Talk:Classical music

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Technical execution[edit]

Article currently [1] reads in part ...technical mastery, as demonstrated by the proportionately high amount of schooling and private study most successful classical musicians have had when compared to "popular" genre musicians...

At best this needs rephrasing and sourcing. What it seems to be saying or at least suggesting is that classical music achieves and/or requires a higher level of technical execution than popular music.

Is this NPOV or even remotely accurate? I'm skeptical. It seems to me to be naive repeating of an urban legend which is widely believed by fans both of classical and of popular music, and which may once have been true (I'm skeptical even of that) but hasn't been true in my lifetime.

Two of the original members of Midnight Oil are known to me personally. The enormous amount of tuition and practice that was required to attain their status in popular music, and the level of technical execution that this produced, was at least equal to that of the classical musicians I know, some of whom are of similar calibre and status in their fields.

And I think this would be generally true. Sydney Conservatorium has had courses in Jazz for some decades. There have been Trinity examinations on drum kit since 2012.

Arguably drum kit is now a classical instrument too. Some years ago I attended a concert given by a friend as part of her masters degree in performance on the flute at Sydney Conservatorium, in the School of Classical Music there of course, and one of the four pieces she performed was scored for flute and three drum kits. So there is some crossover.

But that is not the point. Trinity and the Con are both producing high-calibre popular musicians, and by calibre I include their level of technical execution. And I think this is happening worldwide and across all popular genres, and has been for some time.

Part of the problem is, like all urban legends, there will probably be no trouble finding reliable sources to support this one!

And it's also complicated by the fact that it is part of the publicity machine for some popular acts to portray them as unskilled or semi-skilled. Most Rolling Stones fans would be surprised to learn that drummer Charlie Watts was already an accomplished sight-reader before joining the band. And that was in 1963. His technical skills have never been showcased and discussed in the way that they would be were he an equally ranked classical musician.

And there is a point to be made along those lines. There's a sense in which excellence is always aspired to in classical music, while there's a somewhat different approach in popular music.

But this distinction is far more subtle than our current article would indicate. Currently, what it says is at the very least unsourced and highly POV, and there are some grounds for thinking it's just plain inaccurate. Andrewa (talk) 23:28, 24 February 2014 (UTC)

Agree that some rephrasing might be in order. But although there are plenty of examples of popular musicians with intensive academic training, it's difficult to argue seriously that that's a necessary qualification for entry into the profession, whereas in classical music it's pretty unavoidable. So there's definitely a difference in the field. It's possible to find 9-year-olds singing "O mio babbino caro" but it's definitely the exception (and note that's a TV show, not really a professional gig), whereas popular musicians without formal training are pretty common. It's a bit strong to call that difference an "urban legend".
Jazz is a somewhat different kettle of fish, since it's largely made the transition from a popular art form into an academic one. —Wahoofive (talk) 23:36, 24 February 2014 (UTC)
Thanks for the reply! I'd love to see you have a go at rephrasing the section in question. I don't want to cut the section out, because I can see what they're trying to say and I think it's important. But I am struggling to rephrase it myself.
I'll accept your claim that Miley Cyrus doesn't have intensive academic training, and her music is not familiar to me. But her father Billy Ray Cyrus shows every sign of having worked just as hard and long on his music as any classically trained musician, and his execution is excellent. So I'd expect his daughter to be the same. I could be wrong.
Perhaps I should say that, to the despair of several singing teachers and coaches, three of my favourite vocalists are Chuck Berry, Mick Jagger and Mark Knopfler.
I'm interested in other examples of popular musicians who have gained entry into the profession without intensive training. This training may often be less formal, you'll notice I've left out your term academic, but my experience indicates that it's equally intensive, that the technical execution is equally demanding, and that the training is becoming more and more academic.
Actually, at many levels the technical execution of classically trained string players in particular leaves a lot to be desired. Not just at school concerts but also at others at a supposedly far higher standard, and not once but regularly, I have thought silently to myself, if ever my guitar or mandolin were as badly out of tune as those violins, even at a school dance I'd be seriously worried about being booed off stage. OK, mine are far less challenging instruments in that regard, but... well, it's not as simple as our article currently indicates. Classical audiences clap such endeavours, I've even joined in the applause, it was commendable even if not very musical. I can assure you that a pub or wine bar would not.
Popular musicians probably do start to get paid for performances at a significantly lower standard than classical. My local pub bands get paid at least enough to cover their lights and road crew if they're doing well, while the members of local symphony orchestras at what seems to me to be a comparable standard pay fees to belong. But at and even near the top, there's less difference if any, in my experience.
So there's a lot going on, and it would be really good to get this right! While also avoiding the WP:OR trap of course. Andrewa (talk) 01:36, 25 February 2014 (UTC)
People like Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page didn't attend music classes on guitar, not for any substantial time anyway; they were essentially self-taught (not least from records they heard and tried to imitate) and (as working musicians) shaped by gigging with the people they met early in their careers, both in local bands and as session men or on-the-road players. Page, by the time he quit the studio session-man circuit around 1965, had learnt to read notated music fluently (not just chord analysis I figure but actual scores and sheet music, and had gathered a lot of playing routine of course - the source here is a very interesting and entertaining dual interview with Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck in Mojo (UK) from the summer of 2004 - while Hendrix is supposed to never have learnt to read or write notated sheet music. But both of them were excellent and precise in their treatment of phrases and notes of course, even without any effects - for Hendrix, just check out the improvised stretch from Woodstock and Villanova Junction just after it - the timing and delicate, quick execution of complex, exposed phrases are just amazing.
And Hendrix actually told his father in a letter around 1965/66 that "it's not supposed to sound clean these days, they want it played a bit sloppy now" - sloppy as in fast, improvised phrasing and more deliberate attack and gritty tone bends. He knew how to play in a technically flawless way, with clear, '50s style phrasing, but he deliberately went beyond that point. (talk) 11:27, 22 July 2014 (UTC)
Yes, well said. And most fans of Ginger Baker and Charlie Watts would be surprised to know that both of these top "popular" musicians learned sight reading early in their careers. It's not part of the hype! Watts' cover was not blown until a fairly recent biography of Baker revealed that when Watts left his swing band to join the Rolling Stones his replacement was Baker, and to achieve this, Watts gave Baker a crash course in sight reading, at which he was already accomplished. Andrewa (talk) 18:43, 11 March 2015 (UTC)

