being attended to.

Someone made what I thought was a very helpful comment. They said that classical music was music that was written. I liked this idea because it gave us some objective criteria to apply. When I applied this axiom, I found that I could discard both Stockhausen and Cage from the "classics" and include Foster, Joplin and Sousa, along with Artie Shaw and Glenn Miller. The axiom is fine with me and I can accept the outcome. Can you?

It was at that point that I introduced the idea that the notation system had changed from written score to audio recorded score. Then BSG challenged that idea (and that is what we are challenging here - ideas, not people) by countering that production methods don't have anythiong to do with common practice because common practice refers to harmonic practice. So I counter with the fact that the harmonic practice has been altered by the recording process. Now we should follow that line of thought until we can say what common practice is in greater detail and who were the greatest practitioners of the practices.

In reply to by Rockhoven

Stop using my name as a joke to support your nonsense. You have no idea what "common practice" means, nor any idea what I said it means. This whole forum "General Discussion" is nothing but a speaker's corner for people without real lives. I don't know why MuseScore supports it. Nobody is interested in the opinions of amateur philosophers, saviors, seers, and social critics. They are a dime a dozen. This is not about music or recording, this is about you and your need for self-validation through the theft of other people's time, and that is a waste of time, including yours. Can you spell P-a-s-h-k-u-l-i? Or t-r-o-l-l?

In reply to by bobjp

"Classical music is music that is written."

Bob - Your response to this claim made here and throughout the music world seems like a division of music into written and improvised forms. Classical is written and pop is improvised? What do we do with Stockhausen and Cage?

An audio recorded score would be most of what these composers recorded. Cage could not really notate the prepared piano correctly. Possibly he notated it with directions for placements of screws and nuts and bolts, but it would seem that the recording is the score. That is arguable. In this case maybe there is no score. The score can not really be reproduced except by playback. I think Stockhausen had to create a new notation and wrote a book on it. But whether he devised a complete system, I don't know. In this age music is not recorded by writing as much as recording the actual sounds. I think classical music is music that must have been recorded, either on clay tablets, in papyrus scrolls or in piano rolls or on magnetic tape. This must be because classical music is music that has survived.

Another interesting question: Why is John Dowland classical, and Bob Dylan is pop? There has to be some distinguishing characteristic that would either unite or separate them. I hear two songwriters, plucking and strumming stringed instruments, and reciting their poetry or lyrics, much in the tradition of the Greek poets. What makes Dowland classical? He is using the techniques of a period and I think that's it. That unites them both. Dylan is using the types of techniques that people wanted to hear at the time, just as Dowland is doing. I think we need to put Dowland in classical simply because it's a good example of songwriting from that period. Same for Dylan. Dylan will (or is extremely likely to) become classical because he represents a period. I want to hear Dowland for the sound of that period and future generations will want to hear Dylan for the same reason. This applies to The Beatles also. People will want to hear what 20th century pop songs sounded like, but just as we don't call Dowland "Pop" (though he was pop to his contemporaries) we won't call Dylan or The Beatles "Pop" either. We will refer to them as "Classical."

Is there any way that we could revise the statement? Could we say that classical music is music that is recorded, and therefore preserved, and passed from one generation to the next? Then only time can tell. We are in no position to know what classical music is. But we might be able to say what will be or is most likely to be classical. We need to be distanced somewhat from the music in time. I don't think it's any great challenge to look back 120 years now and to beatify those likely candidates, just as Beethoven looked back 70 or 80 years upon Bach and beatified him to his (Beethoven's) contemporaries. To label some music as "Classic Rock" or "Classic Jazz" is the first step to canonization. (Bob - you asked if classical music can be improvised? Yes. It's called "Jazz" for now.)

I ask you to look back to the years 1900 - 1920 and name the classical composers. Until you cough up some names, we have to look down other avenues for answers to the main question. naming names would help us settle things quickly. In lieu of that, I'm in favor of looking at some numbers.

I suggest that there must be a process such like the church uses to canonize a saint. First the person must be considered by at least some to be saintly, then some authority formally beatifies the candidate. After many have joined in and beatified to various congregations the life of the person is examined by experts at the top and a few candidates are chosen and formally canonized. Canonization then admits all of their work to the canon. The canon may contain duds but they usually admit whole works based on some classic work. This applies to literature also. Same process.

In any event, these candidates must enter from the world of pop. They originate in the commons. So, neither John Williams nor Phillip Glass are classical music.

We have a long way to go to define classical music and then we must do a thorough investigation of the question of "What is Popular music?" At this point I believe that they are much more closely related than some may know. Both Lennon and McCartney said that Pop music is the classical music of our day. I'll add to that - Classical music is popular music.

I appreciate keeping this group very small and somewhat sober. If we get too raucous, I suggest we set up some backup channels, such as Discord. For now, I'm OK doing this here every few months so as not to disturb the tender-hearted. I am currently interested in these questions and also in doing a reading of Bach's Two Part Inventions. Also the letters of Beethoven. If someone wants to offer to administer the group (Bob? BSG?) I will write the rules for the group. We can experiment with introducing a classical democratic form called "Separation of Powers."

How about if we meet again in the first week of next month?

In reply to by Rockhoven

Can you provide a link to the post where someone wrote "Classical music is music that is written"? Sounds like a straw man to me. I've never heard anyone claim such a thing. But for the record, it's a patently false statement, not really needing any further debate.

Also, FWIW, improvised classical music is not jazz. The word jazz has specific stylistic connotations; you can't just improvise in any style and call it jazz. Well, you can, but it won't make it accurate or something anyone who actually understands jazz would agree with.

In reply to by Rockhoven

You seem less interested in a discussion than you are in continuing to push the same ideas you had at the beginning.
You complain that no one answers your questions. Yet you are told time and time again that your questions lack merit. There are people on the forum that have advanced degrees in music history, theory, and composition. As well as decades of performance in many forms of music. These people disagree with you.
In 1968, McCartney made the claim you refer to. The Beatles were in the midst of making more money than anyone has a right to. They had a habit of doing and saying all kinds of odd things. They were still learning how to play their instruments. They had no formal music training. Yet people bowed down before them. Why? Sure, they had some good tunes. But mostly people wanted to cash in on them. While they made more money in the history of pop music, everyone else involved made even more. Record companies, promoters, radio stations, toy manufacturers, and more happily joined the gravy train. All while many, many more far more meaningful and talented musicians pass un-noticed. That includes composers and musicians from the actual Classical period.
Music of the actual Classical period was never intended for the masses. I doubt that the vast majority of people of the time ever heard of Beethoven.
Besides, It's not up to us to label whatever music is out there at the moment. That will be up to historians a hundred years from now.
Carry on as you wish.

In reply to by bobjp

Bob ' On jun 5, 2021 you said : "Music of the actual Classical period was never intended for the masses." Yet the early music of the monestaries was just that ' music for the masses. Have you not heard of the Gloria and the Agnus Dei? This is music for the masses. The mass occurred every Sunday. Anyway, Bach's music was apart of the Lutheran church service which attracted the masses (the general population.) So this is not nusic that was written to be heard by a small part of the general population, but for the greater part of the general population, since the greater part of te population attended church.

Beethoven? Do you want to propose some facts from the historical record that demonstrate that Beethoven or any other classical composer was unpopular? You might take my position that Bach was unpopular during his lifetime. That does not mean that his intention was to not write for the general population. I also hold that classical music is more popular than popular music, regardless of how many hits Justin Beiber recieves on YouTube today.

In reply to by Rockhoven

AFAIK, "for the masses" is excepted as meaning "for the general population". "Mass" or "the mass" is more what you are thinking. Don't forget that until the age of recordings, the only way to hear this music was in a live concert. I have no information about how often these happened or how well attended these concerts were. Was there an admission charge? I suspect that even if the average person had heard of Beethoven, they may have never heard his music. It's not general population music. Just like today. I suspect he was unpopular, only with respect to being not widely known. Many Baroque through Classical composers had patrons that supported them. These patrons often had a lot of influence over what did and did not get written.

Church music was written for an altogether different reason.

Look at any chart ranking music genre popularity, and you will see that classical music is near the bottom. This is part of why orchestras are closing down around the world. I suspect it has always been so because it just wasn't written for the general population.

Bach's job was to write music for his job. He was a church organist and music director, for the most part. I have no idea what his composing intentions were other than his love of music and a paycheck. Does that seem cynical? At the end of the day, there has to be some kind of income. You either get paid for what you write, or you have some other job to support your writing habit. There's plenty of examples of both.

In reply to by bobjp

I don't mean to disprove your proposition, but the historical example does seem to do that. I thought of another way in which your criteria applies to the same perion of the early 18th century (the time of Bach.) Say we make the general population, not Leipzig, but the whole world at that time. Then think of all of the music that was being made by the general population, including all indiginous and folk music from every tribe on the continents, including the Americas. Then we can say that a very small part of the general population was making classical music. But then, what are it's characteristics? 1) It was written, 2) by White 3) educated 4) males.

That tells us more about the characteristics of the population than the actual music. I say your propostion is a good start and we should stick with it. But it seems incomplete. It says nothing about the excellence of the music or it's age (how old it is.) I can't imagine that any classical composer thought they were making anything but popular music. Bach is composing in the popular idioms of the time. That is why I'm placing all bets on the our contemporary pop music to be selected as not only classic but classical.

Bach wrote two masses (I'm going to dispute that the cantatas are also masses, yet simpler ones. The experts can log in on that issue) and thouse masses were performed, presumably on a High Day or High Sabbath, such as Easter or Christmas, which means a very large mass of people were gathered to hear the performance.

So, I have given two historical examples, one supporting and one questioning your criteria. I can give one more example from an earlier historical period, probably two, which support and challenge your proposition. Can you do the same?

I still have to address the issue of transposition of the harmonic series. Someone posted something about equal temperament. That is not the harmonic series. The harmonic series is just intonation. if A220, 440, and 880 are transposed by increasing (doubling) the speed of an analog tape machine, we get 440, 880 and 1760. Likewise if we decrease the speed to 1/2 we get 100, 220, 440. That fact opens up a very interesting examination of popular music in the 20th century. How would you explain to Bach what I just told you if you could go back to Leipzig in 1730? How would you explain multitrack recording?

I don't think the orchestra has anything (or much) to do with 20th century classical music. That is not where it was happening. All of the bright lights in classical music and the periods they represent were producing drastically new and innovative music. We see this from Bach to Beethoven to Ravel and to Scott Joplin. The Beatles brought so much of the music of the 20th together under one roof. I think Strawberry Fields Forever and many other of their works assures their place in the canon of classical music. The transposition in that song is revolutionary. I want to go into transposition in depth so we have a comprehensive view.

