Defining classical music — a new book riff

Here’s a link to the latest from my book, Rebirth: The Future of Classical Music. It’s a riff on chapter four, in which I try to define classical music. (Check my outline of the book, to see where this fits.)

And why would I want to define classical music? Because existing definitions come with fascinating baggage. They define classical music almost exclusively in terms of the masterworks of the past, and also include value judgments, about classical music’s value, and even its superiority.

I think these notions get in the way. And here’s a paradox. Only if we define classical music in an objective and above  all value-free way, can we find out what its value really is. Comments more than welcome, as ever.

Chapter four is the first chapter from the second section of the book, whose arc goes like this:

Chapter Four – what classical music really is

Chapter Five – why classical music isn’t better than other kinds of music

Chapter Six – a detailed look at what’s wrong with classical music, more detailed than anything in the book so far

Expect the chapter five riff sometime next week. It’s mostly written. As I promised, I’m speeding these up.

All my book material, everything I’ve released so far, is here. You can share this riff with anyone  you like — send it to friends and colleagues, post it verbatim on your own blog or website. And more. If, that is, you don’t change or cut anything, and give me proper credit. See the Creative Commons license at the end of the riff.

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Comments

  1. says

    Wow, I wish I had more time to respond to this. I have about 1,743 things to say, having just read your chapter draft.

    First of all, there’s this, from above:

    Only if we define classical music in an objective and above all value-free way, can we find out what its value really is.

    That would be really difficult if it weren’t already impossible. There is no value-free way to define classical music, because, at least in my estimation, classical music is more defined by the “culture of classical music” than anything else. Is that a reflexive definition? Of course it is.

    This is, of course, problematic, as we should expect it to be. It also means the definition is constantly changing (maybe more slowly than some would like, but still), which is why there’s hope for the kinds of rejuvenation you often write about, many of which I support.

    But what bothers me is that I don’t find you show enough appreciation for the fact that part of why we love this music (or why anyone loves anything) is because of the way we experience it within a culture. In other words, and to give one specific example, yes, there are ways in which conservatories impose a fairly rigid sense of what a standard repertoire is by requiring that students learn the same kinds of things (typical expectations for pianists: a Bach P&F, a classical sonata, a romantic work, an etude, a modern work [probably written between 1890 and 1920], etc.); and, yes, there are many problems with that. But, those standards have also helped to create a kind of shared culture that is a big part of what people love about this music. We love Bach preludes and fugues for all sorts of reasons, but not least of those reasons is that they sound like Bach preludes and fugues – which we love. This kind of recursive thing happens all the time when ANY aesthetic judgment is being made, so a “value-free” definition makes no sense to me. (Important to point out that this kind of recursive value judgment happens just as much in popular music.)

    In fact, it’s the very tendency of intellectual classical music types to want to find objective standards that so often drives me crazy. (I hate talk of “definitive” recordings, and would agree that stylistic standards are much too narrowly defined.) But, at the same time, I understand that the subjective standards we all share are a crucial part of what makes music meaningful.

    One other quick response to your posted article. It shouldn’t be remotely surprising that dictionaries have an easier time defining jazz, because it’s a much more restricted field to define. You are correct that the general public thinks that Monteverdi and Mozart and Mahler (and Montovani!) all sound pretty much the same, but the truth is that the wider world of classical music embraces a MUCH wider variety of styles than jazz. In fact, you’re correct to suggest that jazz will, more and more, be subsumed into an understanding of what classical music is, as enough time passes to provide some historical perspective.

    And that’s the other thing: if I were to define classical music, I’d say it’s most clearly defined by this “musical culture’s” understanding of what works have either stood the test of time or been somehow worthy of re-study as a way of understanding more about classical music culture. This latter part is where the study of pre-18th century music comes in. I was discussing Sting’s Dowland recordings the other day and someone complained about the fact that Dowland’s music is called classical since it arguably has more in common with modern popular song than it does with core classical repertoire. And I’d agree with that; but we think of Dowland as classical because his music has come to us via classical culture, which took an interest in his music because of an interest in studying the musical roots of more core classical composers. So, yes, Medieval/Renaissance music often gets treated as second class in the classical world, but it would likely not get treated at all without the classical world. And if “Every Breath You Take” is being sung and studied in 400 years, it will surely be right to call it a kind of classical music.

