Both sides now

Tallulah Rose

Tallulah Rose

I have an interesting “contest” going on with my granddaughter, Tallulah Rose. She is 16 and immersed in music, taking guitar, piano and banjo lessons; she has some genuine talent. When I chauffeur her around on those occasions when I am called on, and am playing some Bach or Beethoven on the car CD, she is apt to say something like, “Classical music is so boring; it all sounds the same.” And, of course, when I hear her listening to pop music on her iPad, my reaction is the mirror: Pop music is so boring; it all sounds the same. So, I scratch my head and wonder.

How can something sound so monotonous to me and not bore her to tears? How can something so varied and glorious as classical music possible sound to her as if it is all the same gluey mush? It is more than a question of taste; we are clearly hearing different things.

Most people are likely to think of this as merely a matter of taste — “I like indie rock, but she likes country,” —  and it is, to some degree — but while someone who likes Taylor Swift may say they don’t like Justin Bieber, they recognize it as merely a different genre of pop, and they wedge into their corner of sound comfort. Is there anything more insular than heavy metal?

But classical music doesn’t seem to function to Tallulah Rose as just one more Billboard magazine chart category, like soul or country-Western or hip hop. Those are all options out there for popular consumption and one chooses the category one feels most simpatico with.

But classical seems to be a different species altogether. It isn’t, for its serious listeners, just one more entertainment option. Its goals are elsewhere.

Modest Mouse

Modest Mouse

Tallulah Rose and I thought we might explore this question. She suggested an exchange. She would choose 10 pieces of pop music for me to listen to and I would choose 10 pieces of classical music for her. Tallulah Rose isn’t one of your ordinary junk-music fans: She has high standards for her music and would consider the bands she has chosen for me to be “art,” or at very least music that no one of any musical sophistication would be embarrassed to be heard listening to. She has excellent taste in her music. She picked for me music by Wilco, Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire, Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie, among others. I was to listen to her music and write about it, and she was to do the same for my choices.

What T-Rose chose for me:

1. Jesus, Etc. by Wilco
2. Australia by The Shins
3. Hannah Hunt by Vampire Weekend
4. Ragged Wood by Fleet Foxes
5. Wake Up by Arcade Fire
6. Young Folks by Peter Bjorn & John
7. Little Black Submarines by The Black Keys
8. This Charming Man by The Smiths
9. Missed the Boat by Modest Mouse
10. Dance Yrself Clean by LCD Sound System
Bonus track: Title and Registration by Death Cab for Cutie

In choosing music for her, I felt it only fair that I not bury her under the Bruckner Fifth or the Mahler Third, but try to find pieces of reasonable length, and I chose several movements instead of whole concertos or symphonies. Her music for me tends to run between 3 and 5 minutes. Here is my list for her (She snuck in an extra for me, so I added one extra Mahler track for her):

1. Gabrieli — Canzon Septimi Toni No. 2 for brass choirs
2. Bach — Prelude and Fugue in c-minor from WTC Book 1
3. Mozart — First movement of the Piano Concerto No. 20 in d-minor
4. Beethoven — Third movement from the “Tempest” sonata, Op. 31, no. 2
5. Chopin — Mazurka Op. 30, no. 4
6. Brahms — Finale of the Fourth Symphony
7. Mahler — Two songs: Wer hat das Liedlein erdacht? from Das Knaben Wunderhorn and Ging heut Morgen ubers Feld from Songs of a Wayfarer
8. Rachmaninoff — Finale from Piano Concerto No. 3
9. Villa Lobos — First movement from Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5
10. Copland — Fanfare for the Common Man

I have listened four times through to all of T-Rose’s music and I can say that none of them is musically unsophisticated, but neither can I say, outside the LCD Sound System’s Dance yrslf Clean, which actually does something with the music,  that they engage my deepest sympathies. Again, I am convinced that my music and hers simply are not attempting the same thing.

For a start, her music’s appeal depends greatly on the lyrics. Even when I read rock criticism in, say Rolling Stone, the criticism is less about the music qua music, and more about the quality of the words. The sentiment expressed is expressed verbally, not musically. (More on lyrics later).

