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I've seen and been involved in 'discussions' between non-readers of music who are composers and trained composers where the charge of elitism has underpinned many an exchange. It's clear to me that composing does not need training, but it is obviously rather dependant on what one wants to write. Some however have a different view.

In the media world where composing is dominated by the DAW, the irony is that most non readers have access to orchestral samples which they can manipulate in any way they want, without caring about knowing and understanding the best way of composing for an orchestra. It goes without saying that most of the music produced this way, that purports to be orchestral and therefore falling within the bastion of a highly specialised discipline that requires many skills and experience, will fall short musically speaking when compared to the best in the genre - or worse still, if the music is ever performed live. (I've witnessed myself some poor results in orchestral studio recordings from untrained composers and it's not pretty. Musicians know instantly whether the part in front of them is competent or not).

If one points out shortcomings to non-reader composers with orchestral aspirations and suggests a period of learning and practise, the 'E' word is in danger of making a vehement appearance. So these days, I am apparently old "skool" elitist, seemingly because I know and can confirm that knowledge of your orchestral onions is a prerequisite to being professional in that genre. Some do not want to hear that specialisation and training will yield the best results outside the DAW, such is the false confidence sample manipulation and production in a computer can give.

There is a big proviso here. If any 'orchestral' sampled music produced by someone without training is not intended to be played solely by real players, then much creative production and inventive, genre bending and rule destroying music can and has been written, some of which I absolutley love btw.

But hey, generally speaking these seem to be the days when some think that a lifetime of learning, practise and growth in composition and associated skills can be gleaned in a few 10 minute how-to YT videos. So I ask is it elitist of me to think that the immediate satisfaction gained by moving digital blocks of orchestral samples around on an arrange page could ultimately hamper and worse still, harm the fullest of any creative potential - a potential that could be honed and enhanced by training? Well the answer is no, not at all.

(sorry if this has drifted too far off-topic Roger)
Some people are already envisioning the VR future. A large room in your house will be dedicated to VR and you'll be able to manipulate orchestra players to perform anything that you can think of, with the aid of advanced AI.

No more years of learning and composing and practicing.. As I see it this will change humans, and NOT for the better.
 

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I agree; I don't really understand Enthusiast's post and I am NOT of the opinion that all music is of equal value (actually I doubt that anyone really believes this, it's obviously wrong, otherwise me pounding with a fist on a piano keyboard would have value) and that classical music is the best music and one the great achievements of mankind.
You've been here since April, but someone will tell you that entertainment music and art music have equal value for us.
 

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Teaching music at different levels -- including beginners -- certainly has helped to keep me grounded. For that matter, so has reading over this thread, because a number of positive points including the one you just raised hadn't occurred to me.

Elitism will remain with us as an issue we need to consider I think, but it shouldn't be a perennial accusation and pretext for damaging attacks. I notice that here it is possible to discuss elitism -- which has a political context -- while keeping the emphasis on how it applies to music rather than getting into a general political battle. Because the latter behaviour is now against the TC rules, I hope people are less likely to veer off topic or even undermine whole discussions. (By the way, the word "Seriously," in the thread title was partly a reminder to myself to be just that, and to avoid silly humour and the like.) :)
Yes, but there's one more point not showing up in here so far, and it might be divisive…

I suspect that without the elitism I wouldn't have stuck it out with learning classical piano, from my first slight fascinations with popular music. I was at an age wherein it motivated me to be a more disciplined sponge to absorb it all. My teacher was austere and very snobbish, it seemed to me as a young observer. It was all for the best eventually (not at the time).
 

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Your observation is a good example of why we have to be so careful in using the "e"-word. What we mean by it is not simply a matter of dictionary definition. What does it mean to me? in my life-situation; or to you; at this time; in the future; and how much? Not a stable word, and yet people unthinkingly use it to make judgements of great finality.

I'm glad it worked out for you eventually. During the time I was teaching music, parental involvement was becoming much more recognized as important and I had to learn to communicate better with the whole family, not just the student. It's common for a classical piano student to want to play popular music; I was one of them. However the situation is accommodated, it has to be supported by the student, parents, and siblings through ongoing discussions that build trust in everyone concerned.