    And, yes, composers of new music have a big problem here because it’s hard to compete within such a culture with composers who’ve “stood the test of time.” This is an uncomfortable fact. On the other hand, would we have a culture of professional orchestras, opera companies, conservatories, etc. in place to give this new music even a chance if it weren’t for the classical culture that has brought them about? You talk often about how this “classical culture” is a recent phenomenon, and you’re right; but I feel that you often say that as if it’s a bad thing. All things considered, I’d rather live in a world that gives us access to all these treasures from the past. And here’s where I should admit that what first drew me into this world is the core classical music of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, etc.

    By the way, while you may be correct to suggest that the outside world thinks of all this music as exhibiting a certain kind of sameness, a comfortable warmth, I’m alarmed that you don’t mention that the inhabitants of this world don’t see it that way. We find an extraordinarily wide range of expression – even in the music of Mozart alone.

    Much more to say, but time it up!

    Hi, Michael. Such passion! I can’t blame you for wanting a definition of classical music to reflect love for it — but that’s not what a definition is about. I’d make a distinction among three things here. First, a flat-out factual definition (of the kind we’d find in a good dictionary for “dog,” for instance. Second, the connotations floating around that definition. For instance, if we define “puppy” as a young dog, that doesn’t begin to take in the “awwwwww!” factor, the thing many of us (certainly me) feel when we encounter a puppy.

    And then, third, a description of the thing defined, which isn’t the same as a definition. A definition of “dog” would note that there are many breeds, but then zero in on what those breeds have in common — what the species is. But a description of dogs would clearly go much further.

    Sounds like what you want is a description of classical music, and one written very much from your perspective, overflowing with the love you feel. There’s a place for that, but a definition isn’t it.

    As for jazz, it’s worth noting what someone told me in an email, reacting to my riff. He mentioned a situation in which jazz professionals couldn’t agree on what jazz was, and so ended up taking part in a program where the word “jazz” was never used. Though they were all, in common usage, jazz musicians.

    This in response to your thought that of course classical music has more variants than jazz. Wouldn’t be surprising, given how much longer it’s been around. But that doesn’t mean that jazz doesn’t have an astonishing number of variants. And in any case there’s an equal need to define each objectively. Or else the words won’t mean anything at all.

  2. says

    Reader’s Digest Version of My Eternal Comment Above: Postmodernism invites us to deconstruct culture to show us how many of our preconceived notions of absolutes are actually derived from cultural constructs. This is often used as a way of portraying cultures in a negative light (as I think you tend to do with Classical Music Culture).

    But the positive side is: we can be reminded that the individual artworks that we tend to think are objectively beautiful are in part beautiful to us because they connect us with a broader culture and way of thinking. This connected-ness is something humans love. I don’t think Classical Music Culture gets enough credit for the extraordinarily wide range of practices and expressions it encompasses, including the kinds of music you correctly say used to be considered more popular. It’s a system that can use work, but it’s a beautiful system in my opinion.

  3. says

    Michael, your take seems to come down to defining ‘classical music’ as ‘old music’. This relegates the whole genre to something that cannot possibly speak for our current world. At most, for the average person, they’ll respect it for being a beacon of where western culture has come from, not even recognizing that this type of music is still being created let alone that it might have any significance to their lives.

    I remember once talking to my friend (a 20-something) about how it was frustrating that classical radio completely ignores new music and his respoonse was “Well, it’s called ‘classical’ isn’t it?” This is a problem, a huge problem, if we want this tradition to survive and thrive.

  4. says

    Hi Greg,

    Not wanting to dampen down your enthusiasm or anything, but this chapter/riff has many problems (imho!)

    The dictionary definition thing is a bit of a straw man. It’s also nearly a fallacy – a dictionary is designed to tell us the linguistic use of a term, in this case “classical music”, not what classical music is, ontologically speaking.

    Next – why don’t you critique some of the established writing in this area? Two examples immediately sprang to my mind and you’ve made me go and look them up! So bear with me…

    These two examples are from books which may be quite similar to your planned book.

    1. Julian Johnson – “Who Needs Classical Music” (Oxford University Press). Early on in the introduction he recaps several conventional definitions then attempts a definition of his own: that classical music is “music that functions as art, as opposed to entertainment or some other ancillary or background function” [Johnson’s italics]. You make a point about music as entertainment, but I think Johnson is being subtly different by using the current function (as art), not the function when the music was composed.

    Anyway, number 2:

    2. Lawrence Kramer – “Why Classical Music Still Matters” (University of California Press). Not long into the first chapter he attempts a definition: “in this book, the term classical music refers to a specific body of non-theatrical music produced since the eighteenth century with one aim in view: to be listened to.” There are obvious problems with this definition, but he then follows it up with the much more interesting: “Or perhaps we should say to be listened into” (Kramer’s italics), and a discussion on that.