Time to be bold[edit]

No change to the section in question. [2] Reluctantly tagging it. [3] Andrewa (talk) 00:51, 15 March 2014 (UTC)

Better Historical Information/Definition Needed[edit]

The article asserts that the term "classical" originaled around 1836 in an attempt to "cannonize" the period from Bach to Beethoven " a golden age."

Well and good, but that only explains the use of the term to define what is known in western music history as the Classical Period, from roughly 1750 - 1820.

It tells us nothing about how or when the term "classical music" came to be regarded as a synonym for what has variously been called "art music", "serious music", "formal music", "concert hall music", "long-hair music", and a host of others. Given that the ostensible purpose of this article is to explain not the classical period, but the broader, more generic sense of "classical music", this seems a serious omission.

Moreover, including the current explanation of the origin of the term as a description of music of the classical period without following with any date or explanation of the origin of the more generic usage is confusing and misleading. There is no point in bringing up the former unless as a preface to the latter, and the latter should appear in the very first paragraph of the article.

Indeed, modern usage of the term "classical music" is so vague and variable that I question the rationale for even having such an article, and spending so much space enumerating lists of "characteristics" upon which no one agrees, and to which there are as many exceptions as examples. This whole article might be better reduced to a paragraph, or even a footnote, in the Classical period (music) article. In fact, it is already mentioned in the introduction to that article. Perhaps sufficiently? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:50, 13 June 2014 (UTC)

Many popular or literary writers on music (as opposed to people who are writing publicity-style pieces, stuff connected to the marketing machine for "classical" music) use "classical music" effectively as a synonym of "music of the Common practice period", or firmly rooted in the traditions of that kind of music (e.g. for the latter: Britten, Hindemith, Bernstein, Puccini). Music that's mostly in well-defined major or minor keys (except for some of the early part of the timespan), which is built on recurrent themes (mostly original themes, not borrowed) and melodies rather than grooves or obviously constructed "sound effects" - and which, in larger, more "serious" pieces tends to emphasize the evolution, contrasting and elaboration of themes into new shapes, reversals, combinations... The space for improvisation in performance is by no means not there, but limited and (sometimes, especially post-1800) nonexistent. Movements and songs are expected to be played in a given pre-defined order, not randomly picked and shuffled by the musicians or the audience.