And I've never met pianists who play popular music regret as adults that they continued their classical lessons up to reaching an advanced level before stopping.
Yes, parents can be a problem. They can be too close and too involved, or they can be unaware that their child has an outstanding aptitude (and what that could mean for him or her). I've had mostly the first kind.. heh

Many of my friends growing up took piano lessons. I know the following isn't what you meant by elitism, but I've experienced the opposite (if that's the right word). We would be playing touch football and my friend's mom would yell out "time for your piano practice, Johnny". He would sigh and go inside. He was our quarterback and the rest of us really admired him as a football player so we didn't make fun of him, but we would roll our eyes! So I guess that's the opposite of an elitist response.

I have long wondered how a child gets into music and has the sustained interest to get to the point of effortless playing..
What happened to me was that my younger brother would dance around singing and so my parents decided that he had musical ability. He yammered that he wanted to take piano lessons. There was NOT a lot of money for that sort of thing, but we already had an old upright in the basement. So all the books were purchased and of course he quit after about a month and a half..

At the same time my father was a volunteer fireman and he would take me to the fire house when he got the call. There was an old piano there and one day this girl who is only a little older than me started playing her practice pieces. I was amazed, she played it all with all her fingers and very quickly. I was hooked!

So I think it's a complicated sequence which might result in a strong interest in learning music, on your own.

1. being inspired by a friend who's older but not a lot older (occurring outside the home and away from your parents and siblings)

2. having a piano available, and the books with simple, attractive pieces for showing off.

3. being able to explore on your own in a private area of the house.

With all the distractions today, IMO, without any one of these it would be improbable for someone young to just fall into it.

With your experiences, what do you think?

yammer
late Middle English (as a verb meaning 'lament, cry out'): alteration of earlier yomer (from Old English geōmrian'to lament') suggested by Middle Dutch jammeren .
 
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Examples of elitist attitudes?

"Film music isn't classical music."
"20th C classical is degenerate."
Heh. You would have to convince me that film music is classical music. Film music is whatever it needs to be for films. According to a professor of mine, it's good or bad music. What does that mean? Classical music has to be excellent enough to look towards a serious future, as any serious art. Its intent is serious and hopefully universal, not situational.
 

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I don't have to convince anyone. Note the question mark in my opening sentence.

The two statements are crude summaries of what I have seen expressed in longer form at TC. They represent the view that classical music - usually of the CPT tradition - is of superior quality and that quality must not be debased lest the superiority of the poster be debased. It's not actually a widely held view, but it has been expressed often enough over time at TC for it to be recognisable as elitist.

As for the "film music is/isn't classical" debate, let's leave that for other threads; there's been enough of them.
In my experience, music fans who assert that CM isn't superior either know a lot about music or they don't know enough to be able to make a serious comparison list, point by point (CM vs other categories). To me, this is just logical, not judgemental. People on either side might argue with me, but that's what only a forum like this can afford us. Marvelous technology! Obviously, I don't know the level of expertise of every poster making that assertion.
 

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I agree with this, but we now have 90 years worth of film music to consider, and plenty of it should be considered "classic" in my opinion. Of course, most of it is dross, but that is true of most genres of music.

I gave what I consider to be a dramatic example of the distinction (pun intended), earlier. In 1954, Leonard Bernstein's great score for On the Waterfront was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost to Dmitri Tomkin's (imo) workmanlike but pedestrian and uninteresting score for The High and the Mighty. Of course, today, On The Waterfront, directed by Elia Kazan and starring Marlon Brando and Karl Malden, is considered one of the greatest classic movies. OTOH, The High and the Mighty, starring John Wayne and Robert Stack, has not aged well. In fact, it was ridiculed by the Zucker brothers in their famous, and imo hilarious, 1980 parody, Airplane!

Bernstein turned his score into a suite that continues to be performed in concert by major orchestras, as is the "cantata" for chorus and orchestra that Prokofiev made from his 1938 score for Alexander Nevsky, another very famous classic movie directed by the great Sergei Eisenstein.