    One of the most important academic works in this area doesn’t even attempt to define the term – Lydia Goehr’s “The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works” (Oxford). However, in her book, she (among many other things) highlights how the “sorites” problem concerns music that is written down in advance (or for which detailed instructions are provided in advance), which is one half of your definition. It is a fundamental problem and I would recommend reading up on it :-)

    Too little time to post too much here! Good luck with everything, anyway.

    Cheers,

    Tim.

    Hi, Tim. I know the three books you mention, and know them very well. Johnson’s and Kramer’s will figure in my next chapter.You seem to have missed the central point of the definition of classical music each uses. Yes, Johnson repeatedly compares classical music to his fever dream of popular culture, and yes, Kramer has some thoughts (in which he almost treats classical music as if it were a living animal, with goals and a purpose) about how classical music evolved, and what the point of that evolution was.

    But both — Johnson most explicitly — define classical music mainly in the way I do, in my second definition: As a music that typically changes and evolves as you listen to it, the way films and novels evolve. (Comparisons that both writers make.)

    Lydia’s book considers what I take to be a somewhat different problem. It’s one I should acknowledge in my final text for chapter four, namely that philosophers of music have a great deal of trouble — at least in Lydia’s view — in rigorously specifying what exactly they mean by a lot of terms they use. I think she’s right, but that doesn’t stop us, and shouldn’t stop us, for using the words nonrigorously. As she herself does in conversation. How can any of us avoid that?

    The greatest value of her book, I think, comes in the last two-thirds, where she questions whether compositions written before the 19th century can properly be called “works,” in the sense that philosophers of music have used that term. And this, in turn, is valuable for a different section of my book, the part where I discuss classical music as it functioned in the past.

    As for the dictionary definitions, I don’t see where the fallacy — or the attack on a straw man — lies. The definitions incorporate value judgments, in a way that dictionaries normally wouldn’t do. Dictionary definitions of “dog,” for instance, don’t go on about how adorable dogs are, how smart, how loyal, or how useful.

  5. says

    Hi Josh,

    As I mentioned in my comment, I agree that my definition is problematic – that doesn’t make it inaccurate. My point is simply that the best way to make sense of what we mean by classical music is to look at what it means in practice. In a way, what I’m doing isn’t much different from what Greg is doing – taking an honest look at how the field works. I think he and I both agree that it tends to be defined (not exclusively, but at its core) by institutions such as orchestras, opera companies, other performing arts institutions, conservatories, critics, patrons, etc. While I acknowledge that this causes some significant problems, I feel it’s easy to belittle the ways in which such a world confines/limits itself while failing to appreciate that some of those limitations provide an important context for why people love this music and for why it has survived.

    This is really much too big a topic for one little comment, but one objection I have to the way a lot of idealists talk about music is the old “music is just music” line, as if every piece should simply be evaluated according to some simple, objective standard. That’s just not the way people listen, whether they’re listening to pop, classical, new music, whatever. I too would like to see new music have a stronger presence within the classical world, and agree that influential organizations should make affirmative efforts to help that happen. But I wouldn’t want to live without a continued strong place for music of the past, and I think its naive to believe we can both continue with that and suddenly adopt the overly idealized attitude of 18th century audiences that only wanted new music. (Sorry for all these run-on sentences, but I’ve got to run along…)

    Michael, as I said in response to your last comment, I think you’re providing a description of classical music (and a highly personal one), rather than a definition. See my thought, in my previous response, about what dictionary definitions of “dog” would look like, if they were written the way you’d like a classical music definition to read. Or maybe I wasn’t explicit about that. A dictionary definition of “dog” might, as the Random House definition does, talk about a dog’s muzzle, erect ears, and bushy tail, but not about how adorable dogs are, how smart, how loyal, how beautiful, how cute, or how useful.
    And I can’t say I identify classical music, as I guess you do, with the standard masterworks. In my classical music life, Alvin Lucier is just as much on my horizon as Beethoven is. Hence my need to find a definition that includes him just as readily as it includes Beethoven.

    Nor is it just me. I encountered Alvin Lucier in music school. So I was taught about him as part of my official education in classical music. Hence he’s defined as part of the field, and a definition has to allow him that place.

  6. says

    Hi Greg,

    Thanks very much for you reply! It’s nice to get a serious response to my lengthy and rambling post.