20th century serious music made a series of decisive breaks with much of these rules, from Schoenberg to Stockhausen, and the real reason that modern art music is still filed as classical music in record shops, music magazines, on the radio and so on is mostly commercial. I'm not saying this as a put-down of Stravinsky, Messiaen, Ligeti or anyone else, their music and their artistic skill, but if 20th century modernist music had had to be filed under a new label that set it fully apart from classical, it would be a considerably harder sell, a harder chunk to integrate into the "serious music" performing and schooling business. Also, music writers, conductors and musicians today have little interest in keeping up fights over the legitimacy of the breaks that happened from around 1910 onwards, so the presence of the end of a period around those decades, ca 1910-1945, isn't acknowledged in the way we talk about classical music. (talk) 12:51, 21 July 2014 (UTC)

Gallery of composers[edit]

@Michael Bednarek: The collage is in conflict with WP:NOETHNICGALLERIES # 4: Articles about ethnic groups or similarly large human populations should not be illustrated by a photomontage or gallery of images of group members; see this RfC"; The (multi-part) RfC also supported the broad interpretation of the rule, i.e. that it affects diverse articles such as Amputation and Child, and this one by extension. I would argue that having a gallery here is decidedly against the spirit of that RFC's conclusions, namely that any selection of people from a population [here, of classical composers] represents a violation of NPOV and NOR.
Even without that RfC, I maintain that the gallery of composer portraits, faces of many of them not exactly being well-known to the general public, is a poor choice for a lead image of an over-arching article such as this one. If there is a lead image, it should be something representative of the entire genre, such as one of a symphonic orchestra. I searched a bit at commons:Category:Symphony orchestras but did not find an appropriate image (high-quality, well-focused image with musicians actually playing). No such user (talk) 08:18, 11 March 2016 (UTC)

I can't work out what was proposed in the cited RfC or what the closing remarks mean. I skimmed the discussion and can find nothing pertaining to this particular situation here. I based my reversal on my reading of the text you quoted at WP:NOETHNICGALLERIES; this article is not about an ethnic group nor about a similarly large human population. It's about the work of a very small group of creative artists, and the collage depicts some of its more illustrious members. (Some may want to discuss the selection of the 16 portraits, but I'm not aware of any such thing in the >5 years this collage existed.) I note that our Spanish colleagues use this collage in the template for their WikiProject, es:Wikiproyecto:Música clásica, and it consequently appears on hundreds of pages there. As for its suitability as a lead image, one should note that the subject, classical music, consists of much more than orchestras playing, but composers are always involved. NPOV and NOR are of course involved in any use of images, be they presented as a concise and annotated collage or strewn across the article, but, as I wrote, I'm not aware of any such argument here in this regard. -- Michael Bednarek (talk) 22:30, 11 March 2016 (UTC)
No such user, since this isn't an "article about an ethnic group or similarly large human population", that sub-guideline (which by the way is only a sub-guideline, not a policy) doesn't apply. Per WP:BRD, you will need to establish consensus here before removing the image. If your concern is simply that "many of them not exactly being well-known to the general public": I looked at the selections and there is only one (Aram Khachaturian) who is arguably not a universal household name, so I personally can't understand your statement, however I think you are free to suggest replacements for any of the inclusions in the montage. Softlavender (talk) 23:37, 11 March 2016 (UTC)
Look, folks, I ain't rules-enforcer, and I obey BRD. I just share the rather widespread disdain aversion expressed in that RFC on appropriateness of crammed portrait galleries to represent a subject of any kind of article: here, Classical music composers, of which there have been tens of thousands worldwide throughout the history. I invite you to read just a few first comments of the RFC, and I'll explain how those comments apply to this article:
  • First and foremost, how does this gallery contribute to the reader's understanding of the topic? How does a reader understand the classical music by just looking at a 5x4 matrix of faces?
  • Selection bias (NOR). Why these 20 faces? Is there an official "Top 20 of all times classical music composers" in a reliable source? Why there are only composers on that gallery? Surely, at least some of performers should deserve an appearance?
  • NPOV. Let's just focus on the bottom row: Why Grieg, Elgar, Rachmaninoff, Gershwin and Hachathurian? My 20th century favorites are Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Bartok, Boulez and Reich (and I could even find a source to support my choice). Should I now replace that collage with the one of my favorites (and then comes someone else with theirs?) We ought to have some kind of stability.
  • I'm willing to suggest replacements for the *whole* montage, but I'm of firm opinion that the montage has to go in its entirety. It looks amateurish, it does not represent the topic of the article well, and I don't think you will find a similar article elsewhere with a similar choice of a lead/front-page image. The RFC just got rid of the whole bunch of similar problematic images, and this one, frankly, got under the radar as a rather unexpected type of article to host one. It's the collage itself that is the problem, not just the selection of faces therein. No such user (talk) 23:04, 12 March 2016 (UTC)