Second, the parts of music that seem most treasured by the rock and pop listener is a consistent beat, often aggressively propulsive. Following that, it is a melody — although in contemporary pop music, melody sounds more like chant than tune — prosody is so slipshod that the same melodic note can sustain a single syllable or three or four, if that is what the words demand.

Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms

For my classically oriented ear, the unrelenting rhythm is monotonous; I keep hoping it will lead to something, but it doesn’t. For my ear, harmony is paramount. I am always aware of it, shifting from major to minor, or to a Phrygian mode or the endless unresolved but constantly yearning dissonances of atonal or serial music. I am always aware — more than the melody at the top of the orchestral heap — of the bass line. I remember Brahms saying when he got a new piece of music to look at, he’d cover up the top staves and look at the bass line. That way, he said, he could tell if the music was good or not. When I listen to popular music, the bass line is generally undistinguished, often repetitive, and rather more in the way of a continuo — a second reinforcement of the beat slammed out by the drums and cymbals.

When I say her music and mine are not doing the same thing, I mean, in part, that the music part of her music is meant to be a place to drop her head into for a few minutes, to grok on a pulse, while the verbal part is there to express, often elliptically, the concerns of a young mind. At worst, in the kind of pop music T-Rose wouldn’t be caught dead listening to, those concerns are numbingly conventional, but even the more sophisticated lyrics speak to the exaggerated optimism or cynicism of adolescence, the need to be appreciated as wise and knowing, even when those of us who have been through it already, now recognize those attitudes as pose.

angry young men

Slight digression: The question of pose is most obvious in the many band photos used for PR or for CD covers. The musicians look so serious and world-wise: You can’t put anything over on them. But you can run through hundreds of photos and they all seem to be the same people: surly faces, collars drawn up, hands in their pockets standing in a warehouse district street to prove their working-class origins. One can’t help recognize the same memes from the Angry Young Men of England in the 1950s and ’60s. It’s as if every band has seen photos of John Osborne and wants to be Richard Burton from Look Back in Anger or Tom Courtney from Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. The straight-jacket of the meme is limiting.

Vampire Weekend: More hands in pockets

Vampire Weekend: More hands in pockets

Back to the main issue: The music of rock and pop seems meant to create a pervasive mood throughout the length of a song — and except for a few experiments, all this music falls into the 3 to 5 minute song form.

Classical music, on the other hand, revels in contrast: The tempos keep changing, vigorous first themes alternate with quiet second themes. An established key center is disrupted by a series of wrenching modulations only to be reaffirmed. Instead of a single simple emotion, there is a constant development of emotions. When I find T-Rose’s music boring, what I mean is it doesn’t grow — but then, it’s not meant to. And one of the things she finds boring in my music is that it never settles down into something she can depend on, to give her that one single, clear emotion she wants from her tune.

Another thing: For her music, as I said, the words are paramount. The music behind the words seems to function more like the music in a film: to underline the sentiment, but not to express it directly. Something interesting to hear while the “real” action is happening in the words. For my music — at least for the big 19th century pieces that make up the bulk of the repertoire — the music attempts to make an argument from start to finish, like the slow shift from c-minor to C major in Beethoven’s Fifth, or the chapters of Mahler’s Third, “What the fields tell me,” “What the birds tell me,” “What love tells me.” It works like an opera, telling a story — musically — from start to finish. To hear its meaning, you have to be aurally sensitive to changes in harmony, in orchestration, in dynamics, in the ways the themes change and grow. The way you hear the E-flat arpeggiated tune at the beginning of the Eroica changes from a closed-off, harmony-denying drop to its D-flat in the third bar to that bright, victorious arpeggio in the recap and coda, where the same tune ends on the upper B-flat dominant that seems to rise above all the violence and disaster of the previously heard music. Classical music is about development; pop music seems to be about stasis.

Arcade Fire: yet again -- hands in pockets

Arcade Fire: yet again — hands in pockets

I write as if I think classical music is superior to pop music — and I would be lying if I didn’t fess up to that prejudice — but that is not what I’m writing about here. Rather than argue that one music is superior, I’m saying their goals are so different, so at odds, that it is almost silly to compare them at all. One might as well compare apples to double-entry bookkeeping.

