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What does "Classical Music" mean today?

I wonder. The 20th century, particular the latter half of the 20th century, seems to have exploded the idea of each era being defined by a "movement," such as Baroque, Romantic, Impressionism. Even once-far-out ideas like atonalism, chance-music, minimalism and other "reject-what-has-come-before" movements seem dated. I personally think that many composers who in the past would have been "court" composers now work in TV and movies and that their music is shaped by the demands of those industries. Yet there are a million other composers doing a million other things in electronic arenas which we may not see. Is this the age of iconoclasts?

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Comment by John Elliott on July 21, 2012 at 2:29pm

Some ramblings on some of the previous input…

Here, here, Bob. We do not define the labels that are applied to us in terms of being remembered. Distance and the circumstances of now plus the perceptions of then comingle to create the most lasting label (even if it’s not always the most meaningful).

Neither the fact of its being scored, nor its instrumentation (incl. electronic), nor its “pop”ularity (in its time) define music solely as classical. (Indonesian gamelan music is not scored, usually, but it’s orchestral, complex, and often grand in scope.) Medieval, Baroque, and other-era music is usually scored, but it’s not considered classical.

Never in history have we had such access to music from everywhere and everyone; not only the music of every culture but the music of individuals (even myself) who would have never been heard before outside a few select people.  This is all do to the advent of recording. No wonder our present and last century is such an apparent chaos of “everythingism.” No wonder there is no single overarching style to label present day music. No longer is someone raised in a culture nearly isolated from others so that the style the evolves is cohesive for long periods of time.

For myself and much of the music from the last 100 years, I personally prefer “contemporary orchestral.” Let the future determine what label to attach…or that no label is appropriate.

Comment by Mikolaj Holowko on June 24, 2012 at 9:53pm

We are living in the era of everythingism ><''

Comment by Charles Coleman on June 23, 2012 at 4:52pm

Usually when I'm asked "What kind of music do you write." I say that I'm a "Classical-based" composer.  Maybe it's not the best term out there, but for me, it defines pretty well what kind of music I and a lot of my colleagues write.  These days, we are surrounded my multiple genres more than ever before, which is presented through unique technology at an alarming rate.  We composers who are rooted in the history of classical music can't help but be influenced by all of this, directly or indirectly.  So for me "Classical-based" is at least an apt term.

Comment by Adrian Allan on June 17, 2012 at 11:22am

I tend to think of classical music as anything has been scored BEFORE it has been recorded.ie. jazz and pop can be tarnscribed after the recording, but the score is often just an approximation of the real thing which is the performance.

However, those who write "electronic" music in universities may feel part of the classical tradition, but their product is not a score, because some of the sounds cannot be notated, so who knows.

On another forum, some people insisted that the composer Karl Jenkins was not classical because he mainly employed pop idioms in his music, even though it is scored.

Comment by Tony Warnock on June 17, 2012 at 10:31am

Sometimes, it seems that it means, "Anything arranged with cellos."

Comment by Tyler Hughes on June 16, 2012 at 11:50pm

The term classical music takes different meanings depending on the context it is used. 

I tend to use the Oxford dictionary definition of classical music, because i feel it is a definitions that remains up to date with changing times:

The art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times.

Comment by Quinn Mason on June 16, 2012 at 4:33pm

Perhaps. Music is always changing, so much that no one knows what's next. Not even I'm not sure what to call it.

Plus, composers are writing in so many styles lately, so it's varied.

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