For me, Bernstein and Prokofiev, like Kazan and Eisenstein, were great artists who created memorable classics for film. The fact that most movies and their music are unremarkable at best and often downright dreadful is of no relevance.
I suspect that neither Lenny nor Prok nor John Williams said, or wanted to say/explain, that they were composing CM in those projects. I could be wrong. But look at the CM they did compose. Look at the differences.
 

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Obviously, music composed as incidental theatrical music is not the same as a symphony or a string quartet. Perhaps it is closer to opera overtures or intermezzi, or to ballet music. Of course, incidental music has a long tradition, Mendelssohn's incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream probably being the most famous example. That is consistently ranked as one of the most popular pieces of classical music of all time here at TC, and probably with good reason, considering the frequency with which it is performed. Copland's Quiet City and Bernstein's On the Waterfront suites are in the same tradition, as are Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky cantata and Lieutenant Kije suite and a number of works by Shostakovich.

These works are adapted from music originally composed to accompany a theatrical work, rather than to stand on its own. If you listen to them in their original form without the work they were intended to accompany, they sometimes lack the structure and coherence needed to effectively stand on their own, though sometimes this isn't an issue. However, the works I cite above all were modified by their composers for concert performance.

These works all easily satisfy your definition of 'classical music', which is as good as any.
How did they advance the art of music? and how did they develop from the earlier champions of the art of music? This is what I look for. This is what all the great composers did. Maybe you don't agree with that, maybe it's just the way I look at things. In my field of science (and in other fields) there has been a fascinating increase in human accomplishments and achievements. The histories have been laid out for us to study.

People will say film music and pop music are achievements, but for me it's all too predictable and derivative/imitative/lowbrow clichés. I enjoy playing the what I consider the good stuff, it's very clever, but what else can we study about it? I do study the clever things - don't get me wrong.. My life would be much poorer without the clever things.
 

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I'm not sure I follow. Are you saying that CM is superior to other genres, including 'film music'?
Yes, and I have a list to back that up (for my life). But the more I converse with people here in this forum I'm always second-guessing my conclusions about this. In the history of science we can check things with repeatable evidence. We can update things and be confident of our conclusions.

In the arts we need to know and understand the serious history - to take the place of repeatable evidence, so, we're on shaky ground. Again, this is my opinion. I cling to this view because I don't want to lose any of the value, for my life.
 

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Yes this is a tricky point, which is why I've avoided it -- for 2-1/2 months! First, we need a developmental perspective. It's pretty common for young classical piano students (teens or up to a few years younger) to be interested in playing pop music. But if they suspend their classical piano training, in my experience they may regret it later. Perhaps your seemingly austere, snobbish teacher also conveyed a sense of wisdom about the longer-term value of classical piano both for the student and the culture. Perhaps other individuals in your life did too. It's important to try for a just result for the student, parents, and teacher -- whether it's a balance, a focus on one or the other, or something else all together. And not forget that classical piano also can be a support for other activities. For you I'm glad it was all for the best -- the key word I think is "eventually."
2 1/2 months, yeah, heh. It's even more divisive to say that children should be taught to be elitist about something that they should care about, for much later in their life. I understand that this would be considered insensitive today.

When I was in the lower grades this approach was very successful with me. Many subjects have what we would call heroes (or maybe there's a better word). Think of Newton or Einstein. Can music history and music appreciation be inspiring with this approach? I do it a little bit with the young students I teach. We have statues of the great men and all that. I mean, I tell them how I rank the icons, and their eyes light up because they can understand this, as if it was part of their competitive world. Later they come back and say they would rank them differently and that's part of the learning process.
 

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I do agree with that, and imo Copland, Bernstein, Prokofiev and Shostakovich all qualify as great composers by that standard, and by a comfortable margin. Perhaps Bernstein is the least of these illustrious four, and even he was a revolutionary who had an enormous cultural impact. It's almost hard to imagine that West Side Story dates back to 1957 and lost the Tony award to The Music Man, a nostalgic look back at small town America and the days of John Philip Sousa.