In this discussion, I want to move back to the past and dig around there, then fast forward to the present day and see what is actually happening.

In reply to by Rockhoven

This is where I think you may be mixed up, a bit. Neither Bach nor Beethoven wrote "popular" music. They were paid to write a particular type of music for a particular reason. The number people that heard Bach play his music was very limited. And, again, opportunities to hear any Beethoven were very limited. And, just like today, the vast majority of people don't care for his music.
Much the same way that modern composers write what is "modern classical music". The following for classical music has always been small. Popular music, on the other hand, is totally different music written for a different reason.
Popular has never been equated with "classical" in whatever time period. Put another way, Classical has never been Popular. I'm not sure how you can equate the two. The Beatles are certainly popular, but that's all it means.

In reply to by bobjp

Mr. BOO BOO, I think you have lost your sense of context, time, AND art.

Mr. BOO BOO's Quote: "Popular has never been equated with "classical" in whatever time period. Put another way, Classical has never been Popular. I'm not sure how you can equate the two"

What you just synonomously said -- with a straight face and no other considerations involved -- that classical music, an art, has never and could never be ADMIRED by the general public nor any cultural group. Excuse me, what is WRONG with you; who killed your pet goldfish today? Let me tell you this: ART cannot exist without a concept of ADMIRATION; the human mind operates by preferring one thing over the other at a given time. And, before you come at me and try to tell me that "classical music" (im assuming you mean baroque and classical era) were not written for, listen by or performed for the "general public", I'm gonna tell you this: duh; (1) majority of the "general public" were working and didnt have the money nor any liesure time to invest in music listening or performing music -- even if they wanted to. Those who did were the rich / members of the Royal Court (yes, remember? It was a monarch society....) or core members of the church (....a monarch AND religious society); (2) because "general public" couldnt perform, there werent enough man power to perform for the "general public". ...... BUT WAIT, in this religious and monarch society, aren't the Royals and the Pope identify as the "general public" anyway? Sooooooo, if the King or Queen, Prince or Princess, duke or duchess greatly admires a piece of music, that means everybody in the Kingdom admires that piece of music -- no "ifs", "ands", or "butts". Popular music did exist during these time; they were just determined by different factors compare to modern catalogue. Understand? Good! Now lets move to Africa.

YES, you best believe that music were being made in Africa during this time, or you will be an ignorant person to believe otherwise.Anyways im not gonna go too deep or too long on this subject because i know some people reading wont be able to handle it, and i just want to make my point clear and smooth like butter on broccoli. Ok? Now, regardless if Africans were beating rhythm on drums or playing melodies on their African Harp / Korra, music had a specific function in rituals or for the sake of cultural identity from old traditions or to create new traditions (other obvious reasons requires imagination from those reading this). Songs and chants in which the Leaders and the people of the "mass" admired and gravitate the most became popular within their traditions. Get my point? Good! Next Paragraph.

Heeeey, its modern time. Mr. BOO BOO, you said that majority of modern people dont care for classical music (im assuming at this point you mean music from all classical eras). Let me tell you this again: duh; if you have people socially trained not to like classical music, they wont like classical. Period. I mean have school kids being bullied mentally AND PHYSICALLY for listening to classical music and as a result some of these children stop listening to classical music for their own protection from society. But who am i to say all of this, Im just Dorathy coming from the world of Narnia trying to help the green grass grow all-around, all-around.

But, before i leave, let me ask you this, Mr. BOO BOO: what do they call modern earning made from art? Ra, ra, ra, ra, ra, Royalties. ............................. #sip

In reply to by SketalDaz

Thank you for your input. Please read my post again and respond to what I actually said. Rather than what you think I said.

I never said that classical music could never be enjoyed by the general public.

And what about art. Sure it is to be admired. Let's take the most well known painting on the planet: the Mona Lisa. This was painted for one person and one person only. It was never intended for the general public.
Or David. Intended to be part of a large setting of Biblical figures that was never finished. It sat outside in a neglected corner, exposed to the elements for 300 years before anyone thought to bring it inside and protect it. And the art of one culture is the trash of another. Consider all the Greek statues that were destroyed by subsequent conquerors.

So, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the general public worked. But they don't work now? Of course there was popular music at the time. It just wasn't classical. Indeed, lets move on to Africa.

If you think that African music consists of "beating rhythm on drums or playing melodies on their African Harp" please read a book. Several different rhythms played together on Djembes and Dunduns produced melodies. And the rhythms are so intricate that Western notation can't recreate them.

If the bully thing was your experience, I'm sorry. Not sure I buy it on a large scale.

And how many times do people copy music from you tube or from friends, without paying.

Not sure why you feel the need for name calling. But whatever.

You may have Narnia and Oz mixed up.

"So, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the general public worked. But they don't work now? Of course there was popular music at the time. It just wasn't classical."

Bob - I'm not sure that music was referred to as "classical" or "popular" until the 20th century. It may have been a marketing approach by the recording and radio industries.

What music existed before classical? Folk? Which then evolved into "sacred" and "secular?" It might be good to look at the difference between those two divisions.

And we seem to be introducing some equivocations. I was simply playing on the word "mass" although I think I accidentally stumbled onto something more. In 1720, the time of Bach's output, the norm was that healthy and law abiding citizens attended church on a regular (weekly) basis. There is plenty of evidence for this. I can cite historical facts. I wish that you would do the same because you introduced yourself into this topic with the words "Historically speaking..."

Historically, it is true that 20th century classical music and it's composers were rejected by the general population. But we can't read that into previous periods. There is an abundance of historical fact that supports this claim. Even so, there may be an equal amount of facts to outweigh this argument. However, I don't appreciate reviewing all of the facts supporting my positions, when you do not reciprocate with listing historical fact to support your claims. I can produce facts on both sides of the question, but that leaves me doing all of the heavy lifting here.

Anyway, let's not confuse (though it will be difficult to do) "popular" with "popularity." An artist can play popular music and not be popular. An artist can play classical and rise to the top of the Top 100 (witness the case of the Benedictine monks singing Gregorian chant.)

To demonstrate that Mozart was a pop star:
Exibit A: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
Exibit B: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

The fact is that during the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods, the audience could carry the music away with them. They could leave a dance still stepping out a waltz while singing the tune. They could hum many of the great melodies of the opera. (BTW, opera houses could not be built faster and big enough in the 19th century. That was for accommodating the immense popularity of the opera and the ballet.) That brings me to Tchaikovsky. He wasn't pumping out the hits? The Nutcracker and Swan Lake ballets were smashes. And the Nutcracker Suite was at the Top o' the Pops, so to speak. Pure pop.

What happened in the 20th century was that the audience could no longer dance to the music, nor sing a melody. I just listened to several Stockhausen albums last week and can't but only vaguely remember a thing that I heard. Not so with the pop music of the same time.

My theory is that all music is pop. After a few decades, we select what is "classic," then we continue selecting out from the classics until a century later we have what we call "classical." To invert that process - the classical music is a selection made over the course of a century from the classic artists and classic works and the classics are selected from the popular music. I think an examination of the music that existed before classical came into being might throw light on this. So, in the beginning, there was folk. Then occurs a division from folk into sacred anbd secular. The secular music must have been rooted in folk. The difference came about when these folk melodies were fixed to a grid (staff) and more strictly formalized. Before this, the pitches, rhythms and tempos were not as stable.

In reply to by Rockhoven

I suggest taking a page from Wittgenstein: words are defined by their usage. Categorical definitions like "pop" and "classical", similarly so. A song is "classic" if you can go into a room, play it, ask the people around if they agree that it's a classical piece, and get a general agreement that it is. Same with whether it's pop. These terms do not have any meaning without the underlying culture producing and consuming the music for which they describe.

In reply to by LuuBluum

LuuBluum - The main question is: What is the difference between classical and popular music? To which, Bob replied: "Historically it's not accurate to say that rock or pop music is the classical music of today. There has always been music for the general population that was much more popular than "classical" music. Classical music has always been meant for a particular (small) part of the population. In other words, classical music has never been popular, as in liked by a large segment of any population.

It is my understanding that sitar has traditionally been taught by rote."

This is a very good proposition to begin with. It's a starting point, anyway. So, I am asking Bob what historical facts support the proposition, and offering a body of facts that seem to contradict the position. If Bach was not making popular music in 1720, then who was? If Mozart was not making popular music in 1810, then who was? If Beethoven was not making popular music in 1800, then who was?

In my theory, no living person can compose classical music. Marc cannot compose classical music today. He can only compose pop music - what he has heard previously. It is up to the next generation or two to determine if he produced any classic works. It is then up to the succeeding three to five generations to review all classic works and make a finer selection of classical music. Bach never thought that he was writing anything but popular music because he is simply playing what everyone else was playing at that time, only doing a better job of it.

20th century "classical" music is an anomaly. It may not complete the cycle of the Early, Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods, more that be a small part of a new cycle.

I still want to review the harmonic series, the development of equal temperament, the traditional uses of just intonation in folk music and transposition of the harmonic series in the modern era of recording. Top do this, I will collapse the four traditional periods into a sort of geological time frames. Those four periods belong to the Acoustic Era. What follows in the mid-20th century will be referred to as the Electric era. Armstrong, Sousa and Joplin are a neat step from Debussy, Ravel and Satie and they close both the Romantic period and the acoustic era. Stockhausen, Cage, Les Paul and The Beatles open the electric era. Les Paul is the Guido D'Arezzo of the Electric era. Both were composers of minor pop works who are included in the canon for technological developments.

Dig in. We are only outlining the many thorny problems of the main question and we have a lot of territory to discover. I am going to present a very large body of evidence for my theory. That's what makes it a theory. I would appreciate it if all propositions put forth would be supported by actual facts.

"It is my understanding that sitar has traditionally been taught by rote."

Bob - So, an Indian raga is not classical music because it is taught by rote, but Chopin is classical because it's taught by rote?

NOTE: I misquoted Bob in a previous post when I said that he wrote "Historically speaking." He did not write that. He simply wrote the word "Historically." Same issue though. I would like you to back up your claims with a body of facts.

In reply to by Rockhoven

Please stop reading more into my posts than what is there. I never said a raga is not classical music. There is no possible inference that can be made from my statement.

It is difficult to hold a conversation with you because you tend to race off in whatever direction you desire. "Focus, Daniel. Always watch eye."