But I wanted to note something interesting about the words in the music T-Rose gave me.

The conventions of prosody have shifted dramatically. In the “old days” — as recently as the Beatles — words were written as poetry and scanned with regular meter, and carefully crafted to fit the tunes. In this, Paul McCartney and John Lennon were no different from Oscar Hammerstein II. Think of such lyrics as, “I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me.” Every accented word drops on every accented note, with the weaker beats hitting off-beats in the tune. A comfortable fit. The same with “Some enchanted evening,” or “I’m gonna wash that man right outa my hair.”

“Blackbird singing in the dead of night…” or “You should see Polythene Pam, she’s so good lookin’ she looks like a man.”

Even the Rolling Stones followed the conventions: “I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes; I have to turn my head until the darkness goes.”

This is what Robert Frost would call playing tennis with a net.

Playing with the net can bring delightful surprise and pleasure. Think of, “In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking, now heaven knows, anything goes.”

Words and music: Hand in glove.

But listen to the songs T-Rose gave me, and something different is happening: First, the words don’t scan; they are more like snippets of prose. Some words have a strong beat, others fit in the space between, no matter how many or how few syllables. They just cram into whatever space is left for them.

Death Cab for Cutie

Death Cab for Cutie

The song is designed around a short, repeated pattern of notes that are memorable, or are meant to be memorable. The words fill in the interstices and the music is a mortar between the word-bricks. (This method would seem to derive from the blues, with its statement and licks, but they no longer follow the 12-bar harmonic pattern of the blues).

“You’ll be damned to pining through the windowpanes,/ You know you’d trade your life for any ordinary Joe’s,/ Well do it now or grow old,/ Your nightmares only need a year or two to unfold.”

There’s no regular rhythm to the words. But over and over in these songs, I do hear a pattern, and it is a surprising “revenant” from the past: It is the pattern of Medieval English verse — the four-beat line split in half with a caesura, or pause. Like The Seafarer or Piers Ploughman, the lines come with heavy stresses counted, but unstressed syllables come willy-nilly, and always that pause in the middle.

“I looked on my left side (pause) as the lady me taught
and was aware of a woman (pause) worthily clothed.”

Think of the line by Pope: To err is human; to forgive, divine.”

Then try these lines from Ragged Wood, by Fleet Foxes:

“Come down from the mountain (pause) you have been gone too long
The spring is upon us (pause) follow my ornate song.”

If Norwegian Wood had been written by Wilco, no doubt its words would be something like: “I got a girl (pause) She had me.”

(I doubt this is in any way a conscious or even unconscious DNA reappearing in pop music from the distant past, but rather that there is something meaningful in such a line that means it can reappear like convergent evolution that makes a marsupial Dingo look like a canine. Anyway, I’m sure I’m over-analyzing that habit.)

The pattern occurs in song after song that T-Rose gave me. With this one variation. In some songs, the two-beat (pause) two-beat is followed by a closing three-beat line. The Black Keys’ Little Black Submarine:

“I should’ve seen it glow (pause) But everybody knows
That a broken heart is blind” (three beats).

(In conventional prosody, “I should’ve seen it glow” would scan at three beats — “I SHOULD have SEEN it GLOW” — but with the music under it, it has only two beats: “I SHOULD’ve seen it GLOW.”)

It’s a whole different prosody; a whole nother esthetic.

I have listened yet again to the songs on T-Rose’s list, and I can hear many interesting bits in them. I even came to think very highly of the music in Dance yrself Clean — it actually goes somewhere. But overall, I’m stuck where I began: Popular and rock music — even indie music — is too simple musically, too repetitive, too harnessed in its beat, and written with lyrics created under an esthetic that I am simply too old to be simpatico with. I can respect it, but I cannot enjoy it.

I think the same for Tallulah Rose: I believe, on her part, she has already given up on Bach and Copland. I have not heard anything from her about it.