Outstanding dancing and musicians. But listening to the music alone, how many times? studying the score for ideas? Yes, it's interesting enough.
I've recently found the full score of JC Superstar on an old HD of mine. Good ideas in it and it's fun to follow along with the movie.
 
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There's nothing wrong in thinking that CM is serious and rewarding music, and everyone who loves it embraces it as part of their personality. I don't see it loses any value when it is regarded as one genre among many, of equal value to the people who create it and listen to it, without the need for establishing a hierarchy of superiority.
The ranking and the resulting hierarchy of superiority is for the children and for the adult neophytes (and others for debating, of course, heh). To me, it's the same approach in all the arts. It's helpful, it saves time, why reinvent the wheel... There's no fears involved, there's no dictators.

Maybe you think that people don't need guidance or a logical framework or a historical view (or music theory). Such is the stated opinions of many of our forum members, but I don't see how an educator can see things this way. Could you talk about that issue.

Now it sounds like I'm browbeating you and I don't want to sound like that..
 

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JC Superstar, which imo is the best thing Andrew Lloyd Webber ever did, still is derivative and mediocre. Webber does not qualify as a great composer, to put it mildly, and is not remotely in the same league as Bernstein. I would put Webber in the same general class as Tiomkin, but a couple of steps lower.

The main thing that puts Bernstein so far ahead of Webber or Tiomkin is the originality of his ideas. Cool, which I linked to above, owes more to Le Sacre du printemps than to the Broadway musical tradition. It may be harder to appreciate its originality now, but Brooks Atkinson immediately picked up on it in his review of the original production when it opened in New York.
I agree with your rankings of the composers (such as they are with entertainment music, I mean, so many extra-musical needs and cross-currents). But I find the songs in those productions to be very effective. 3 different lyricists.

The numbers in JCS move along, refer to each other, and keep it light. They had to be careful with that subject matter. The sweeping, larger than life songs from the Phantom are just what that story needed in my opinion. It's amazing what he came up with.

On second thought, I suspect that I really love the songs because they work so well for piano solos. Bernstein? I'm not familiar enough with every scene, but I don't think for me they would be piano solos. So I'm biased.
 

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The idea that I had to teach children that LvB or WAM were the most preeminent and superior composers of the most superior form of music never entered my head. It didn't need to. Were I to contribute now to a debate about the content of a music curriculum, I'd happily include the information that these two, along with others, are generally regarded as pre-eminent composers, but that music is not a static art, nor is it to be segregated into genres or ghettoes. It would be just as important for a child of the modern classroom to know about the composers and musicians of today, and how they themselves can create music using modern techniques. If it was all about hierarchies, we'd all be stuck with Bach and Beethoven and time would stand still.

As you can see, I'm happy talking about my experience as an educator - I don't feel brow-beaten. :)
Thanks for the long post and congratulations on your retirement.

Did any of the kids go on to pursue music so that they could personally express themselves much later, in their 30s and beyond?

When I was beginning music lessons all the kids were learning guitar and guitar chords, because of the Beatles et al. What do kids have today, for self-motivation?

I still think the kids need heroes (famous scientists, composers, painters, architects, inventors), which they can refer back to, years later as an interest in a field matures. I can remember kids in the neighborhood and I playing a card game with a welcoming, elderly lady. She wanted to keep us in from the (dangerous) street, as she said. It was the great composers with their likenesses on the back of each card. We could play three different types of games with the deck. It's funny what you remember so well as being a guidepost from your youngest memories. We were 7 or 8 years old.
 

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I understand that the world has moved on. But can we ignore the value of logical development and long history and complexity and effectiveness of CM, compared to other musics? I guess we can.

I know that I wouldn't have had this great life in music if I took today’s notions seriously when I was young (it wasn't a prevalent notion, as I remember things, or maybe I was insulated from it growing up in the richest county in the world). Anyway, I know myself, and I know how cynical and lazy I can be. There's no way I would've put in the effort and practice and searching.
 
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