    I don’t support Kramer’s or Johnson’s viewpoint (btw Johnson was my PhD supervisor… on, as you know, pretty similar territory to your book!) – I just thought that it would be more valuable to put up a few definitions from established critics, then take them apart to present your own, rather than do that with dictionary definitions, which I think are an easy and fairly irrelevant target – hence the “straw man” accusation. Dictionaries give us the linguistic use of a term, not a discourse on the ontological essence of the thing the term represents. Therefore, it seems to me irrelevant for you to present their definitions as a way into your argument.

    No, we don’t find any particular controversy in the dictionary definition of “dog” (I haven’t checked though). “Dangerous dog”, on the other hand, causes all kinds of contortion here in the UK, where the “Dangerous Dogs Act” only bans certain breeds, but has terrible difficulty with the various objectively dangerous cross-breeds that are the fashion in certain parts of society these days. Perhaps the problems defining a “dangerous dog” are very similar to the problems defining today’s cross-breed “classical music”!

  7. says

    I don’t know, Greg. From where I stand, it looks as if you’re the one being highly personal in defining what you think classical music should look like. I don’t mind admitting that there’s a lot about the classical music culture that I like (it’s why I chose to make a career within it!), but my definition is actually intended to be a realistic description of what the culture is. I don’t honestly know why you’d want the kind of dry, supposedly objective dictionary definition you describe. The music derives a significant part of its meaning from the culture within which it’s experienced.

    And again, when I say that a shared culture of meaningful encounters with a repertoire of classics is what defines the core of the classical culture, I don’t mean that’s ALL that classical culture has to be about; it’s just that new things (both from this century and the 15th century) tend to be understood in the context of this culture. Still, it’s much too simple to say that classical music is either old or new. That’s why I don’t like this characterization that Josh made about my earlier comments:

    Michael, your take seems to come down to defining ‘classical music’ as ‘old music’. This relegates the whole genre to something that cannot possibly speak for our current world.

    I’m NOT saying old music is all there is; I’m just saying it’s there to be reckoned with. And, I would add, it strikes me as a bit funny to idealize past centuries which valued only new music, without remembering what a loss it would be not to have the past as a vibrant part of the present.

    But the bottom line is, we’d both like to see this culture reinvigorated, and I like a lot of your ideas. I just don’t see the point of trying to define this incredibly broad, rich, complex web of ideas about music into a Webster’s-type sound bite. And I certainly don’t think even a Webster’s definition should exclude an understanding that the best way to define classical music is to look at how it defines itself in practice. (And, by the way, the “value” judgments that dictionaries use are appropriate in a sense, because that’s the way the broader culture tends to think of classical music – as “lofty, refined, sophisticated, etc.” – and a good dictionary definition should tell us how people think about a word when they hear it. But I completely agree that classical music folks should use that kind of language carefully, and with respect for other types of music.)

  8. jerome langguth says

    Greg,

    As usual, there is much to think about here. I will restrict myself to one observation/question. I wonder whether the representatives of experimental music you mention here would much care whether or not their music is categorized as “classical”. I remember Steve Reich saying in an interview that without John Coltrane his version of minimalism would not exist. So maybe he is as much in the experimental jazz camp as he is in the experimental classical one. When I saw Reich with his ensemble in the 80s the atmosphere at the show, which did not take place at our local “classical” venue, was much like a rock show in terms of the electricity in the air when the group took the stage. I think many members of the audience were coming to the show having discovered Reich through “experimental rock” (this was the case for me), even though they were aware that in some broad sense Reich was also part of the “classical” world. My suggestion would be to composers of new or experimental music to place their compositions as they see fit with respect to the various musical traditions that feed their art. The problem as I see it is not really getting a better definition of classical, it is opening up the classical world so that it feels itself free to do other things in addition to what it has traditionally done. I have also noticed that battles about definitions of an art ( but is it really jazz?) tend to be very insular, in that no one outside the art form in question really cares, and also of more interest to traditionalists than to experimentalists (who don’t as a rule like labels at all).

  9. jeff says

    Greg – your definitions seem to include musicals like say the works of Andrew Lloyd Webber, which are composed before they are performed and are clearly from the Western tradition. I think many people would not consider them to be classical music though.

    Excellent point, Thanks.

    Definitions are leaky. One way that musicals diverge from the usual understanding of classical music is that the composer doesn’t orchestrate them , and typically doesn’t write the dance music or overture. And may not do much arranging of the accompaniments to the songs, even before orchestrating.