Google the history of the concert. In particular the Britannica version. Concerts have always been the purview of the middle and upper class. In Europe at the time, those divisions were very clear. Classical music has been popular, but only with a certain segment of society

In reply to by Rockhoven


You say that large numbers of the population attended mass in the Baroque period. Even if this was so, the music they heard was not concert music. Very few in England would have ever heard any of Bach's music. As the popularity of opera grew, this also was not concert music. Wealthy lords and noblemen had composers and small ensembles on staff for weekly original private concerts. Vivaldi ran a school female musicians. Which is how anyone heard his music. This is all readily available information. Not the stuff of debate.

But I'll bite. I submit that we never left the (as you put it) Acoustic Era. Is not all music we hear, vibrations in the air? Does it make a difference how those vibrations are generated? Or stored? After all, designations like Baroque and Classical were assigned well after the fact. Not by the composers themselves. The Beatles calling themselves classical is another example of just how overblown their self worth was. I watched their first US appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. 6 years later, they had broken up. The harmonic series is not negotiable. Equal temperament is the result of more refined tuning and standard pitch, among other things. This is also not negotiable.

You want people to back up their ideas. After I told you where to look up information about the history of the concert, you asked me what I have read about the history of the concert. ???

Mozart did not write the melody to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

In reply to by Rockhoven

I know you won't concede anything :)

Let's say you are at a Disturbed concert. Would you expect a barbershop quartet to be their warm up band? Would Hidden Citizens lead off the Moscow String Quartet? Why not? Isn't all music "classical"?

Besides, you haven't defined pop or classical. Except to give of names of artists you think exemplify each. You seem to think that anything a lot of people like is classical. There is such a thing as classic rock and roll. But not classical rock and roll. two different words with different meanings, that happen to look alike. One the curses of the English language.

In reply to by bobjp

From an historical POV, classical rock emerged before the term "classic rock" was used. Classical Rock was Prog Rock (King Crimson.) Classic Rock refers to a selection of Pop music.

I think we are equivocating and that is the cause of most of our disagreement. I am referring to a deep historical narrative (though I admit, it's just my imagination.) I want to start with prehistoric music and ask the question of what kind of music that was? And when did Classical music come to be. I'd say that all music in the prehistoric period was Folk. This music had attributes distinctly different from what we call "classical" nowadays. There was no classical music in Bach's Beethoven's or Ravel's time. These terms came from the music industry (mass media.)

To help the discussion, maybe we could say that the three B's (Bach, Beethoven and Brahms) played and composed contemporary music. Of course, the folk music of the people was contemporary also. Again, there are no clear lines of demarcation. There is a technical aspect in that paper, quills, ink and music notation are technologies. That would be one difference between folk and classical. Folk existed in the prehistoric period, before there was any means of recording music. The first indications of a separation of music into categories is with the development of notation. This is a very important point because there was no such thing as a "composer" or "composition" until then. Folk music followed an oral process. It was handed down from generation to generation by memory. So a tune and a story would evolve over centuries. That's called the Folk Process.

I am all over the place in this discussion because several people have posted other pov on other arguments. This is a very broad topic and I still have to fully address the points made by others. And we have to cover the entire history of music from the prehistoric to the modern era.

Another equivocation in this discussion is the uses of the terms "harmonic series" and "equal temperament." I think twice, people conflated those two things. They are not the same. Equal temperament was described correctly, but is not the issue that I was introducing.

Twelve-tone equal temperament[a] is the musical system that divides the octave into 12 parts, all of which are equally tempered (equally spaced) on a logarithmic scale, with a ratio equal to the 12th root of 2 (12√2 ≈ 1.05946). That resulting smallest interval, 1⁄12 the width of an octave, is called a semitone or half step.

I made no mention of EQ, but rather the harmonic series which is expressed as a series of ratios (1/1, 1/2, 2/3, 4/5, 5/6.) That was not transposable until analog recording came to be, and even now has been lost with digital (EQ does not transpose the HS but distorts that series.) I'm talking about THE harmonic series. But to be clear, you could detune all 230 strings used to produce the notes of the 88 keys on a piano, and I could record that mess (230 randomly tuned and untuned strings) and I transpose that sound completely and accurately. I can do that with any sound or random noise.

This is a most important point because I made the claim that "common practice" used to be to write the music down and that has changed with the advent of the wire or tape recorder. Then someone said that "common practice" refers not to how the music is recorded but to the use of the elements of music, such as melody, harmony and rhythm. To which I argue that the recording process allows for more direct and precise manipulation of those elements. The fact that you can transpose the human voice up an 8ve or down an 8ve by doubling or halving the playback speed is an issue of harmonic or common practice in the 20th century. It is probably more important than the introduction of the 12 tone row. When used as I described, the analog recorder becomes a musical instrument in itself.

Can you imagine telling Bach that you could not only record the human voice but a particular personal voice? And that you can transpose the human voice from the bass register to the tenor or visa versa? That you could transpose a female soprano down to an alto or tenor. Try to imagine explaining these things to Bach. Remind me to outline how I would inform the master in terms that he would understand.

So we have to eliminate these equivocations. I admit that I am stretching the word classical in a new direction, but it's OK to do that as long as we account for what meanings are attached to which words. The word "popular" is better understood as "contemporary." The word "classical" as used by myself means a selection of music from the past by succeeding generations. This is something akin to the folk process, where the garbage is trimmed from the repertoire and the cream of the crop rises. But some might think of classical as being a style and the music should sound some way or other.

I still have to reply directly to several people here and will do so when I have time. Marc, you say that the experts disagree with me. Let the experts answer the main question. I don't think that this is a question for specialists, though they can help in correcting or clarifying details. If some one says that the Baroque period ended with the death of Bach in the mid 18th century, an expert might add that he died in 1750, to be precise. The details of my theory are open to correction by the experts (in the sense that they are experts in these details) but no one can make a reasonable counter-argument to the story I want to tell except a generalist. You must provide a body of historical fact and put it together to tell the story of classical and popular music. We are not arguing about details.

Furthermore, Marc, yes, you are correct, no one has to answer my question, but a theory ought to answer hitherto unresolved questions. My presentation intends to do just that - and to answer the main question. No one here has attempted to deal directly with the main question. It requires an entire overview of music history.

In reply to by Rockhoven

Bach would listen to what you could do with a recording. Then he would say, "You mean like this?" He would sit at his organ and play a tune. Then pull the 8' stop and play the same keys and the sound would be an octave lower. Then the 16' stop and so forth. After which he would pull 4 stops and play four octaves at once. Then ask if your recorder could do that. On the fly. Not to mention mixtures of a fifth as well as others. Then go on to improvise 20 minutes of music.

Do you even have a clue about what the harmonic series is? It is not just a series of ratios by a long shot. It is also not perfectly in tune with itself. The harmonic series is involved in every single note played by every instrument. It is why a flute sounds like a flute, and not like a violin. It is why a 20 piece violin section doesn't sound like a recording of a single violin reproduced 20 times.

You've said a few times that a recording can be more accurate than written music. I doubt it. Why? Any recording is not the original. The quality of a recording depends on so many things. Any of which can go wrong. A written score leaves no doubt. And what are a group of musicians to do with a recording. The technology to produce a score from a recording is not yet possible.

In reply to by bobjp

I'm completely lost on what Rockoven's argument is, but also baffled by your claim of the harmonic series that "It is also not perfectly in tune with itself." Can you explain what this means? (I'm concerned, because there could be a serious problem with mathematics if it turns out that a is a rational multiple of b and b is a rational multiple of c, but c is not a rational multiple of a, for example.)

In reply to by Imaginatorium

While you can use math to explain music, math is not music. Math cannot create music. As you know, certain overtones of the harmonic series are slightly off, pitch wise. How far off can be explained mathematically. So what.
Consider the natural trumpet. A Baroque instrument with no valves. Consider one of these instruments pitched in C. As a result, it could only play a C overtone series. That meant that B4 was a little flat and not used much. Except when the piece went into minor for a note or two. And the F and G above were a little sharp. These notes are in the sweet spot for trumpet music. Players had to "lip" these notes in tune. Math will tell you that the F is sharp a certain amount. But in the real world, the amount of sharp is different for each player, each instrument and each playing situation.
What I'm saying is that math is not music. You have to know some math to do many things in life. Music is not one of them. And you say "What about notation?" I say that you don't need notation to play music.
I'm not denying a connection between math and music. I'm saying that it doesn't matter. If math did not exist, music still would happen.
Consider, also, that if music obeyed all the math restrictions we have put on it, live concerts would sound like the computer playback that we all complain about.

In reply to by bobjp

Well, I know that on many instruments (the piano, for example) the overtones of the instrument are not exactly the numeric multiples they need to be for the two sine waves to be consonant. So many instruments do not produce exactly the harmonic series. You can explain with physics why this is so (the strings of the piano are not the perfectly elastic strings of maths, so do not vibrate exactly in the harmonic series, and skillful tuning involves stretching the octaves so they are not exactly in the harmonic series either).

But you claimed the harmonic series was not in tune with itself, and I still have no idea what that is supposed to mean.

In reply to by bobjp

Some instruments, particularly the piano, cannot reproduce the harmonic series accurately. Other instruments, particularly unfretted strings and the human voice certainly can. When you listen to Voces8 singing some renaissance composition, they are singing in just intonation, which means they are singing notes whose frequencies are in simple numeric ratios, and this is what makes the exquisite sound. (Which cannot be produced on the piano, but of course the piano can do other things.)

In reply to by Imaginatorium

What does "cannot reproduce the harmonic series accurately" mean. Frequency analysis of a given note on the piano might be a bit tangled up because of three strings (all of which are "unfretted") on some notes. But the series will be there.
True, the piano doesn't sound like voices.

In reply to by Imaginatorium

It is almost impossible to derive a major/minor scale from harmonics.

Let's take the C note as the fundamental tone: if you list the natural harmonics, you cannot find an F note until the 20th harmonic. On the contrary, you get f#, ab, eb, c#, bb and other notes besides the third and fifth. These are absent in the C major series. also ignoring the slight difference in the fifth (-2) the third is in a rather different place, -14 in cents.
From the 25th harmonic, successive notes are formed that we do not know which note name to use; g, g#(x), ab; bb, b(x), b

In the third octave, there is a sequence like this, but all the notes, except for the fundamental tone and the second and fifth, have shifted considerably:
c, d(+4), e(-14), f#(-49), g(+2), ab(-41), bb(-31), b(-12), c //100 cents = halftone)
For the F note: this time the list above takes a different form.
f, g(+4), a(-14), b(-49), c(+2), db(-41), eb(-31), e(-12), f
For the G note: and another.
g, a(+4), b(-14), c#(-49), d(+2), eb(-41), f(-31), f#(-12), g

This means that you can't play a C major, a F major, and a G major chords consecutively on the same instrument.

