February 4, 2011

Classical music and IQ

Linda Gottfredson of the U. of Delaware has said that perhaps the single most accurate casual conversation question for judging whether somebody has a 3-digit IQ is something along the lines, "How much do you like classical music?" To be precise, you get the fewest false positives this way. In modern America, lots of people with 3-digit IQs don't like classical music, but very few people with 2-digit IQs like it a lot.

Other times and places, this wouldn't be so accurate, but in 21st Century America, it's pretty close to a slam dunk.

61 comments:

Anonymous said...

I know *a lot* of people with very mediocre intelligence who like and play classical music... maybe their iq's are above 100 though...

Contemplationist said...

I'm up there in the 3 digits and I rarely listen to classical music though I'm getting into it more. It seems like a treasure I've been missing

Jokah Macpherson said...

I love to play devil's advocate in political conversations by pointing out that the "income boost" from liking classical music is bigger than the boost from having a college degree, and that maybe if the president really wants to invest in our children's future, he should just find ways to make classical music really popular among kids.

Anonymous said...

"I know *a lot* of people with very mediocre intelligence who like and play classical music... maybe their iq's are above 100 though..."

You know the mean in the US is 98, right? So the biggest group of people, mediocre intellects, are right around 98. Just for the record.

Pretty sure the pretentious pseuds who pretend to like classical music are above friggin' 99. People have such a strange sense about IQ, where anything lower than 150 is stupid. I blame internet IQ tests.

Paavo said...

This is idiotic.

please read this cog sci take on atonalism

https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://www.philipball.co.uk/docs/pdf/Ball_atonalism2.pdf

I bet that people who like serialist music are very intelligent. But they are just as unable "understand" it as their inferiors.

Intelligent people are more likely to buy into fakery in which they can't hear the music, but they have to see the score to understand what the composer was trying to do.

Stupid people enjoy classical music that they hear in movies. they listen to soundtracks full of classical music, but they won't buy naxos records. They won't buy operatickets, but they appreciate the darth vader theme or the nutcracker. claiming that they are not "real" classical music is just stupid snobbery of the hipster rejecting something because it's too popular. Not playing status games of the middle class doesn't mean someone has 2-digit IQ

Simon in London said...

I like when they play it over the tannoy at my local Underground station. It has a calming effect on both me and the local hoodlums!

Shamefully, while my grandfather founded the Edinburgh Music Festival, I have little interest in the stuff.

Anonymous said...

"Not playing status games of the middle class doesn't mean someone has 2-digit IQ"

Welcome to not understanding the post. Let me be your reader until you discover literacy:

"In modern America, lots of people with 3-digit IQs don't like classical music, but very few people with 2-digit IQs like it a lot."

See? See that first part of the sentence, where he acknowledges that not liking classical music does not make you dumb? It's that being dumb makes you not like classical music? So, of COURSE plenty of smart people don't like it. Steve said that.

alonzo portfolio said...

Her assertion is itself pretty dumb. Not only do lots of 115 IQ people have no use for classical music, but most of the 2-digits could be identified without even speaking to them.

Anonymous said...

I believe there is probably a better correlation between age and affinity for Western classical music. A great deal of brain connectivity, one positive feature of aging, is needed to appreciate or interpret it fully, but lots of Alzheimer's patients find it enjoyable, too. It's true that a disproportionate number of mathematicians and engineers like it, which might skew perceptions of its intellectual appeal, but personally I don't see it as much of a screen for IQ. If it was, then the Bay Area with all its Asians and PhD's would be awash with classical music radio stations. As it is, we just lost the one we had.

A better test of IQ is how well a child at seven with maybe two years of basic piano training can sight read a simple two handed piece -- classical or not. (Rather than how well he plays some complex minuet that he's been forced to endlessly practice by a hysterical Tiger Mother).

Bob said...

"love to play devil's advocate in political conversations by pointing out that the "income boost" from liking classical music is bigger than the boost from having a college degree"

Having a college degree means little these days with all the for-profit diploma mills sucking up federally insured student loans.

I think this would be a good topic for a long-form article in AmConMag or Taki.

Dutch Boy said...

Not only is CM beautiful it also acts as punk repellant!

Anonymous said...

SWPL #108: Appearing to enjoy Classical Music. How many SWPLers have IQs below 100?

This doesn't mean people with IQs below 100 wouldn't want to be thought of as liking classical music, but if they did in significant numbers, it would no longer be something white people like.

Paavo said...