    I’d say that’s a large enough loophole to evade the classical category. But, as I say, definitions are leaky.

    For what it’s worth, I once knew someone who was in the army with Elvis. He said that Elvis thought musicals were classical music. Doesn’t have much to do with a stringent definition, but his instinctive perception is worth noting.

  10. says

    I love Jeff’s comment about musical theater. Greg, you’re correct that this shows how definitions can be leaky, but it also illustrates the point I was trying to make above. If you define classical music (as I do) according to the way the “culture of classical music” has defined it, then it’s easy to say that musical theater is not (not yet, anyway) classical music because it hasn’t been treated that way. (I’m not saying I think that’s a good thing; I’m saying that’s the way it is, for now.)

    Though this is slowly changing, for now the typical classical music degree isn’t designed for someone to go into musical theater, partly because classical culture has prized a type of unamplified singing that is no longer necessary in musical theater. It’s a culture thing, which I think will inevitably change, just as well-trained pianists will more and more be expected to know how to handle a synthesizer as well as a Steinway.

    I don’t think the orchestration thing is the main point. It has more to do with the vocal styles, the types of training required, the generally more commercial business model, and the fact that the classical world has (for no particularly good reason) a strong bias towards the idea that the composer must be in charge of everything.* (That latter part is a part of your definition, I believe, but the point is that we think in these terms not because there’s some objective idea of what classical music should be, but because this is how it’s played out so far.)

    Thus, I think classical music culture is much more comfortable when a composer sets every word to music (no matter how badly or awkwardly) than when spoken dialogue is allowed or when someone else does the orchestration, etc. For years, I’ve thought it a big missed opportunity that, since Bernstein, there haven’t been many classical composers who’ve tried their hand at musical theater. I suspect it partly has to do with giving up so much control, and with taking ourselves too seriously.** (There were, of course, many before Bernstein who weren’t put off by this: Gershwin, Weill, Rodgers, Loewe, etc.)

    Sondheim is an interesting case, because he brings a seriousness of purpose, command of craft, etc. that surely qualifies him as a great composer, but he’s been content to live his musical life out in “musical theater culture.” I strongly suspect there will be a day when, his works having stood the test of time, he will be considered classical, according to my flexible definition of how classical music is defined.

  11. Carlos Fischer says

    Greg: I am reposting this comment. It seems to

    be one of the los ones.

    I am really surprised . Western classical music can not be precisely defined if you don’t relate to European tradition.This is the most clear distinction of classical music. Easy: Classical music is the music WRITTEN from Europe and music that can be related and linked with European tradition. This definition covers all classical music since it’s very origins-that could be(as a practical starting point) the Medieval Gregorian Chant-until today’s Classical music no matter the geographic place or country or composer’s nationality .

    American(Continent) composers:Gershwin; Copland; Cage,Villa-lobos; Ginasteras;Piazzolla,etc.etc. have written music that could easily linked with the traditional European way to make music. Even some “Highly Multifaced” composers like Piazzolla or Gershwin composed-besides Tangos , Folk ; Jazz and pop music- music adopting many approaches from the traditional “European historical way” to make and write music. That’s why these two last mentioned composers are included in Western classical music catalogue.

    Even some “film music” it is covered with the above definition. This is classified as a modern subgenre of classical music.

    Many classical composers have “shifted” to some different music approaches -many of them tried really radical- they have experienced

    ways to make music like the Stockhausen’s mentioned in your riff. Stockhausen did not like the term “improvisation”; he preferred to call it “Intuitive music’. Anyway ,”Aus dem sieben tangen” represents some extreme “avant-garde ” concept with a very vague text writings as the composition directions. I don’t think that this specific music should be named “Classical” , “Jazz” or “JazzClassical”. It is just some kind of “Experimental music” or if you want , ” A musical experience”. It is clear that not all music from classical composers( Most of the time , at least) should be labeled as “Classical’ . I am truly respectfull about this kind of approaches ; they make us think not only what is Classical music , but what really music is.

    I feel completely free to discard “Aus dem sieben tangen” as a classical music piece because there is no a written score in the molds that classical music is made. Take as an example, Rautavaara’s “Cantus Arcticus” where a magnetic tape of birdsongs is incorporated to a written music. This is clearly classical music adopting a modern(at that time) device.