Timeline error[edit]

Note that the entry for Enrique Granados is misspelled and mislinked to Enrique Grandos (although it shows as a blue link on the Timeline). Attempts to fix the spelling and link produce this mess. Does anyone have a idea of how to fix the error? Voceditenore (talk) 07:28, 11 September 2016 (UTC)

I have sent a note to the author ( Erik Zachte ), and for the moment reverted to the incorrect spelling. Many of the obvious workarounds leave the timeline broken, so perhaps the first thing would be to work out what the error on line 16 really is. Imaginatorium (talk) 08:36, 11 September 2016 (UTC)
It's bizarre. Maybe someone at Help:Timeline can help? -- Michael Bednarek (talk) 09:35, 11 September 2016 (UTC)
I think I am getting there -- I have at least a version with Granados spelled correctly. But I'm looking at a few other improvements. I think the Initial-Family name format is very klutzy for composers, and except for disamBiGuation (what a ridiculously long word for a simple concept) just surname would be neater. Any other ideas? Imaginatorium (talk) 09:44, 11 September 2016 (UTC)

I seem to have mended the spelling, by applying high-level computer science techniques (otherwise known as switching everything off, then switching it back on again).

  • I also extended the range to 2025, and left the living composers up to 2016, but this currently requires manually updating the current year in the beginning of the script.
  • I changed most names from Granados onward to show just surname. Unless anyone thinks this is a terrible idea (I mean, "L Beethoven"?) I suggest changing them all.
  • I think the current text looks horrible: blodgy blue in a mis-spaced font. Perhaps the font can be changed, but I don't know how to find out what fonts are available on the server. I finally realised that the blue colour is because these are links (urgh); it might be possible to change this, or if only the font could be made cleaner... (but possibly the software relies on a monospaced font?)

Anyway, some progress, I hope. Imaginatorium (talk) 10:19, 11 September 2016 (UTC)

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What a mess![edit]

Another article that leaves me totally puzzled. I won't do much about it, I am too busy elsewhere, but let me quote some of the reasons of my puzzlement.