Anonymous: yes that was stupid. I believe that people with 2-digit IQs enjoy classical music, but won't buy Naxos records or are able to identify composers.

I believe that some of the classical music is like etiquette: a way to separate the lower classes from the real sophisticated people.

Why would classical music be something that only average IQ and above people could enjoy.

My explanation is that few low class people are statusobsessed enough to sit through a symphony when they could be watching an entertaining movie.

There are cognitive limits to what aspects of music one can understand in on sitting. But understanding classical music is very responsive to training. That's why low iq people will enjoy classical music they have heard many times.

Anonymous said...

gypsies are pretty stupid, iq wise, but often produce musical geniuses.

Baloo said...

Well said, Paavo. I like to ask people who disdain classical music if they liked the Star Wars music, and they always do, and then I explain that they DO like classical music.

I think what people don't like is the smug elitist attitude about classical music they encounter. We need more stuff like THIS.

Anonymous said...

Affinity for classical music follows the usual East Asian-white-Hispanic-black hierarchy.

Anonymous said...

Classical music lessons are a great way of making sure your kid doesn't socialize with stupid kids.

Anonymous said...

Indian Americans are almost entirely absent in classical music and the IQ rule breaks down here

Mark Caplan said...

A member of city council in Charlotte, NC, recently remarked that he took music appreciation in college. "The one thing I learned in music appreciation is that there is some music I cannot appreciate."

He is the same councilman who took the lead in blackballing American Renaissance from holding its 2011 conference in our fair (and dark) city.

FeministX said...

"Indian Americans are almost entirely absent in classical music and the IQ rule breaks down here"

Zubin Mehta.

No seriously though, anyone who thinks Indians should be classified together with caucasians will make a 180 on that opinion when you hear Indians play music. We are actually more like blacks in that area. Our rhythm structures swing and are not rigid. Germanic rhythm thinks an 8th note is exactly as long as every other 8th note in the composition. Otherwise, Indian music calls for continuous improvozition by all instruments involved, much like jazz, and also much like jazz, the melodic structures are microtonal, chromatic etc. Several bollywood composers are classically inspired, but the Indian musicians to make in the west are so far MIA, freddy mercury, ravi shankar (who influenced rock), half indian norah jones (who plays in blue styles), half indian Nikki minaj (hip hop).

Then there is me (who sings/plays jazz), my cousin (who sings gospel like he was born to do it (who also was valedictorian and skipped a year of elementary school and now attends and Ivy league uni)). The only international contribution that comes from an Indian musical genre is, I think, bangra, and that really resembles and african dance style.

Hey, my people can do some physics, but our sound is not square.

RAH said...

"the single most accurate casual conversation question"?

How about "what do you do for a living?"

nooffensebut said...

This is a fascinating topic that I feel I do not completely understand. Music has always been important to me, and I feel that there is much underappreciated subtlety to some of the rock and electronic music that my generation has experienced. Appreciation of classical music is reinforced by its endurance, which is both a valid, if uninspired, rationale and an ignorant unadventurous bias against the new. From my perspective, Trent Reznor’s accomplishment with The Social Network’s score defies classical music elitism by impinging on its purview. I have connections to people in China, and I know that China has a very odd juxtaposition of love for classical music as well as love for the most saccharine bubble-gum pop. I know grown Chinese men who love the Backstreet Boys—and not in an ironic way. I remember a study in the 90s that involved playing different genres of music to rats and trying to measure the rats' “stress” levels. Supposedly alternative music was the worst genre and classical was best. However, I think a sensibility that appreciates uncomfortable truths like race realism or Darwinian evolution would also be a sensibility that appreciates abrasive but intelligent music.

Anonymous said...

I think thats right. It should be noted that classical CD's are dirt cheap and many are PD. Yet, its rare to see any blue-collar person who enjoys it.

Even in 19th Century Germany, Classical music was only liked by the elite. The typical German liked Polka's.

Anonymous said...

See? See that first part of the sentence, where he acknowledges that not liking classical music does not make you dumb? It's that being dumb makes you not like classical music? So, of COURSE plenty of smart people don't like it. Steve said that.

LoL. It amazing how many "Smart" people can't read, or are too lazy to understand before they post. This happens all the time on the intertubes.

Whiskey said...

Very many people with two digit IQs love classical music. John Williams, John Barry, Barry Gray, Edwin Astley, Bernard Hermann, all composed classically. Those TV and Film scores were/are classical music.