You cannot create a musical scale in this way. Harmonics are useless in this respect. Many musicians/music theorists have denied that after the 5th or 6th harmonic is meaningful. c, c, g, c, e, g, bb

12 TET Equal temperament is simply based on slightly straightened fifths (stretching).

c => g, d, a, e, b, f#, c#, g#, d#, a#, e#, b#(c): <- +1coma (~24cents) difference in octave here is smoothed over previous fifths.
(every fifth is +2 cents higher)

It is known that the mathematical formula for this was found in China in the 16th century. //twelfth root of two <= alert: irrational number!

So essentially we are using repeating octaves above and below of a single equal chromatic scale. Intervals are equal in such a way that it doesn't change which note you base it on.

As for the major scale: Just as we found the chromatics in the 12 TET calculation, when we stack the fifths, we get a similar to the notes of a major scale: c, g, d, a, e, b, with the only difference: we need to add another fifth from the bottom to the base note. f->, c, -> g, d, a, e, b. And this sequence does not contain any out-of-tune anomalies as in harmonics.

There is no mathematical problem here, because 12TET has nothing to do with harmonics. (perhaps only the second harmonic is somewhat relevant)

In reply to by Ziya Mete Demircan

Of course the diatonic scale is based on the harmonic series, but obviously not the way you have tried to do it. The scale of C major is made from three major triads, notes with frequencies in 4:5:6 ratios: those based on C (tonic), G (dominant) and F (subdominant). So in just intonation (which is what some musicians use to produce exquisite beauty), the notes are in ratios (from the bottom) of: 1, 9/8, 5/4, 4/3, 3/2, 5/3, 15/8. 2.

12TET certainly has something to do with harmonics: it includes an amazingly good approximation to the series above.

Ziya and Imaginatorium . Those are very strong entries into the discussion. Do you have any questions about what you have written?

Did I in any way misrepresent the harmonic series when I listed the progression of simple ratios of 1/2 (or 2/1 if you prefer) 2/3, 3/4, 4/5, 5/6...?

In reply to by Rockhoven

The harmonic series consists of the fundamental frequency multiplied by the ordered integer numbers.
x1, x2, x3, x4, x5, ... (f, 2f, 3f, 4f, 5f, ...) f=100: 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, ...
//You can find the n'th harmonic by directly calculating it. 14th: 14f = 14x100 = 1400

You can show it as 2/1 (multiplied frequency) or 1/2 (split ratio).
The representation of the frequency will be 2:1, 3:1, ... etc

What's the difference between the harmonic series and equal temperament?

What's the difference between the harmonic series and the overtone series?

In reply to by Rockhoven

In extremely over simplified terms....

One is an artificial scale of 12 equal half steps. It is in tune with itself in any key.

The other is the natural ascending series of pitches that isn't even in tune with itself. But it doesn't matter.

One is basically the basis for Western music (mostly).

The other is the reason different instruments sound like they do. A flute sounds like a flute because blowing across an open hole causes air to vibrate a certain way. This accentuates certain overtones. Brass instruments accentuate different overtones. The shape and design of the different instruments also matters.

In reply to by bobjp

[12 TET] "It is in tune with itself in any key."

Can you explain what this means? What does "in tune" mean? Not that the intervals are the whole number ratios they were originally meant to be, at least.

[just intonation] "... is the natural ascending series of pitches that isn't even in tune with itself."

You said this before, too. Can you explain what it means? Are you going to give me two integers which are not in an integral ratio?

[Which?] is basically the basis for Western music. Can't really understand this part, although it looks as though it might be backwards.

In reply to by Imaginatorium

What does in tune mean? Good question.

In practice, music is not about the math. There are no exact ratios. Nor should there be. In piano tuning there are compromises. Octaves and fifths are consistent, as well as thirds. Other intervals are sometimes less exact. Not only that, on pitches that have three strings, not all three are tuned the same.

What part of out of tune is hard to understand. Look at the series. You see a formula. Based on that formula, one interval is a bit flat and some others are sharp. Someone who plays an instrument like the natural trumpet, has to play those notes differently so that they are "in tune" with the key signature. At least to our ears. Was it that way in 1700? There are few remaining trumpets from that time. One trumpet that may be from 1740 0r so, has holes drilled into it that allow some of the sharp pitches to be played "in tune". Renaissance and early Baroque instruments have no such holes. This also comes at a time when ET and standard pitch were also coming into play.

In reply to by Imaginatorium

This means that each semitone has the same ratio as the next and the previous one. = twelfth square root of two // simply, if you take a frequency and multiply it by twelfth square root of two (approx: ~1.05946), that will give you the frequency of the next halftone. //This system gives a more precise result than doubling the second overtone twelve times (Pythagorean system).

It was first discovered in 1584 by a Chinese mathematician and musician named Zhu Zaiyu. And he immediately produced some instruments suitable for this system. He is the father of 12-TET.
The implementation and spread of this system in European Classical music continued until the 18th century.
Although various 12-tone tunings (meantone-temperament, well-temperament) were tried in European classical music until then, the winning and widespread system was 12 TET.

What is the difference between the harmonic series and equal temperament? What's the difference between the harmonic series and a series of tones? I think Bob has suggested the answer - one is natural and the other is artificial. How so?

Let's look at a few of the things that people posted in response to my mention of "the harmonic series."

"Twelve-tone equal temperament[a] is the musical system that divides the octave into 12 parts, all of which are equally tempered (equally spaced) on a logarithmic scale, with a ratio equal to the 12th root of 2 (12√2 ≈ 1.05946). That resulting smallest interval, 1⁄12 the width of an octave, is called a semitone or half step."

OK. This is the formula for prescribing a series of tones (in equal temperament.) It could be that technical programmers refer to this series as "the harmonic series" but this is an artificial series. The harmonic series in the physical world is the series produced when any object emits a tone. That is what we are discussing. We are not discussing a series of tones yet. We can talk about the harmonic series of a single tone and no series of tones is necessary to discuss the harmonic series.

The harmonic series reads thus: 1, 1/2, 2/3, 3/4, 4/5, 5/6... to infinity. This is derived from observations of nature. You might want to read Sensations of Tone by Helmholtz. Any other series is just a series of tones, but the harmonic series is the stuff that tones are made of. I think the problem we have is that we are equivocating when using the term "the harmonic series."

Let's move on to what Bob said when challenged to transpose the harmonic series. He sat at a piano with Bach and Bach played a series of tones, then transposed them to another series of tones. Again, this is not a transposition of the harmonic series. The challenge is to transpose one single tone and to transpose it's elementary constituents, including the timbral aspects.

So, Bob, if I record any sound, I can most accurately and most completely transpose the harmonic series with all it's force and timbre intact with an audio recorder. The only change in the harmonic series is to the pitch, when the speed is varied.

Ziya - You also supplied us with a formula for a series of tones. First, I took your numbers and made sine waves of 100, 200, 300, up to about 800 or 900. These sine waves when combined do not produce a musical tone. They produce a buzz which is something between a noise and a tone. So, you are not referring to the stuff that musical tones are made of.

I also worked out your numbers applied to a fundamental of 440 and they magically produce a very near approximation of equal temperament (off by 3 cents on the third, I believe.) I can only deduce that you are programming with the view to the production of artificial sounds and the people you are associated with are using the term "the harmonic series" for a shortcut to equal temperament. Even so, this shortcut is not ET. The formula for ET was correctly described in a previous post.

But now we are talking composer's talk and the physics of acoustics. I should not be obligated to use the term "the natural harmonic series" but for the fact that you are misusing these words from the POV of physics. Your series is a very close approximation of ET, though, so I value your input. I would prefer that everybody refer to a series of tones as "a series of tones" and that we reserve the term "the harmonic series" for the stuff that tones are composed of - the harmonic series.

Next, Ziya, we can look at the first post that you made. This one did refer to the natural harmonic series to a point. (Bob, you should be able to see in that post what parts of his statement are grounded in physical facts, what part is merely convention, and what part comes from mathematical induction.)

Ziya, you were doing fine until you transposed the F to position it below the fundamental. Why did you do this? If the F sits at the 16th position(?) in the harmonic series, why did you fool with it? This is an example of the difference between the natural harmonic series and an artificial series of tones. And yes I know that the 5th below the fundamental is F. But you were going up, up, up and when you didn't find what you wanted, you just did some slight of hand and pulled up an F from below. This is unjustified. The fourth is actually where you first had it positioned. In that original position you had the harmonic series, As soon as you switched directions the series became artificial. (And yes, I know that every textbook does this.) Why not go up one harmonic and then down one harmonic? Then repeat that process. That would seem fair, except you won't like what you find. So, you will go reaching up to get what you want. The process is inconsistent and reeks of the subjective. Either go up or go down, or go back and forth equally, but don't go up, up, up, up and become dissatisfied with the result and then change direction simply to make the facts conform to a preconceived position. YOU needed that F note for something. Nature did not require it.

The harmonic series is 1, 1/2, 2/3, 3/4, 4/5, 5/6, ...
What happens, acoustically, when we invert the series to become 1, 2/1, 3/2, 4/3, 5/4, 6/5, ...?

The main question is: What is the difference between classical and popular music? The auxiliary questions concern common practice in the 20th century. I want to show where classical music comes from and where it ended in the 20th. What did composers do with the series of tones in the first half of the 20th and what did they do with the harmonic series in the latter half of the century? I want to demonstrate why I believe that Jazz, Blues and Rock & Roll were the classical music of that time. Schoenberg, Cage and Stockhausen were interesting experimenters, but the compositions came from the world of Pop.

I want to formulate my arguments from objective materials such as series of tones, the harmonic series and it's transposition, recording technology, and also the great losses of music in it's long history. Pop and classical have one thing in common. When I listen to what is on the charts today, I am aghast at the poor quality of music that is produced. We have to imagine also how very poor all of the lost music of the last 5000 years has been. For every Bach there must have been 10,000 other composers, all of their music not worth preserving or simply lost accidentally. There is no reason to believe that what we think of as "classical" was anything but a very large barrage of very idiotic sounding material that suffered a 99.99% extinction rate. This is what classical and pop have in common. The pop music of today is facing that same demise, but when people in the 25th century look back to select the classical music of today, it will be the finest pop music surviving and still in circulation.