  • I don't understand why this article is not merged with Art music, while it begins: "Classical music is art music produced or rooted in the traditions of Western music", and Art music begins: "Art music (also known as Western classical music [...])"; and the article Classical period (music) defines Classical music, in the "colloquial" sense of the term, "a synonym for Western art music".
  • "While a more accurate term is also used to refer to the period from 1750 to 1820 (the Classical period)". I suppose that this means "while a more accurate usage of the term would refer to ...": the term remains the same!
  • "... this article is about the broad span of time from roughly the 11th century to the present day", but a few lines later it claims to include the Middle Ages, beginning in 500.
  • "The central norms of this tradition became codified between 1550 and 1900, which is known as the common-practice period." However, the article Common practice period states that it began in 1650.
  • The periodisation that follows and the dates given are highly questionable. "Baroque" appears both in the early music period and in the common-practice period. The medieval period is said to begin in 500, while the article Medieval music says that it began in 400 (but without justifying that date either). The date of 1804 for the beginning of the Romantic period is puzzling, as are those for the 20th century (beginning in 1901?) and for its subsections, "modern", "high modern" and "contemporary".
  • "... staff notation, in use since about the 16th century." ???
  • "Western staff notation is used by composers to indicate to the performer the pitches (e.g., melodies, basslines, chords), tempo, meter and rhythms." All music notations, Western or not, indicate pitches and durations. They say little about whether these form melodies, basslines or chords. Staff notation, in addition, indicates neither tempo (which might be indicated otherwhise, e.g. by metronome markings) nor meter.
  • "The term "classical music" did not appear until the early 19th century". The term is found in Rousseau's Dictionnaire, 1768, p. 463. art. "Style".
You're right about the specific issues cited above, but I think there are more fundamental problems with the whole concept.
  • The word "classical" in any other area of arts means from ancient Greece and Rome, but not in music, even though some periods of music history saw themselves as attempting to re-create the music of that era.
  • The average person would equate troubador music, Dowland's lute songs, or Baroque ground-bass improvisation to "classical music," even though those arguably aren't "art music". The distinction between "classical music" and "popular music", while clear-cut in the modern day, wasn't really a significant distinction in past centuries, exacerbated now because to modern ears, the styles of such types of music are indistinguishable. In the eighteenth century, they might have made a distinction between "court music," "church music," and "popular music", the last of which would include things like operas and oratorios, which 99.99% of people now would classify as "classical." Art music (like "art" in general) isn't very easy to define, but I'm not sure it means the same thing as "classical". An awful lot of classical composers (including Palestrina, Bach, and Mozart) saw themselves as craftsmen, throwing something together to meet an immediate need, rather than creating great art.
  • "Classical music" in the modern age primarily exists as a "museum culture", performing predominantly music of the distant past, a century or more ago, contrasted with popular music, which is heavily focused on recent composition. Classical music performers and contemporary composers are widely viewed as akin to archaeologists, specializing in the study of ancient relics for their own sake. This might be a more useful focus for this article than a rehash of Western music history.
I doubt we'll be able to find a consensus among secondary sources on how to approach these matters, but before we can revise the article effectively, we have to start by figuring out what it's supposed to be about. —Wahoofive (talk) 18:32, 8 April 2017 (UTC)
I agree with most of what you write, Wahoofive – yet:
  • I did not usually think of "classical" as refering to ancient Greece or Rome, although you are right about that. For me, "classical" denotes something that can be considered a model (and I add in petto "for use in class" – just to remind me of a plausible, if not really correct etymology of the term). Palestrina's counterpoint, for instance, was considered "classical" by Fux – and remains by many of us since. It certainly never occured to me to consider the early Baroque opera as "classical", even although it did attempt to re-create Greek performances. Never mind. What is meant in the article really is "Western art music", or "Western learned music", or things like that.
  • The average person that you mention appears to call "Classical music" anything that can be found on CD in music shops and that is not "pop" music. I don't think that the purpose of WP is to answer to that kind of definition; on the contrary, I hope (and I trust) that WP might increase the overall intellectual level of average people. We should at least begin the article with something like "Despite what average people think, classical music is ...". For sure, people in the 18th century and earlier did not make the kind of distinction that this article wants to make. But that merely proves that its name is ill chosen. "Art music" makes little sense: is there music that is not art? "Learned music" (musique savante) is odd, but might express better what is or should be here at stake.
  • Having spent most of my professional life dealing with ... classical music, I am very much aware of being some kind of museologist, and this may indeed may be a better focus for the article. On the other hand, it strikes me that this kind of music had a tremendous impact on humanity: I doubt that any other domain of knowledge but philosophy produced comparable bulks of theoretical writings. The case of music is a very particular one, not only for the West, but for the history of mankind in general.
  • I have great doubts about SP's policy concerning secondary sources. I do believe that some of the best WP articles do rely mainly on primary sources – and, after all, why not. The important point is to have references, and not to draw from them unjustified conclusions. I tend to envisage WP somewhat as how medieval theorists worked, always building on the auctoritas of the ancients, always trustful in them, but nevertheless building new knowledge by novel choices of quotations. We certainly won't find sources, primary or secondary, about what the average person thinks "classical music" is. But we will find sources about what we think the average person should think about classical music. — Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 20:08, 8 April 2017 (UTC)


  • The reason for the title of this section is obscure. The section appears to refer mainly to musical notation: would that be what is meant by [musical] Literature?
  • "The key characteristic of European classical music that distinguishes it from popular music and folk music is that the repertoire tends to be written down in musical notation, creating a musical part or score." If notation were the main characteristic of classical music, then the music before the introduction of notation, in the 11th century, would not be "classical". In addition, all popular and folk music dating before the first music recordings in the late 19th century is known to us only through notation.
  • "That said, the score does not provide complete and exact instructions on how to perform a historical work." Isn't this incompatible with the idea that the difference between "classical music" and popular and folk music is that the first is not improvised, contrarily to the others?
  • "Although Classical music in the 2000s has lost most of its tradition for musical improvisation..." I would have thought that aleatory music, in the 2000s, had returned to the tradition of improvisation...

Instrumentation and vocal practices[edit]

  • "The instruments currently used in most classical music were largely invented before the mid-19th century (often much earlier) and codified in the 18th and 19th centuries." Is that true also for medieval instruments? It seems that the article is never at ease deciding between "classical" music in its general ("colloquial") sense and its specific one.
  • "The symphony orchestra is the most widely known medium for classical music". Same confusion here. The symphony orchestra has been unknown to most of the long "classical music", from 500 to 1750 at the earliest.

The subsections that follow, on Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Modern, High Modern, Postmodern and Post-postmodern, make no sense at all. They do not belong to this article, they might find a place (after emendations and corrections) in a history of instruments and a history of music. But almost everything is false, or naive, or both.

I think I'll stop here: — this is too distressing. Hucbald.SaintAmand (talk) 21:12, 8 April 2017 (UTC)