Classical music and covers

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Skoufis
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Classical music and covers

Postby Skoufis » Sat Apr 25, 2009 4:55 am UTC

So I got to thinking the other day: Why is it that in the classical music world, it is typical to play other people's music or at least music that has been performed many times previously by many other groups (mostly) when in the popular music world, the most popular groups all write and perform their own music (again, mostly)?

Do you think that it's because classical music is more difficult to compose? Initially this sounds logical, but realistically it isn't that much harder to compose classical music than it is popular music when you are a professional musician in either fields.

Note here, I'm mostly talking about orchestras and some chamber music groups here, as I know there are many chamber music groups composing originals.

Comments?

mickyj300x
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Re: Classical music and covers

Postby mickyj300x » Sat Apr 25, 2009 5:23 am UTC

Well I'd imagine it would be a very uncomfortable process for the 20+ musicians in an orchestra to all work together on a piece. They'd all have different ideas on what should happen where.

Skoufis
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Re: Classical music and covers

Postby Skoufis » Sat Apr 25, 2009 9:34 am UTC

Good point, by the solution to that is to have someone who does all the writing for the orchestra. Obviously this happens, pieces get commissioned, but it's interesting that orchestras don't come with dedicated composers.

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ChocloManx
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Re: Classical music and covers

Postby ChocloManx » Sat Apr 25, 2009 3:43 pm UTC

In the past, some groups like the collegium musicum in liepzig, had composers who would write for them, but it wasn't quite what you mean. As far as I know, popular music groups only recently -20th century- began writing their own music, which, as you say, is far more simple than "classical" music.

The great majority of classically trained instrumentists (? I don't know the exact word. I mean people who play an instrument) don't really know a whole lot about composition, either, cause they have to study their instrument 6+ hours a day for a few years, and then some.
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Masily box
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Re: Classical music and covers

Postby Masily box » Sun Apr 26, 2009 5:40 am UTC

Yes: part of the issue is that the virtuosity demanded of classical instrumentalists is so much greater that they have far less time for composing.

Another issue is that classical compositions (as we've treated them for the last ~200 years) are meant to last. They're meant to continue yielding new insights & experiences on each performance or hearing. For one, this encourages performers to keep recycling old material--why play something new if the old thing is more interesting. More importantly, though, it really is much harder to compose a 20+ minute piece that will sustain interest for many decades; not everyone has that kind of talent or craft. (Which is not to say that non-classical music is never of such durable stock, but other genres place less of a premium on that notion.)

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airplanespaceship3
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Re: Classical music and covers

Postby airplanespaceship3 » Sun Apr 26, 2009 7:23 pm UTC

Skoufis wrote:Do you think that it's because classical music is more difficult to compose? Initially this sounds logical, but realistically it isn't that much harder to compose classical music than it is popular music when you are a professional musician in either fields.

The majority of great classical music usually adheres to certain structural forms, their rhythm typically governed by a few standard meters, and their tonality is based upon a logical hierarchy and progression of consonace and dissonance. If one can come to understand this hierarchy and these formal structures, it is not too difficult to reproduce a similar type of work.
Popular music, while strongly influenced by the classical tradition, does not adhere to these principles as consistently. This makes popular music both easier and more difficult to compose simply because there is such a wide variety of expectations and conventions.
I believe there is no principle by which classical music should be necessarily more sophisticated than popular music.

As far as "covers", it really boils down to the expectations of the audience. An audience to a classical concert expects them to perform well a classical work; it's perfectly acceptable for this work to have been played by thousands of musicians before, and maybe even interpreted in the same way. The musicians gain respect for the virtuosity, unity, and expressivity of their performance. An audience to a rock concert, on the other hand, has different expectations. They typically expect a group to perform their own songs, and covers, if any, are done in the performer's idiosyncratic style. The group gains respect for the quality of the performance, the quality of their music, and the theatricality of their display. Basically, rock musicians are *expected* to write and play their own stuff. Classical musicians are typically not held to that expectation.
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