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Thread: Does music progress?

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Default Does music progress?

    Does music progress? If so, how? If it truly progresses, doesn’t that imply that more recent music is “better” than older music?


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    Of course it does, pop music is better than classical music in that it sells better. That was the goal of it.

    In this same culture classical music stopped progressing for a long time because high art cannot thrive in money oriented societies.

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    Senior Member Captainnumber36's Avatar
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    I think it just is what it is during any given era of time neither progressing nor devolving. However, what speaks to you is special, what makes it magical and all worthwhile; this can be of any era and should be the only thing we really care about.

    We can compare/contrast music of different eras, but to claim superiority in terms of attaching the term "progressing" or "devolving" to it can be arrogant.

    However, I have made a few threads on this board about the classy/refined nature of Classical Music which speaks to me. Not all music offers that, and not all listeners are seeking that, and that is ok.

    Just be ready to accept what your taste says about you in terms of how you personally identify with it.

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    Senior Member Captainnumber36's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Captainnumber36 View Post
    I think it just is what it is during any given era of time neither progressing nor devolving. However, what speaks to you is special, what makes it magical and all worthwhile; this can be of any era and should be the only thing we really care about.

    We can compare/contrast music of different eras, but to claim superiority in terms of attaching the term "progressing" or "devolving" to it can be arrogant.

    However, I have made a few threads on this board about the classy/refined nature of Classical Music which speaks to me. Not all music offers that, and not all listeners are seeking that, and that is ok.

    Just be ready to accept what your taste says about you in terms of how you personally identify with it.
    That is on an objective level. Personally, based on my taste, I think music has devolved in modern times.

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    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
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    Music does change, like in Fashion, but the new is not better than the old.
    "Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.“ Mozart

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    There will always be people making bad music and people making truly great music.

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    I think, to a certain extent, music did 'progress'. The invention of harmony and the moving away from plainchant I think should certainly be argued as a sort of 'advancement' that improved the quality of music being made. As music became increasingly complex and musical notation standardised it becomes increasingly difficult, at least in my opinion, to distinguish between musical 'progression' and what is merely change. But at least in the infancy of the Western Classical Music tradition I do think that music 'progressed' in a definable way.

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Music "progressed" (="changed") for several hundred years. But now it is in a state of small random directionless constant minor change, and will remain in that state of Brownian motion for the foreseeable future.

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    Junior Member mrdoc's Avatar
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    There is good and bad but from a personal perspective if it abandons melody and meter then to me it is just noise many examples on YT.

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    Senior Member DaveM's Avatar
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    Classical music has regressed and its popularity has decreased. Popular music has regressed and its popularity has increased.

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    Progress? At my age I've seen a lot of mentalities of acquaintances "progress", and what is currently in evidence is nothing like what I once knew. Which is sad, as well as frightening.

    Does the phrase "Your condition will progress until …" necessarily suggest a betterness at the other end?

    Music, as do all arts, changes over time. This is not necessarily progress. A composer's career may progress, but that doesn't mean the composer's later works are better than his early ones.

    A good piece of ancient music remains a good piece of music. A good piece of Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Impressionistic, Modern, or Experimental Contemporary music remains a good piece of music. A good piece of music in the key of C with no sharps or flats introduced remains a good piece of music; a good piece of atonal music remains a good piece of music. A good song for a single voice well sung is just as good in its way as a good song performed by a large, double chorus, well sung. A Medieval dance number played on rebecs or on sackbuts is good if it is good, and a modern dance number played on violins or trombones is good if it is good.

    One might better use the word "innovation" rather than "progress" to speak of music. But innovation does not necessarily create "better" either. One may argue that a certain string quartet by some composer is better (or worse) than another string quartet by the same composer, whether the works showed a progression in time passage or in personal compositional innovation and growth. An early Beethoven quartet is certainly different from a later Beethoven quartet, and "progress" of some sorts is in evidence compositionally, but can one really suggest that one of these works is "better" only because of that progress?

    I'm not certain there is much point to pursuing the questions of this thread:

    Quote Originally Posted by KenOC View Post
    Does music progress? If so, how? If it truly progresses, doesn’t that imply that more recent music is “better” than older music?

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    Of course it progresses - but that doesn't mean it's better. The early 20th c composers were able to look to those composers in the late 19th c and learn from them - from them they learned to expand their harmonic language, the use of form, and how to handle the orchestra in brilliant ways. But then it all got to be to much and composers revolted and demanded simplification - the neoclassic movement, the 12-tone school and other new trends were born. And so it has always gone.

    Country music started out basically as folk songs with acoustic string instruments. Slowly it evolved and then came Elvis - to compete the c/w people had to bring in electric guitars. Recording companies like RCA promoted a smoother, less hillbilly sound and added strings, horns, and other orchestral effects. C/W was then in danger of losing its natural sound and there were some performers who revolted and tried to right the ship and get back on track to what country was. Fighting the rock 'n roll influence was/is harder.

    Broadway evolved from the moon-June-spoon world of operetta into the folksy creations of Rogers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Lowe and others. Then came West Side Story which changed direction and now you have things like Rent, Cats, Hamilton which are so far removed from the Golden Age as can be imagined.

    But in all these forms, I hear a terrible slackening of creative genius. Today's Broadway shows do not have the memorability that the older shows did. Country music today is made up of tunes that have a spread of 4 notes it seems. The great melodies of Hank Williams and Marty Robbins are long gone. And there is practically nothing in the classical world worth saving these days. Musically, we are quite impoverished. Why? Has music run its course? Where are the fiery geniuses to renew it?

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    Senior Member MacLeod's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KenOC View Post
    Does music progress? If so, how? If it truly progresses, doesn’t that imply that more recent music is “better” than older music?
    Ed Sheeran > Beethoven, obviously.

    QED
    "I left TC for a hiatus, but since no-one noticed my absence, I came back again."

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveM View Post
    Classical music has regressed.


    Quote Originally Posted by mbhaub View Post

    But in all these forms, I hear a terrible slackening of creative genius.
    Why do you think this is?
    Last edited by Mandryka; Jan-18-2020 at 11:27.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1996D View Post
    Of course it does, pop music is better than classical music in that it sells better. That was the goal of it.

    In this same culture classical music stopped progressing for a long time because high art cannot thrive in money oriented societies.
    Your Darwinian approach to this is seductive but I think if we look more closely at evolution we will see a story of diversifying and specialisation. To measure the success of music only by numbers (of punters, of dollars) is like arguing that bacteria are the most successful organisms on Earth when clearly that tells so little of the story.

    The diversification of music - with specialised audiences (we can move freely between them if we wish) and composers increasingly exploring more specialised and particular niches - is probably best thought of as a flowering. The same is true of natural evolution - the "tree of live" branches outwards as new niches are opened up by new organisms.

    But does music advance? In the sense of this flowering it has advanced but I don't think that means that any music now is greater or better than what came before it. There are limits to the value of natural evolution as a metaphor here but again what I am saying matches how natural evolution has been - you can't say that wolves and "better" than dinosaurs (both were supremely adapted to their environments, an environment that changed constantly), for example - so no advance and no backwards steps, either.

    As a more personal note to 1996D - remembering a discussion in another thread in which it seemed you had run out of music that is new to you to listen to: what a shame you can't get on with modern and contemporary music as you would find a mine of the new to explore.

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