For music to become "classical" it must be recorded and it must survive the careful and repeated selection process over many generations. The pop music of today, most of it won't survive, and that's good, but some will, and that's great. Whose music survives and whose is elevated to a place of greatness? The same rules apply here that we see at work in the visual arts, film, literature and poetry. The greats are the most prolific. You are going to be very hard put to find an instance that challenges that observation. The great pop music of the last century came from the most prolific artists. We could even extend this rule to the sciences. Einstein, Darwin, Freud - they were all more prolific than their contemporaries. Someone said that Telemann was more prolific than Bach. Bach has more surviving works. Telemann's work was lost. The work has first got to survive in order for it to be selected. In some cases, it did not survive because it was not selected.

In reply to by Rockhoven

I can't speak for the other people you have completely misrepresented. But I can for me.

You said:
"Let's move on to what Bob said when challenged to transpose the harmonic series. He sat at a piano with Bach and Bach played a series of tones, then transposed them to another series of tones. Again, this is not a transposition of the harmonic series. The challenge is to transpose one single tone and to transpose it's elementary constituents, including the timbral aspects.

So, Bob, if I record any sound, I can most accurately and most completely transpose the harmonic series with all it's force and timbre intact with an audio recorder. The only change in the harmonic series is to the pitch, when the speed is varied."

You never asked me to transpose the harmonic series. You asked how to explain to Bach that you could record a woman's voice and change it to bass, etc. That's it.

How do you know you have accurately recorded a sound? What do you compare it to?

What on earth does "transpose the harmonic series" mean?

you said:
"For music to become "classical" it must be recorded". ?????

I must confess that I read your posts for their entertainment value. You ask questions, invite input, ignore and/ or twist that input beyond recognition, and continue to put forth.......odd ideas. None of which will stand the test of time you talk about.

In reply to by bobjp

Bobjp said: "I must confess that I read your posts for their entertainment value. ..."

Don't gloat too much; some of us read your posts mostly for a giggle. The harmonic series is the sequence of integral multiples of a frequency - you still haven't explained what it means for this to be "out of tune with itself".

"...odd ideas. None of which will stand the test of time..." Right.

In reply to by bobjp

Bob. Right. I asked you how Bach would transpose the harmonic series and you demonstrated the transposition of a series of tones. We are not on the topic of tonal series yet. The example I gave of a woman's voice to bass is meant to illustrate the problem. Bach could not transpose the woman's voice and neither could he transpose the entire keyboard from 430 to 431hz. Let's stay on the subject. The common practice of the 20th century encompasses harmonic practice, both in it's alterations of the series of tones (in the early part of the century) and the manipulation of the harmonic series (in the latter part.)

I am simply addressing an important objection to the general theory made by DELETED before he slipped out the back door.

In reply to by bobjp

Bob - To transpose the harmonic series is to transpose it with all of it's numerical relationships intact. So, I could have a string at 440 and you could have a string at 441, but you have not transposed my 440 on my string. My string may be a steel core with a brass winding. Yours could be a plain steel core without the winding, or a nylon string. The transposition would be an exact duplication of the intervallic relationships within the harmonic series and the individual amplitudes of the individual overtones.

Anyway, we are due to move on back to the main question. I only want to dispose of DELETED groundless objection that the recording process has little or nothing to do with harmonic practice, when the opposite is true. We are going to go back now and thoroughly investigate the harmonic practices of the 20th and I want to assure everyone here that this conversation is extremely relevant to the future direction of the Musescore project. There is too much misunderstanding here.

Most of you - the loudest voices here - do not even appear to be arguing in good faith. If you care - why don't you address the main question? That's all you need to do. Just say "Classical music is such and such and popular music is so and so." Then get out and let someone else demolish your claims. This conversation demands a level of respect, consideration and work. Anyone here can work out the numbers supplied and find that they do not agree with the physical facts of acoustics. Therefore, Ziya is simply using the words "the harmonic series" in a casual sense. It must be some informal speech used by technicians who develop programs and has nothing to do with the actual physics of sound.

In reply to by Rockhoven

Rockhoven says: Ziya - You also supplied us with a formula for a series of tones. First, I took your numbers and made sine waves of 100, 200, 300, up to about 800 or 900. These sine waves when combined do not produce a musical tone. They produce a buzz which is something between a noise and a tone. So, you are not referring to the stuff that musical tones are made of.

You really don't know anything about it, do you?

In reply to by Ziya Mete Demircan

Ziya, your formula should produce a musical tone. It does not. It produces a buzz. The formula does produce a series of tones close to equal temperament. Why do you not use the formula that was prescribed by a previous poster?

You yourself said: "if you take a frequency and multiply it by twelfth square root of two (approx: ~1.05946), that will give you the frequency of the next halftone."

So why are you using a shortcut to get an approximation of equal temperament?

If your argument is that the harmonic series is 100, 200, 300 ... rather than 1, 1/2, 2/3, 3/4 ... then it is only an issue of equivocation. You are using those words in a very closed context. If this is the way that developers talk, then we are going to have a problem. When I use the words "the harmonic series" it should be understood that I am referring to the series of harmonics generated by any physically vibrating and tone producing object. That series is 1, 1/2, 2/3, 3/4, 5/6 ...

There was one other poster here who correctly supplied us with what is AN harmonic series, it is at least a proportion. Even in that post, the numbers do not add up to the harmonic series. There is no argument about what the harmonic series is except in your misusage of those words in the context of a discussion on the physics of sound. It's fine and dandy to use that language among developers but it's incorrect in this current context.

I think that the problem is that the developers do not know how to enter the "twelfth square root of two" into a calculator, so they devised this shortcut and call it "the harmonic series." This shortcut is twice removed from the physical facts. It's an ingenious trick. I could never have thought of it. But let's get to thinking the same thing when we use these same words. In this discussion we are talking about the long verified, physical facts concerning sound.

In reply to by Rockhoven

Bob and Ziya - I do not claim to know everything about the harmonic series. It is false to assume that I know nothing. I don't make those assumptions about either of you.

Ziya - When you say that the series is expressed by the simple integers, are you prescribing the composition of a single tone, or a series of tones? This is what I want to know. We should at least agree that the harmonic series is the composition of a single tone by it's constituent elements. Do we agree upon that? Or are you talking about a series of tones?

In reply to by Rockhoven

Ziya - When you say that the series is expressed by the simple integers, are you prescribing the composition of a single tone, or a series of tones? This is what I want to know. We should at least agree that the harmonic series is the composition of a single tone by it's constituent elements. Do we agree upon that? Or are you talking about a series of tones?

Whatever the fundamental frequency is, multiplying it by 2, 3, 4, 5,... etc gives us the upper harmonic series. It's these numbers that are integers, not frequency.

example: if the frequency is 110, the harmonic series proceeds as "110, 220, 330, 440, 550,... etc." So: multiplied by 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, ... etc. As I mentioned in my posts above, you can show it as you want (1/2, 2/1, x2) depending on the context.

Every instrument sound you hear is made up of complex tones.
Just an artificial tone, sine-wave has no upper or lower harmonics. The sine wave is a pure periodic signal and is obtained by artificial means.

Therefore, instruments can be imitated, more or less, by using sine-waves in a row. (I created a trombone instrument for you in my previous post).

As I mentioned in my previous post, the attenuation values of upper harmonics are important for the formation of instrument timbre. In some instruments odd harmonics are weaker, in others even. In some, attenuation occurs in different ways in different places.

PS: Attenuation values greater than 60 dB are not taken into account when calculating the dB (attenuation) values of the upper harmonics.

In fact, for complex instrument tones (e.g. violin), it is not enough to use sine-waves alone, but also to adjust their phase values and how these values change over time. But this is beyond the capabilities of simple soundfont software.

The instrument most similar to the sine-wave frequency is the flute. But even the flute instrument has its own upper harmonics, and this is where the tonal differences of the different flute instrument types come from.

In reply to by Rockhoven

First of all: There is no formula that I created or invented. These were found many years before us. We just learned of them.

Secondly: In my posts above, I explained how they were obtained and their history, albeit briefly:

Third: You are not reading the posts (or you are not reading them correctly): is explained in this post and directly exemplifies how to calculate the n'th harmonic if f=100. And other display formats are also briefly compared.

Fourth: I gave you a formula for natural harmonic series and you tried to put them on top of each other to create a timbre.
Here is where you know nothing about it.
Because for each instrument, the decibel value of each next harmonics is different. This is how different instrument tones are formed.
for example, attenuation decibels for making a trombone sound with sine wave:
f0:17.8, f1:13, f2:16.2, f3:14, f4:20.2, f5:25.12, f6:24.8, f7:26.12, f8:29.72, f9:32.12, f10:34.8, f11:38.92, f12: 44.12, f13:46.12, f14:50.2, f15:53.2,

I added the trombone soundfont that I created with a single sine-wave. Maybe you can learn something by looking into it (with Polyphone).

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In reply to by Ziya Mete Demircan

Upon further thought, I realize that perhaps I have been mistaken. The series 1, 1/2, 2/3, 3/4, 5/6 etc. is also the description of the ingredients for a series of tones. Still, I want to go back to the original questions while continuing to hash out all of these discrepancies. Largely because I am a generalist and I reserve the right to be wrong about any one of the details in the mix for my general theory. I concede all specific points to those who are better versed in a specific area of knowledge because they have no ultimate effect on the general theory. Whatever the harmonic series is, it was a vital advancement in common harmonic practice of the 20th to be able to record and directly manipulate it.

That is the specific point in the auxiliary issue raised by DELETED against the general theory.

Main question: What's the difference between classical and popular music?
2nd question: What was and now is common recording practice and common harmonic practice?

So, I say that the common practice is to make audio recording of a performance. The performance and the composition can be recorded at once, allowing for free improvisation. The harmonic developments are the expansion of the use of all tones in the 12 tone system. This raises a bunch of other questions. The other more important development was the documentation of folk intonation and the introduction of "blue notes" or any intonation of a tone that would have been previously completely lost by the limited system of written notation. The Blues is the harmony of the 20th.

Later, in the middle of the century, Les Paul developed multitrack recording which replaced the stave system. We now record tracks rather than staves. Also the harmonic series could be manipulated to transpose in pitch the voice of any instrument or any sound , including the human voice. So, you get great recording artists like the Chipmunks.

Some things in the classical canon are there just because of their strangeness. Spose we have found a score by Guido d'Arezzo. The quality of the music would be irrelevant. It's of historical interest and gets classified as "Classical." So is the music of Les Paul. He's not a master, but the technical achievements are noteworthy. But when we get to the rock & roll bands of the 60's like the Beatles, they definitely reworked all of the experimental techniques into actual compositions that could be enjoyed.

Here's another ditty not likely to survive the selection process, but if it did survive that process, in 250 years, it would be classified as classical music.

But that's just for fun. This gets really interesting when we examine what the Beatles did with all of the experiments of the 20th. I believe that their innovations assure them a place in the ultimate canon of classical music, as will the blues and it's offspring.