46 comments
  1. Great read buddy! Keep ’em coming! Tim xx

  2. Grace Allison said:

    My husband and I are taking a course from the Great Courses series on Mozart. I have loved classical music for years. I wanted to share my enthusiasum but the music of the 18 century just went over his head until we bought a series of CDs and watched them from our living room on television. The series has lit his imagination and sparked an interest in all things Mozart and an interest in opera.
    People today need to learn about music of centuries before us it people, times and history of composers of old. After all they were the pop music of their time.
    Professor Greenberg from the UCLA music department is entertaining as he is informative in the Great Courses series.
    Make music fun…educate and enrich

    • I like this! My husband is finally starting to get into classical after we bought the complete works of Shostakovich and then the complete works of Beethoven. Have fun!

  3. mtmmusicid said:

    great..

  4. I listen to rock music and I understand your granddaughter point of view, and yours too. Every one -almost- everyone around me thinks I’m crazy. Who enjoys those heavy beat and “noise”? I do. My father didn’t not understand my choice but he lets me be. Music generally is soul food. Just the way I would feed on a kind of food and reject others, so it is.
    I love rock music, though I do a little pop, rap, country, blues depending on my mood however Rock music takes 80% of my music library.

  5. Loved it! Thanks for the list, by the way. I was running short of good musics and now I have 22 new ones!! :p

  6. Interesting piece. Your final line points to what’s missing. But then who needs to hear the final lament and dismissal? I was introduced to classical music by my mom and never left, while at the same time there are few things that move me more than a hard-driving rock band. Many years ago, a professor at Syracuse University, with a small class at his disposal, suggested that “the problem” with rock was an utter lack of dynamics. Too true, but the complete contrast of classical versus rock is what I find so appealing. Well, and this: last summer we were in Belgium for the Formula 1 race and added a performance of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. In doing so we heard two of the great sounds the world has to offer: the boys in that fabulous band and a Mercedes-Benz racer in full song.

  7. Great story. Thanks. Young and old, even different people in the same person. But my feelings, musically, as well.

  8. I love the idea of the music swap! We all have our faves, the melodies and lyrics that provide our life’s soundtrack, but over time those soundtracks grow, evolve. It’s terrific that both you and she took this seriously. Try it again in a year or two, and I bet you’ll get a more immediate response. A different response anyway!

  9. This is a fantastic piece, thank you so much for taking the time to think this through and articulate it so thoughtfully. I’m a 45 year old who grew up listening to my parents Beatles records and the rock, punk, and pop music of the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. I’ve tried time and time again to appreciate other types of music. I’ve put the headphones on and done my best to connect with all kinds of jazz and classical and 15th century madrigals and what have you. Outside of a few popular mainstays like Mozart and Louis Armstrong, I just can’t seem to relate in a meaningful way with those people who aren’t “my people.” I think I may just be an older version of T-Rose. But I can’t get into Little Black Submarine either. I’m too old for that. They say the internet and cell phones are rewiring our brains, but I’m not so sure pop/rock music didn’t start us down that path decades ago. The closest my generation and those after it can come to what you appreciate in music might be the “concept albums of the 70s, like Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.”

  10. I appreciate both worlds, playing classical piano as a child and being more recently exposed to pop songs from my high school friends. Because I’m taking music theory in school, I’m more enthused about learning music analysis after reading your description of chord progressions so I can appreciate classical music more than I do now.

    “Classical music is about development; pop music seems to be about stasis.”

    Wow, absolutely stunning analysis of their differing purposes. This is the first post I have read on your site and I am looking forward to more. Made my day. Thank you so much.

  11. aelong1 said:

    Exciting to see such an in-depth analysis of both “sides” of music. Thanks for a great read!