    There is classical music adopting( or re-adopting) improvisation and many other approaches also ; but they are clearly classical music with some “new” elements or approaches that do not undermine the “Classical personality” of the music. In Stockhausen’s “Aus dem sieben tangen”, the “Classical Personality” it is ALMOST completely undermined . This particular music can not even be categorized in any genre

    but as “Experimental music” or “Miscellaneous music”. There is so many “Experimental music” from classical composers (Again, at least most of the time) that erroneously are inserted as ‘classical’ . There are so many “experimental music” from composers of many music genres like Jazz(John Zorn is a Jazz composer and performer-most of the time at least-.).There is “Conceptual music” like John Cage’s 4’33” that i don’t think it is Classical (what genre???????)….. it is music??????.

    Historically , changes in classical music don’t occur abruptly . We may say that classical music moves slowly and frequently in “small doses”. Beethoven inserted a chorus part into a Symphony by the very first time years after Haydn and decades after an already very rich choral tradition. A triangle was used by Liszt (Piano Concerto No.1) for the first time-after many Piano Concertos were written already. Polytonality (or atonality) was clearly adopted by Schoenberg in XX century, but Liszt (again) already used it in his delightful piano piece “Bagatelle sans Tonalité”.

    The meaning of “Written music and linked with European tradition” is simple : relates also to the precision and a great deal of detail of composer’s intentions registered in advance ; in order that music can be performed and sound the same(most of it ,at least) many times in the future no matter the endless interpretations possibilities there are. Stockhausen’s piece should never sound the same every time is performed , it is “extreme improvisation”. It is an European breaking the European tradition and so falling out from tradition…I propose the following music : “play whatever you want”….it is classical?????? ; or “play whatever you want” but with violin ; or “play whatever you want ” but with the violin following the frecuency and speed of cars passing over the street at your house……are these classical???????

    Defining classical music like above’s definition increases it’s survival possibilities. Mr. Sandow showed very stupid dictionary definitions but he also is vague in defining it. Picking those pretended classical examples as “exceptions to the rule” like Stockhausen’s confirms that my definition is – at least – closer to the truth .

    New classical music it’s being composed as always: in the “Classical tradition” . The good news is that some living contemporary composers like Arvo Part , Einohujani Rautavaara , Krysztof Penderecki and many others are making a very good job composing-in the classical tradition(again)-some of the most interesting and “freshly new” classical music. You will find incredible masterful music in their latest compositions.

    Also , Classical music industry it’s being “smart” releasing some classical music from some “forgotten composers” or “underrated composers” .

    You won’t even believe and understand ( if you didn’t listened yet, of course) why such a incredible Kurt Atterberg’s set of symphonies or Joly Braga Santos’ symphonies or Heitor Villa-lobos symphonies and string quartets were, until recent years, almost completely neglected. These

    are good news for classical music also.

    Improvisation it’s being and has been incorporated to classical music. This is not a “new approach” and does not contradict the essence of what is classical music. Clearly , i do not believe in the contrary : That full improvisational music incorporating some classical music(or some classical music approaches) results in classical music.

    I am truly faithful on following this tradition is the path to go ; it is about Classical music identity. It is like the most significant pieces of art created by western culture: they are not improvised, they are unchangeable…they look the same …. they read the same….they sound the same ….

    ….They are and were planned ….only interpretations change.

  12. carlos fischer says

    Greg:

    From your e-mail reply (thanks a lot);it seems that some points that i wrote should be emphasized here :

    1.- I don’t think that it is right not to mention in your definition the European origins and tradition of classical music. If i want to define Jazz i should always have to refer to the American( and New Orleans of course) origins and linked with this American tradition.

    2.- Classical tradition , for me, it is not synonymous of static, conservative

    music. As you know , Classical music has been and it is being innovative and progressive in terms of music idioms , technical issues and “overall” approaches. The worst of all is that general public have the “old , conservative thing” in mind.But this is a complex discussion …

    3.- Cage’s 4’33” remains until today as an “unanswered question “.

    I am being completely honest on this. Therefore, i don’t see why should i call

    it “Classical” when the “music question” is still unsolved.

    4.- It doesn’t matter what music notation system(or language) adopted to compose or to write classical music. I truly believe that a sense of precision

    of composer’s musical intentions has to be recognized by performers from scores .

    Composer’s writings vary largely . Some composers were and are more precise

    than others. This is a personal choice. Some composers leave more room for

    performer’s interpretations than others ; some stress more over a specific score

    section ; some performers are very interventionist and others so strict in following composer’s intentions… there are the “period instruments” followers ..…and so on…These multiple possibilities enriches music life … this is Classical …in my humble opinion.