So, when I return I want to talk about the great loss of music that has occurred from prehistoric times up until this moment, the attempt to preserve music, and the destruction of musical idioms due to the promotion of those very means of preservation. This POV will put the relationship between classical music and pop music into a new and different light.

So hang on to your harmonic series hamstrings and get ready for a ride! WOOOT!

In reply to by Rockhoven

Please produce where you asked Bach to transpose the harmonic series. You can't. Recording something means less than nothing. It does not legitimize the music. It merely documents it.

"Main question: What's the difference between classical and popular music?"

I think that your definition is that if it is old, it is classical. If it's new, it's popular. And as popular music gets older, it then becomes classical. The absolute fact of the matter is that you and I don't get to decide either case.

"2nd question: What was and now is common recording practice and common harmonic practice?"

Recording practice, irrelevant.
Harmonic practice, always influx. I have no idea what your definition of harmonic practice is.

Other people on this thread have studied music history, music theory, composition, and are musicians. How about you? As usual I don't expect an answer.

You are, of course, free to develop whatever theories you see fit. Be my guest. But no one here is buying. Google is your friend.

In reply to by Ziya Mete Demircan

"for example, attenuation decibels for making a trombone sound with sine wave:
f0:17.8, f1:13, f2:16.2, f3:14, f4:20.2, f5:25.12, f6:24.8, f7:26.12, f8:29.72, f9:32.12, f10:34.8, f11:38.92, f12: 44.12, f13:46.12, f14:50.2, f15:53.2,"

Ziya - All of those notes appear to be f notes. Or is this some special notation? Where are the individual harmonics such as the 5th and the 3rd? What does the letter f stand for?

This appears to be the fundamental f0 attenuated to an amplitude of 17.8. Am I reading this correctly?

In reply to by Rockhoven

>"This appears to be the fundamental f0 attenuated to an amplitude of 17.8. Am I reading this correctly?"
Yes, true.
If you examine the soundfont with the Polyphone software, you will already see it. If the software is not installed, you can see the screenshot below.

Harmonics always occur in the same order. Therefore, it is sufficient to give only the harmonic numbers. f0 = fundamental, f1= 1st harmonic, etc.

Since software such as Polyphone uses 12TET when placing notes, it is necessary to adjust the cent difference of the natural harmonics, otherwise the harmonics will not follow each other exactly (x1, x2, x3, etc). // You can see it in the picture. Fifths +2 cents, thirds -14 cents, sevenths -31 cents, etc.

Semi-tone adjustments are made based on how half-notes away the harmonics are from the fundamental frequency.

When all of these sine-waves are played together, the timbre of the instrument we tuned is formed.

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trb-z01.png 40.46 KB

In reply to by Ziya Mete Demircan

Yeah. I figured that out after I posted. I took a walk and realized that there are not 13 audible octaves. there's like 7 or 8. So f must signify frequency of the numbered harmonic. f0 is the frequency of whatever fundamental I start with. Then f1 is the first harmonic - the octave and so on, up to around the 13th harmonic where there is no further audible significance.

This sure is interesting stuff to know. It's a great contribution to this thread. I want all facts to be as accurate as possible as we proceed.

It's that time of year when we all get in a jolly mood for a discussion on What is the Difference between Classical Music and Pop Music. All disputes are resolved about what the harmonic series is. I mistook just intonation for the harmonic series and that accounts for that misagreement.

Now, Bob has asked what is meant by "the transposition of the harmonic series. These are only provisional terms for my hypothesis. We might change that to be "manipulation of the harmonic series" in some instances.

Ziya, you might be best qualified to answer this question. Can the harmonic series be manipulated and transposed? It would appear to be the case in both the Chipmunks song that I posted and in your construction of a single tone from the harmonic series. The first is a transposition and the second is at least a manipulation. Or would you like to call it by another name?

In reply to by Rockhoven

I occurs to me that you view the harmonic series to be some kind of scale. Or some kind of modal system. Something to be used like a key signature. Or any musical tool.
As you know, any given pitch is it's own harmonic series. Every note produced by a flute is it's own harmonic series. And the reason a flute sounds like a flute is because the instrument brings out various overtones in that series. A trumpet and a flute both play A-440. They sound different because they accent different overtones of the exact same harmonic series.

If you mean by manipulation, can overtones be changed to another pitch? I suppose it could be done electronically. But to what end? You can also play 10 semitones all at once. But why?

In reply to by bobjp

Bob - My mistake was simply in recall. I actually know what you continue to repeat and which has already been reiterated by Ziya - that the amplitudes of the harmonics determine the timbre of an instrument. So, I do not think of the harmonic series as a series of tones, even though I mistakenly described them as such.

In our discussion about the common harmonic practice of the 20th century, I would say that the series of tones that were most commonly used was the blues scale. This began creeping into our pop (really classical) music in the earlier part of the century and even if it was not the most commonly used, it was the most commonly used harmonic invention - that blue note that could only be gotten by bending a string or sliding a bottle on a string is what vaulted the pop (classical) music of the earlier part of the period. The blues also spawned the most diverse number and quality of new genres. It is thought by some or more than some to be the harmony of the 20th century.

In the latter part, beginning with Les Paul, transposition of the harmonic series was introduced. This is what I want to give more attention to in my definition of common harmonic practice. CHP of the 20th can not be understood in terms of CHP of the 19th C or earlier periods. The digital age opened up even finer gradations of manipulation, as Ziya demonstrates.

I'm sticking with this theme for a while because it was argued that CHP does not extend to methods of recording the music, which argument I think I can prove to false. The Chipmunks record shows exactly what happened to CHP. If all of the Chipmunk records were lost and then rediscovered in the year 2500, they would automatically be entered into the classical canon because of their historical significance in CHP.

I think you said, if I'm not misquoting you, that I think that classical music is simply old music. After considering that for the past few months I have to say, yes, that is what I think, because the further back you go in the historical record, stuff just automatically goes into the canon, not because of it's quality or because it went through a selection process by experts or by the public, but simply by virtue of it's date. If we today discovered hidden in the walls of some castle in France, some notated music, it automatically would go into the classical repertoire due to it's date, not due to it's style or harmonic practice, it's quality or any other qualification. Using the same logic, I have to admit that in 2500 musicologists will insist that the Chipmunks were recorded by a classical composer named David Seville, who electronically transposed his voice up an octave or higher to achieve a chorus - all from one single human being.

Now, I'm going to get my feet into this topic and stay firmly planted as we review the whole history of music and look at the CHP of the 20th century.

In reply to by Rockhoven

Yet you continue to believe that the harmonic series can be transposed. Without stating what that means. You confuse harmonic practice with harmonic series. Harmonic practices change, but the harmonic series does not.

Classical refers to a particular time in music. Gene Autry's "Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer" is a classic to be sure. But it is not classical. Why on earth would it be.

And, actually, that piece of music found in the walls of a French castle would probably go into the Renaissance repertoire. The general public would incorrectly call it classical.

You said: " it was argued that CHP does not extend to methods of recording the music". Harmonic practice has almost nothing to do with printed or recorded music. Those might be examples of the result of some particular harmonic practice. They do not define it. Harmonic practice differs from genre to genre, and time period to time period. As you say. But what is your point? The harmonic practice of Gregorian chant is so strict that is is possible to write it following the rules only. Without needing to hear it.

You maintain that a recording is a better way to represent music than notation. I think it depends on the music. For a piece by Beethoven, a recording is one of the final results. In his day the performance was the final result. In his day, the only way to hear his music was if you were lucky enough to to hear it live. No recording of a performance is better than hearing it live. And performances today are much different than back then. But that is what music is all about. Musicians can portray the music as they see fit. With a recording your stuck. As a musician, I would rather play it than listen to it.
Then, of course, there is music produced electronically. Perhaps using a DAW. No notation needed. Like I said, it depends on the music.

In reply to by Rockhoven

There is no official definition for what exactly constitutes "classical" any more than there is for what constitutes "pop", or "jazz", or "country", etc. Just general consensus on the people who enjoy a particular genre are looking for. So it is impossible to be any more specific about what is or isn't classical music, except to say, it's "the music than fans of classical music generally acknowledge to be classical".

By that definition - the only one really possible to be even remotely objective about (eg, a survey asking people if they self-identify as fans of classical music, and if so, to then evaluate the classical-ness of a given piece) - no, that piece would not qualify.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

QUOTE: Marc Sabatella • Sep 9, 2020 - 02:59
In reply to Then we need to get… by Rockhoven

"I write jazz, pop, classical, and many other styles."

Marc - In what way are you utilizing the word "classical?" You seem to be identifying it as a style. But classical music has many styles and genres. Are you only writing classical music in the sense of a limited historical period such as the kind of music composed from 1750 to 1800 by composers such as Mozart, Brahms and Beethoven?

The word "classical" is used at least 175 times in this conversation. Some of those uses are due to repetitions in quotes. So maybe we've used it 75 or 100 times until now? How do you understand the word "classical" in the context of the question "What is the difference between classical and popular music?"

In reply to by Rockhoven

I mean that I write in styles that would be easily identified as classical according to the only reasonably objective definition there is - the one I just gave above. This includes music exemplified by the so-called "Classical" period (often denoted with a capital letter to differentiate from the more generic "classical" genre) but also music of the Renaissance, Baroque, and Romantic periods, as well as the horribly-named but also more or less universally-understood Modern period.

That is to say, when I write music I would consider classical, it's absolutely positively safe to say that if you played it for 100 people who self-identified as fans of classical music, they would virtually unanimously identify it as classical.

As for how I might characterize the differences between classical and pop music, there would be a long laundry list of attributes for each. The more elements of the classical list a piece has, the more likely it is that self-identified fans of classical music would recognize it as classical. And the more elements of the pop list a piece has, the more likely it is that self-identified fans of pop music would recognize it as pop.

Some music would easily fit one list or the other and generate near-universal agreement. Some music would be harder to characterize and might invite debate. That doesn't make the distinction irrelevant, it just means it isn't 100% black & white in all cases. Kind of like "pizza" versus "hamburger" as descriptions of food items. Many food items are clearly one or the other or neither. But no doubt some meals have elements of both, and that's fine too.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc - I have taken you and everyone else who contributed so far to be using the word classical in it's generic sense. However, I think it is very well to go down a few other roads, such as Bob's assertion of a specific period being "classical."