  12. pinklightsabre said:

    Walt Walker, who commented earlier, sent me this and I’m so glad he did: what a marvelous, insightful examination cross-generation and musical styles. You’re right, it’s in the goals. And you go really deep here; I even enjoy the detour with the poses (and The Smiths are one of my top bands, as is Modest Mouse, and that photo you picked for them really nails that [OK, I’ll say it] pretense they were copping, but mind you they were about 20 years old in that photo and I know at least the guitarist had dropped out of school to play music, so I will give him that). I especially like the observation that classical is about the contrast and the development of emotion (you could argue it really relies on the music alone to express what it can’t with words) whereas the pop music sits in its stasis, as you put it. There is also a repetition in some styles of classical music I’ve heard that pop music glommed onto, or at least the early 70s prog rock or ‘Kraut rock’ (I think of the band Can, who informed the post punk band The Fall)…but here I am going on, and shouldn’t. I’ll say Tallulah is a name we considered for one of our first girls but thought it too ‘out there,’ and your family sounds terribly, terribly cool. That playlist she put together for you is amazing (and LCD soundsystem is freaking great: he is a runner too, and I have a 45 minute piece of music he composed as a playlist for himself running, that’s quite good). Cheers, – Bill

  13. You’ve listened to tunes from both sides now
    You win you lose but still somehow
    It’s sound illusions you recall
    You really do know Tunes after all

    She’s listened to Bach for about one hour
    She tries and tries but still somehow
    It’s all confusing I recall
    I really don’t get Bach at all..pause..Sorry Grandpa

    They’ve looked at life from both sides now
    They disagree but still somehow
    Through their shared love they both recall
    Their taste in music doesn’t matter after all

    I often try to introduce my grandies ( grandchildren ) to listen to the music I grew up with and often have blaring through the house. Lights, windows, mirrors all teetering on the edge, that would be because of my singing, excessively louder than the music and a threat to anything made of glass.
    My Grandies laugh, twist and shout with me, but I detect a look upon their little faces now and then that they are trying to decide if Nanna is ok or just a little bit “weird “, would be their words. It is only for a fleeting moment though and

    “Come on let’s twist again like we did last summer”
    Come on everybody
    Clap your hands now
    All looking good

    I’m gonna sing my song
    It won’t take long
    We’re gonna do the twist
    And it goes like this

    Round and round and up and down we go again
    Twist! …pause…Yo! (Touch of rap there)

    Is it a bird? Nooooo
    Is it a plane? Nooooooo
    Is it a twister? Yeaaaaaahh!!
    (The kids love that bit the most, and then we laugh, twist and sing

    Far removed from classical music I know, but my Granddaughter is a beautiful little dancer (contemporary, Lyrical, Jazz, Ballet and recently added rap), my Grandson has just started guitar lessons ( I bought him a guitar for Christmas ) and the 4 year old grandie is just happy doing the twist with Nanna.

    Your story was a great read
    Music is the winner, we all love our music and music always connects people one way or another.
    I have a 16 year old niece called Tallulah, she also plays guitar, piano, piano accordion and violin, we call her Lula…another reason your story caught my eye.
    I am new to the blogging world, I enjoy the reading rather than the writing ( I am far from a writer, more of a twister! )
    I will look forward to reading more of your stories Richard.
    I enjoyed reading this story, Grandparent and Grandchildren stories are always fun.
    Your granddaughter Tallulah sounds like she is a very talented musician, has she given you her take on the 11 pieces of music you gave her as yet?

    Annie in Australia 🌞 🌴 🌊

  14. I’m an 18 who half grew up with my nana who is one of classical music’s biggest fans having sung at the Royal Albert Hall and other such places in her early 20’s. Since spent so much time with her when I was younger my ears became accustomed to the sounds of classical music. Being of this generation though, it is easier to slip into the habit of only listening to pop and other current genres of music that might be playing on the radio. Yet, being an old soul, more recently I’ve been soothing my ears with the likes of Bach, Debussy, and Tchaikovsky because the repetitiveness of current music has been slowly annoying me. I find classical music stimulating and I love how complex it is, something I find modern music isn’t. You’re a great grandparent to do this with your grand daughter. Thank you for this well thought through post. I thoroughly enjoyed it. XA

  15. There is rock and electronic music that doesn’t rely on lyrics at all – try exploring Explosions In The Sky, or The Dirty Three, or bands like Tortoise and Flying Lotus. It would be interesting to see what you make of those. Also I recall that sacred music, like the Miserere by Allegri (which I’ve seen performed by the Tallis Scholars), is structured very differently to the kind of classical music you mostly refer to, using repetition of a melody and lyrics. Minimalist composers such as Phillip Glass and Steve Reich used repetition to create a foundation or structure to a piece of music. I’m definitely no expert so I’m not trying to correct anything you’ve said, just thought it would be interesting to hear your response.

    This was a great post! As a music lover with a 16 year old daughter who listens to Taylor Swift, it’s lovely to hear that you interact so openly with your granddaughter about your respective musical choices!

  16. As someone who enjoys rock, classical and jazz I enjoyed reading your post enormously. Myself, I’ve never had any problem switching between genres. I have no musical training so I hear it all as sound: I can enjoy Mahler’s ninth alongside the Smiths or Miles Davis. I think what appeals to me is the passion behind the music. Mahler, Morrisey and Miles all approach their music with that elusive passion, whereas Paul Anka doing a Vegas version of Smells Like Teen Spirit (see YouTube) is just vile, catchpenny nonsense!

  17. Sraddha said:

    As someone who thrives on indie music, this has been an eye-opener to me about the genres that my parents and grandparents enjoy.
    Helped me understand their sentiments towards music of their times and music of my preferences, much better.
    Very eloquently written!🙂

  18. i loves the way you describe the classical music and it really made me curious to listen them. I would really appreciate if you can recommend me some more classical music from your side ☺️

  19. Your Rachmaninoff and Brahms were good picks for her. Have you ever heard of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones? Fleck is a master banjo player and has many collaborations with classical musicians. I would recommend for both you and your granddaughter the album ‘Perpetual Motion’. Also, I believe chamber music might be a good intro to classical for a young person, sounding less grandiose than symphonic instrumentation. The piece that turned me onto classical when I was 18 was the Shostakovich Piano Quintet. If you feel like it, check out a post on my blog, “Top 17 Musical Pieces,” my all-time favorite songs of all genres. It’s possible to find soul in it all! Thanks for sharing your post.

  20. i love the idea.It almost doesn’t matter what the musical selections were, and to whom they were assigned.It is something that appeals to me.The interpretation of such musical language is where the art itself is realized.It is doing such an experiment in the first place which for me is where the art is also realized.It is in the genesis of such ideas.i wish he had been a John Frusciante fan.

  21. as a fan of Mahler and Steely Dan and everything in between, i would say that i understand both sides of this. In the end, to me, greatness is not the province of single genre, it is more about the individual piece. There is dull classical and insipid rock-and-roll. And there is brilliant classical wonderful rock-and-roll. It’s all in the individual composition.

  22. Hi, I’d just like to say your granddaughter has good taste in music but I’d be very interested to see what she wrote about the ten pieces of music you selected for her….

  23. Liked it . Actually I have the same story too. My brother loves rock music but I like country music so there is always a debate between us.

  24. Very interesting idea, I think it would fascinating to try this with three generations and see if peoples opinion vary or which generation can be easily persuaded.

  25. This is the most interesting post I’ve read for a LONG time. I have great problems sustaining concentration right now so I’m going to follow you and re-read it at some point when my head is more settled. I just wanted to let you know that your writing is beautiful in itself… I admire the style here hugely and… well… I hate to agree with a lot of what you say about ‘pop’ and lyrics and scansion and all the rest… but I think much of it is true.
    I do however, propose that the ‘glove fit’ to which you refer, isn’t necessarily superior. I’m not sure that all of Cohen’s lyrics fit if you pour them into the glove mould, and I consider his music to be brilliant. Likewise, Kristofferson…
    I’m also interested to see what Tallulah Rose writes.
    I think I have both playlists on my ipod!

    Thank you for writing so beautifully

    firefly

  26. I’ve once read that the music one grows up with “grows on you” and then stays with you for life / becomes “the soundtrack to your life”. This, I believe, is the #1 factor in why Tallulah Rose and you don’t see eye to eye. In my own case, Mom and Dad had introduced me to classical music when I was 4 years of age (they’d given me a vinyl LP featuring the waltzes of Johann Strauss). To this day, I find one in particular, The Blue Danube Waltz, to be one of his (if you’ll excuse the rock & roll parlance) “Greatest Hits”. I believe this is why I find the orchestral arrangements, which the late Sir George Martin had incorporated into the Beatles tracks so intriguing. What is your take on rock/symphony fusion recording artists, such as the Beatles, Moody Blues and Richard Harris?