Bob - Are you saying that Marc and the rest of us are incorrect? I would think that a term means what everyone agrees for it's meaning. That is what is correct. I have no problem shifting back between meanings as long as we are accounting for the shift. I think that the term has shifted in the past. The term "classical" first appeared in the mid 18th century, so how could it apply to the period of which you are referring (1750 to 1800.) It seems that the term appeared for the purpose of excluding that specific period, since the period had not yet occured and fully passed.

In reply to by Rockhoven

It's not just Bob "assertion" of a particular period being "Classical" - this is indeed part of the universally accepted understanding of the term "Classical" with a capital "C". I made that same distinction - "classical" as a generic term for style applying to the art music of the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, and Romantic eras - versus "Classical" as a term for a particular period of musical history. IThis is so universally understood I'm surprised to see it debated here.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc - I have taken you and everyone else who contributed so far to be using the word classical in it's generic sense. However, I think it is very well to go down a few other roads, such as Bob's assertion of a specific period being "classical."

Bob - Are you saying that Marc and the rest of us are incorrect? I would think that a term means what everyone agrees for it's meaning. That is what is correct. I have no problem shifting back between meanings as long as we are accounting for the shift. I think that the term has shifted in the past. The term "classical" first appeared in the mid 18th century, so how could it apply to the period of which you are referring (1750 to 1800.) It seems that the term appeared for the purpose of excluding that specific period, since the period had not yet occured and fully passed.

"It was in 18th-century England that the term "'classical' first came to stand for a particular canon of works in performance."

It doesn't say "mid century." So maybe I'm a bit off. It would be nice to know more precisely when the term came in but the "classical period" could not have been named so until the period had closed, I believe. But I could be wrong.

In reply to by Rockhoven

Because "classic" is a value judgment. People may or may not agree.
"Classical" is an agreed upon period in time.

Yes, music is categorized by the date it was written. Regardless of how good it may or may not be. How "good" a piece of music has nothing to do with when it was written. The listener gets to decide how good it is to them. You think that a particular Sousa piece is really "good", and because it's old it is therefore "classical". If I were to think that the same Sousa piece was junk. what then? "Classic" is in the ear of the listener. "Classical" is not.

In reply to by bobjp

You wrote:
Because "classic" is a value judgment. People may or may not agree.
"Classical" is an agreed upon period in time.

Indeed, for "classical" music consider:
People can pre-set the buttons on their car radio to a station that features "classical music" and have a reasonable expectation that they won't be hearing, for example, Jumpin' Jack Flash (by the Rolling Stones).
In fact, "classical music" radio stations likely predate "classic rock" radio stations.
Probably 4 or 5 decades ago the term "classic rock" had no meaning. Stations used terms like "rock" or "best of rock" -- to distinguish them from "oldies", "classical", "country", "jazz", "gospel", etc.
It is due to the passage of time that a song like Jumpin' Jack Flash has graduated from "rock" to "classic rock" and can be heard on stations that (today) feature "classic rock".

Beethoven's Fifth, the William Tell Overture, and others could be considered "classic classical".
"It was in 18th-century England that the term "'classical' first came to stand for a particular canon of works in performance."

Apparently the term was first used to separate older traditions from newer practices and forms. Since the term emerged in the 18th century, it served to divide the contrapuntal era (and previous periods) from the period of Mozart, Brahms and Beethoven (or the newer styles.) This serves as an analogy for our current understanding of pop and classical. We are confronted with the fact that newer forms are somewhat repulsive to us. I spose that Beethoven was too bombastic for those old codgers.

But let's do this. Let's, for the sake of argument, limit our definition to the Classical period (appr. 1750 to 1800.) Then, in that period, who was making popular music?

In reply to by bobjp

Bob - I don't know yet. I've got a couple of hypotheses now. I outlined one previously and have abandoned some of what I thought 3 or 4 months ago. The comments have helped me a lot. I spose I'll write a summary statement of the two hypotheses. Whatever, any hypothesis should stand up to historical facts.

In reply to by Rockhoven

And I see that you interchange "pop" and "popular" the same way you do "classic" and "classical". As I understand it, most of the general population at the time had little interest, or lacked the ability to go hear a Beethoven concert. Or even heard of him. His music was (is) a particular style aimed at a particular crowd. There were, and are, plenty of other types of music out there. Look up any list of popular kinds of music and classical is pretty far down. County is tops in the US.
Say we define "popular" as that which is enjoyed by the most people. You can't now, and never could, define "classical" (Beethoven and such} as popular. And why on earth would there be any need to classify The Beatles or Britney Spears as classical.

In reply to by bobjp

"And I see that you interchange "pop" and "popular"

Yes, I am using "pop" as an abbreviation for "popular" until we have decided what terms we are using and how to use them. Pop or popular could mean anything according to the context.

In reply to by Rockhoven

Except that pop and popular are not the same thing. If you are going to present a thesis, then you need to be precise in your presentation. You probably shouldn't use abbreviations. Say what you mean even if it takes longer. Don't assume that everyone defines anything the same way. Know your subject. No serious scholar, professor, or historian will accept Wikipedia as a reference. It may be a starting point to get general information. But that's about it.
The Beatles are popular. Beethoven is popular. Joplin is popular. None of them made pop music.

If you are going to talk about the harmonic series, you might just need to study music theory to learn about what it is.

You can't just submit a new ideas without fully understanding the old ideas and why they don't work.

Frankly, I don't see the effort of getting enough people to switch to make this practical to be worth it. Clairnote looks better than the other one, but neither is a big enough improvement to make switching at all worth it, and I would argue that neither one is even better. Clairnote is overcomplicated, the other one is too oversimplified, and the first one just results in too many ledger lines and doesn't seem to make legibility easier.

I'd like to thank everyone who has contributed to the development of this discussion.

Ziya - For correcting my false description of the harmonic series.

Bob and Marc - For that info about using upper case for the periods in classical music.

I want to continue clarifying the language because I plan to present two hypotheses in 2022 and these hypotheses are developing naturally, out of this process of clarification.

Marc Sabatella • Dec 13, 2021 - 16:07
"There is no official definition for what exactly constitutes "classical" any more than there is for what constitutes "pop", or "jazz", or "country"

Marc - I see that you are using lower case for the genres. I'd like to continue with that form. However, though "classical" and "pop" are in lower case, they do not refer to periods or genres. We are probably going to run into further problems defining genre, form and style, because I consider them to be too intertwined to separate. So, what are the genres of the classical periods?

"the horribly-named but also more or less universally-understood Modern period"

You take issue with the term "Modern." Why is that?

In reply to by Rockhoven

Who says classical and pop do not refer to genres? Unless you want to invent a new definition of the word "genre", those terms absolutely do refer to genres.

The issue virtually everyone has with the word "Modern" as a label for the era the term is usually applied to - which includes music written before any living person on earth today was born - is that it directly conflicts with the ordinary English definition of the word. We will still refer to the 1500's as part of the "Renaissance" in the year 2250. Will it still make sense to call the music of 1900 "modern"?

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

How about we call the era of the 20th century should be called the Popular era?

OK. I am ready to begin assembling my thoughts on three hypotheses that have been presented to date, beginning with Bob's proposition. However, I must quote extensively from scholarly journals and I do not want to violate copyright.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc - You don't seem to have any problem with Bob changing the meaning of or adding the word "classical" instead of the word "Classical." I'm simply changing the word "popular" to "Popular" so it is now a period of music paralleling the Classical period. I think we need to fix all of our terms before we proceed.

In reply to by Rockhoven

I haven't seen any other examples of anyone else proposing changing meaning of any already well-defined terms. Although I can't guarantee that everyone has been 100% consistent about the capitalization - typos happen.

The problem with proposing Popular as describing a historical period is that it flies in the face of the ordinary dictionary definition of the term. It also is laughably inaccurate as it applies the classical music of the period. And it is utterly nonsensical to have a single term that encompasses both Arnold Schoenberg and Elvis Presley.

If you want to talk about 20th century music, just call it 20th century music. And then when it is relevant to differentiate 20th century classical from 20th century popular, just do so. No need to invent new definitions for existing terms.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

"And then when it is relevant to differentiate 20th century classical from 20th century popular, just do so"

But I find that distinction to be arbitrary and irrelevant. Sousa is classical. Just listen to it. Joplin and Sousa are nice transitions from the Romantic to the Popular period. And Louis Armstrong is the definite figure who begins the Popular period. Schoenberg, Stockhausen and Cage are outliers. Since when is classical music made in a laboratory? These are just experimenters. The real composers are listed in the pop charts.

I'm tired of going around in circles. I want to wheel out the heavy guns. But I don't want to be in violation of the rules or of copyright. And I ask you to converse in good faith. If Bob says something agin, I expect you to challenge him. Bob, I expect you to challenge Marc to cough up historical records of the facts in this matter. That is what I am going to be doing and I don't want anymore "Yeah but" from anyone here. I will cite scholarly and authoritative sources. I expect to be rebutted from similar sources.

So far, you both disagree with the experts. You don't have one single expert who agrees with your statements. I have cited two experts in the field of music. You've got nothing between the two of you. No one agrees with you. Do you two even agree with each other? Marc - Do you agree with the OP that Bob wrote to begin these conversations?

"There has always been music for the general population that was much more popular than "classical" music. Classical music has always been meant for a particular (small) part of the population. In other words, classical music has never been popular, as in liked by a large segment of any population."

I believe this was a major misperception in the 20th century, that because classical music had become so unpopular that it was always that way in previous periods. This is a 20th and 21st century reading of the present into the past. Marc - Do you percieve it to be so? I'd like others to log in on this issue. Does anyone else share this opinion?

In reply to by Rockhoven

If you don’t care about the distinction between classical and pop, that’s fine, no one forces you to. But you can’t change the fact that the rest of the worlds sees a glaringly obvious difference. The mere fact that there is some gray area doesn’t change the fact that there are also giant clear black and white areas of virtually universal agreement.

It’s absolutely ludicrous to imply there are “experts” who would disagree with this. Or that any such “experts” would talk of pop musicians as the only “real” composers. No doubt some contrarian published an article somewhere you’ll quote to this effect, just as somewhere you can find a flat earther to quote. So if you want to have conversations with them, or with just yourself, be my guest. But no need for the rest of us to be involved. I’ll just steer clear of threads that aren’t for me.

For the record, though, regarding the original assertion - as far I know, classical music was at one time "somewhat" more popular than it is today. But probably still only a small percentage of people during Beethoven’s life had ever actually heard any of his music - I’d guess a significantly smaller percentage than today. Unfortunately it’s probably impossible to really quantify.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc - The question is what's the difference between classical and popular music? You suggest a division by century - 20th century music, with a subdivision of classical and popular. This is a vicious circle. Let's get our terms straight. If Early, Baroque, Classical, Romantic etc (with upper case) are periods and jazz, rock, blues, punk are genres (without upper case,) then what are classical and popular, if not genres or periods? They must be classification systems. To Avoid confusion we should make our categories like this:

CLASSICAL is the classification system in all caps, which is base primarily on date.
Baroque is a period of time with only one cap
fugue is a form or genre with no caps

POPULAR is a classification system based primarily upon genre until it ages.
Popular is a period within classical music after it's genres have aged
popular music is any genre in classical music while the genre is contemporary,
ragtime, march, jazz, blues, rock & roll, punk, hiphop.

Something like that, though I'm open to tweaking this, and it still may not eradicate all inconsistencies. Some proofs of what I am saying must accompany this theory. A question: What happened to genre in classical music of the 20th century? Sousa wrote marches. The march is a genre from the Classical and Romantic periods, is it not? I mean, that was it's peak. People wrote marches before that and I can even write a march today. But the proof I offer is that you could take your music collection apart and reorganize it according to genre and Sousa goes with marches.

Forms and genres go in and out of style being popular one moment and unpopular the next. Bach composed all contemporary forms including the form known as the French Dance. This was a popular form adapted to the church service. Telemann did likewise. It is popular music until it passes. They were all playing what the next door neighbor was playing, just as the kid playing the Stratocaster played what the neighbors heard and played.

With the reorganization of your classical and popular music collection into form and genre you should see these forms and genres being displaced and replaced as new ones come in and go out. Sousa belongs to the Romantic period because he composed the march. Marches go out of style after that. Joplin begins a new period of syncopation leading to jazz. The blues comes in. Miles Davis is classical, my friends. Everything fits together more perfectly.

What I want to know is where and how did the error creep into this? We are going to have to go back through the history and retrace our steps.

In reply to by Rockhoven

There is no confusion if you use these terms the way billions of people already use and understand them. Confusion exists only if you try to change definitions that are already universally well-understood. So, again, I'm not interested in that. The universally well-understood definitions of classical, pop, and Classical are not negotiable. Again, feel free to discuss such alternative realities with others, but that's not a discussion I have any interest in at all.

Now, If you want to point out that some composers don't fit neatly into these boxes - like Sousa or Joplin, who fit one era chronologically but don't exhibit the traits normally associated with composers of that era - that's fine. But there are already terms well-understood terms for these composers too. Chronologically, both lived at the turn of the 20th-century. Stylistically, one writes marches, the other ragtime. No need for new words for concepts that are already well-understood.

That said, sure, no doubt there are some genres for which there is no well-understood term. If you want to discuss those genres, and propose new terms for them, feel free. I'm happy to weigh in on such discussions, to the extent I have an interest in the genre. But again, well-understood existing terms are not up for grabs.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I'm suggesting an experiment and observation. We usually organize our music by artist or by date. Pop music has a tendency to be organized more by artists and genre. What I propose the following. First, you or a group of yous guys need to have a large and broad collection of music going back to the earliest chants and hymns and, you know the story, we want the collection to have all of the music from whatever these periods are called, Medieval, Early, Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Popular. Next, you need to measure the size of the collection and copy it to another space. Now, we'll resort all of this music. Just make about 100 folders for each period of every genre, style and form that you can list. So we'll have sonata-allegro, march, menuet, gigue... ragtime, jazz, blues, country, rock & roll, hard rock, punk, disco, rap, hip hop... all genres. You old geezers might have to get your kids involved in this. Then, within each folder, prefix each label with the date.

OK. Now we have a different classification system for listening to this music. We have it ordered primarily by gebre and secondarily by date. This is an unusual approach. But, no, Miles Davis remains in jazz. The Beatles catalog will be completely dismembered, going into rockabilly, hard rock, whatever. We also want forms like piano sonata, album, concept album. So, Moody Blues may go in concept album along with In the Court of the Crimson King. We will have atonal, sound collage and electronic. Switched on Bach to electronic along with Stockhausen and Easley Blackwood Jr. Cage and I am the Walrus and Lennon and Ono's first albums also go to the sound collage folder. Some people you might have to spread out among several categories. Blackwood might be found in atonal, microtonal and electronic.

So now what do we have? Geez, if I know! I'm laughing my ass off! But try it. You might like it.

In reply to by Rockhoven

Marc is correct.
And I changed absolutely nothing. I added nothing. Capital or no, the term is universally understood by those who have studied music history. They also know that the terms for various genre have been applied well after the fact and not during. This is known and understood. There is no confusion. Bach did not consider himself a Baroque composer. The word didn't exist in the present form and meaning until a century or so after his death.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

These guys are expert enough for me. What they did with "pop" music in a deacde nearly overshadows the whole century. Not quite. But they produced the goods! Paul and John are rolling in their graves, people. Paul said that they were making classical music. I don't know if he said this before he died or after, but you have to have some respect for dead.

In reply to by bobjp

Bob - I don't think that you are really following the discussion. We are discussing how these terms have been used historically, what the correct spelling and usages are and looking for clarification. The periods should have a capital letter - Baroque. Your Op does not specify a period - the Classical period. You yourself admitted in the thread that you think of classical music as a genre. Marc says something like (and you can look it up and quote it yourself) something like "classical music is all about genre." I agree, but it is not a genre in itself. It's a system of organizing music primarily, but not exclusively by it's date. So, I have to agree when you said that I think classical music is just old music. Yeah, that's what it is.

In reply to by bobjp

Bob - I don't think that you are really following the discussion. We are discussing how these terms have been used historically, what the correct spelling and usages are and looking for clarification. The periods should have a capital letter - Baroque. Your Op does not specify a period - the Classical period. You yourself admitted in the thread that you think of classical music as a genre. Marc says something like (and you can look it up and quote it yourself) something like "classical music is all about genre." I agree, but it is not a genre in itself. It's a system of organizing music primarily, but not exclusively by it's date. So, I have to agree when you said that I think classical music is just old music. Yeah, that's what it is.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I'm way late here but...

Popular music to me is music that is short in duration and has a singular emotional and musical goal. It's intent is a hearing for one purpose and one meaning. Classical certainly has an academician meaning referring to history but in the sense of "serious" music each classical or serious piece of music has many purposes and each hearing should reveal more and more of its substance. That's not true with popular music... generally. Maybe a good comparison is a great news summary compared to a novel.

In reply to by John Gessner

John Gessner • Jan 19, 2022 - 17:47 new
In reply to Who says classical and pop… by Marc Sabatella
I'm way late here but...

Popular music to me is music that is short in duration and has a singular emotional and musical goal.

John - Yer just in time. What about the menuet? What about a two part or three invention? What about a song by John Dowland or a madrigal by William Byrd? These are all short works, some much shorter than a popular song.

In reply to by Rockhoven

I agree with John. Rockhoven can't refute John's entire post, so he does the usual pick a small part of the post to deal with.

So lets consider the revamping of the Western music catalogue by genre than date.

In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida is about 17 minutes long. It is old therefore Classical. It was once very popular, therefore Pop. I daresay there are generations that have never heard it.

Moonlight Sonata is about the same length. It is old, therefor Classical. I have no information about how popular it was in Beethoven's lifetime. It's pretty popular now, so it is Pop.

Similar reasoning can be applied to a Dowland tune and one by Hidden Citizens.

Genre is too nebulous. Date is definite.

Marc Sabatella • Dec 21, 2021 - 17:58In reply to I'd like to thank everyone… by Rockhoven
Who says classical and pop do not refer to genres? Unless you want to invent a new definition of the word "genre", those terms absolutely do refer to genres.

I got this idea from something Marc said in the past few weeks. Something about how classical music was all about genre. That got me to thinking. Marc, I have a comment below for you.

bobjp • Jan 17, 2022 - 18:54In reply to Marc - The question is whats… by Rockhoven
Wait. So if I want to find a Miles Davis recording, I go to the classical section?

Jm6stringer • Jan 17, 2022 - 20:37In reply to Wait. So if I want to find a… by bobjp
bobjp wrote:
Wait. So if I want to find a Miles Davis recording, I go to the classical section?

Indeed, that does sound peculiar...
...and if Miles Davis is classical, then why not relegate J.S. Bach to the jazz section... ;-)

Nice try. No, we are not organizing anything by artist. We are organizing primarily by genre and secondarily by date. So, if Miles did some cool jazz, those pieces or albums go into cool jazz. If he did something called bop or bebop, it goes to bebop. Bach gets distributed to genre, form or style folders. We have aria, recitative, chorale, gigue, toccata etc. In addition the Cantatas get folder along with concept albums. Waltz gets all of the waltzes of Strauss and others, including the Tennessee Waltz and Morning has Broken by Cat Stevens. We are not at all interested in preserving either the catalog of an artist under one label, neither the integrity of larger works. Sonata and sonata-allegro for example. Sonatas belong with concept albums perhaps. But all sonata-allegro movements are extracted and placed in sonata-allegro. Scherzos go into scherzo. Rondo to rondo...

But we need not do this as more than a thought experiment. Once we have the music arranged, we can draw up a table and do some math. The idea here is to view the whole Western repertoire differently. We can list all of the genres in a post from the 16th to 20th centuries. We should notice that in every other period, there are an equal number of genres, styles or forms, with the exception of the 20th century. So, if classical music.

Marc, where are the genres in 20th century classical music? All I can cite is atonal, microtonal, collage and electronic. The genres that Bach was using are all popular forms. I am going to show that Bach played for an incredible number of people, that all were from the general population and that he preferred to use the popular forms of the day because his job was to entertain people in the church service. But, I want to do that under my thorough and historically documented refutation of Bob's hypothesis that classical music was not composed for nor liked by the general population but for only a small part. But the facts are highly relevant to this new issue of where did the genres go in the 20th century?

In reply to by Rockhoven

I guess you mean "sub-genres", or perhaps "style"? Classical already is the genre. Bach wrote classical music, but he dealt in different sub-genres or styles of classical music, depending on how you choose to look at it. But even so, that's not really all that accurate - Bach, as with most classical composers, was actually quite consistent in style. I think you're thinking of the different forms he wrote in - fugues vs minuets etc. Those same forms exist in the 20th and 21st centuries, but of course, many others besides.

So anyhow, that all said, what is the actual question here - what forms do 20th and 21st century classical composers use? Same ones as 18th and 19th century really - sonata, theme & variations, etc. What styles do they write it? Serial atonal, minimalist, post-Romantic, "fusion" with various other genres (eg, "third stream" music, various integrations with different ethnic musics).

Your statements about Bach aren't really historically accurate, BTW, but nor are they related to questions about genre, style, or form in the 20th century.

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