  27. David said:

    Thanks. I enjoyed your insightful approach to an interesting question. However, I want to add a few aspects that I see in background. You simply list music compositions, but Tallulah lists the performers (who are often, as composers, the full creators of the music). This is significant. It is not just her hero worship; it is part of her good sense.

    When my grandson decided he did not like Bach’s music, I listened to what had turned him off. It was an atrocious, dull performance, lacking the wild musical orgasms of that great composer. I told him that he would hear music closer to Bach if he just farted, and I introduced him to some true performers. Now, he adores Bach. (No composer is more at the mercy of the performer than J S Bach, but your list ignores this aspect for all of them.)

    We write about “classical music”, but what are the boundaries to this category?
    Is P Glass a classical composer? or is it too early to decide? What about jazz, which calls Bach its father? The Beetles?

    The biggest curse of ‘classical music’ is opera. The screeching/singing is awful – full of vibrato as though they suffer from Parkinson’s disease (not my original idea). It puts a lot of young people off all classical music, because they have a more ‘honest’ musical ear that prefers no vibrato.

    For us, music is about development and variation. I would certainly want to list some specific variations for Tallulah. Try Glenn Gould’s 1981 “Goldberg Variations”, or any one of the many brilliant set from Beethoven and other composers. Previous comments to mine have already noted that the particular work must be considered. Much in the classical repertoire is pathetic – some of it rejected by its composer. Some of Mozart is fantastic, while other works are rather shallow, empty, and boring. The boring tag applies to most of J C Bach.

    I agree that the lyrics are not so important. I like hearing songs in a language that I dont know. Music is a holiday from words, Words, WORDS – wonderful words that become oppressive when we overdose on them, as our modern, media-saturated world insists. Music provides a greater benefit in that way today, than in earlier, less saturated times. Of course, it is good to have an idea of what is being referenced, eg, in a Bach cantata – Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem, to appreciate the drama in the music. Also, music gives sanctuary from the turbulence of a changing world, which is why moderns are often not attracted to new, way-out styles and ‘experimental’ music, preferring the reassurance of the old.

    The appreciation of Bach and classical music by ‘the ignorant public’ was furthered by the Moog synthesiser, Disney’s movie, “Fantasia”, Swingle Singers, Jacque Loussier, and others. This popularisation was a cause of discomfort for many snobs in the classical music establishment.
    Perhaps Tallulah would like a selection from this famous event in Leipzig:

  28. Love the exchange of interests idea. Very interesting indeed.

  29. I’m sorry…I must comment. Dingoes are not marsupials! They are, in fact, canines. But there are a lot of good examples of convergent evolution in nature…

  30. This is a fantastic piece! Thank you for putting into words what I have been trying to- for years. I love of both pop and classical/baroque/romantic/20th century periods (24 year old classically trained singer here) and often find it hard to explain the great things about ‘both’ to those who are set on one and not the other. Loved it.

  31. We wait with interest to learn of Tallulah ‘s report on her grandfather’s choice of music, many many great comments on a very interesting idea. Hoping you will let us know, perhaps with a follow-up story Richard.
    Thankyou for unveiling all our musical minds some like chalk and cheese but nonetheless music exists in all our lives.
    Thankyou for a really interesting and fun story,
    Annie in Australia 🌞 🌴 🌊

  32. DJ Nu-Way said:

    Very interesting post for an even more interesting experiment. I appreciate that you didn’t rip the entity of Pop music to shreds; rather, you pointed out that each genre has it’s own goal. Good read.

  33. This is the most fun and interesting post I’ve read so far! Being new to the blog world I’ve read a lot of blogs trying to find what I’m interested in this a great one! I hope your granddaughter learned how awesome classical music is! I happen to enjoy it.

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