Go listen to this John Barry composition from "High Road to China":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ea0QKcEBR6k

Its Classical. In fact, the only real emotionally evocative, structured, melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic stuff done in Classical is now TV and movie composition. John Cage? Philip Glass? Mindless repetition. Boring. And yet just a few short decades ago this was knocked off for a low budget action/adventure movie.

crawfudmuir said...

FeministX writes: "Germanic rhythm thinks an 8th note is exactly as long as every other 8th note in the composition."

Not so - at least for the century from 1675-1775. In playing music written during this period, what is written as a dotted crotchet followed by a quaver is played as a double-dotted crotchet followed by a semiquaver; whereas a passage of several quavers is played as written. Also, sometimes what is written as a slurred pair of quavers may be played as a "Scotch snap." Much depends on the piece's character and the discretion of the executant. These performance practices, though of French origin ("notes inégales"), are correctly followed in playing pieces by such German composers as Muffat, Fux, Händel, Telemann, etc.

Anonymous said...

"Germanic rhythm thinks an 8th note is exactly as long as every other 8th note in the composition."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempo_rubato

Sailer does his homework. His commenters should also.

-bb

Anonymous said...

Chua may not be a genius at rigorous math/science, but I don't get how the commenter can concede on the one hand that Chua probably has an IQ of around +3SD and on the other hand argue that she benefited from affirmative action.

Depends on the actual degree of IQ selectivity at these schools. In any case, no references to her benefiting from AA were made.

Pat Shuff said...

Many studies have confirmed Spearman's finding that pitch discrimination is g-loaded, and other musical discriminations, in duration, timbre, rhythmic pattern, pitch interval, and harmony, are correlated with IQ, independently of musical training.

-- The g Factor/Jensen pg 223

Not a fan of classical but fascinated by the mathematical dimensions of Bach's music (Godel, Escher, Bach/Hofstader) and some rather esoteric online stuff from the British Harpsichord or Clavichord Societies

Was Bach a Mathematician?

http://preview.tinyurl.com/4ln2q4o

Anonymous said...

At the risk of answering a question with a question, I would feel compelled to ask for clarification.

By "classical" music do you mean the period roughly from Hayden to Beethoven or do you mean it as the colloquial catchall term for serious music including Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and and that Satanic spawn of caterwauling and fingernails on a blackboard they started using in the 20th century?

Anonymous said...

Germanic rhythm thinks an 8th note is exactly as long as every other 8th note in the composition.

Guess you've never heard of rubato, huh?

Do you ever deal in anything but dumb, ignorant cliches, FemX?

Descartes said...

It seems that the interest in classical music among my peers are usually correlated with an interest in jazz and other musical forms.

Well, aside from if they have played music their whole lives.

So perhaps classical music is becoming a niche alongside others who are more or less intense music enthusiasts, as opposed to people who enjoy a specific kind such as punk rock.

On a side note, I can't recall how many people who are into hardcore(screaming type music) that I knew who also listened to the most obscure jazz from the 30's.

FeministX said...

Rubato? Really? You could have pointed out the very very simple fact that pieces often indicate tempo changes within themselves- andante to allegro or whatever, which would change the time-hold of a note. The point is that the rhythmic structure is generally precisely directed and consistent or specifically noted as imprecise. At least in piano solos, imprecise rhythm seems to end up following conventions- most players play similar kinds of imprecision.

You really want to argue the main point that jazz/rock/etc is rhythmically more flexible than classical? If rubato is the proof that classical rhythm can be flexible, then what of the fact that every rock/jazz/r&b song can be performed rubato at any point in the song and with any instrument as the tempo leader? And that one can change the time signatures of songs, change the tempo to extreme degrees? I suppose there is no law against doing so in a classical variation, but I've yet to see a performance where anyone does such a thing. It isn't a slight against classical music. It is simply a statement of fact. Playing someone else's classical music is largely about taking direction from a score, which often has fairly detailed instructions. Jazz, rock, folk music amongst other genres don't necessarily involve even a specific chord chart. Hence, it must be more improvisational.

It does appear to me that both jazz and classical have a higher than average IQ audience. Interesting because classical composers must have high abstract reasoning in order to write for an entire orchestra whereas I'm not sure that jazz innovators had much conscious abstract reasoning about what they did. They often appear to be playing instinctively. Though it may sound odd, pop ballad producers also require high abstract reasoning and tend to be highly classically trained. Yet, Ive not observed greater tendancy for pop ballad listeners to be intelligent.

Personally, classical was always my favorite genre. After that, I like all forms of girl music- musicals, dance/pop, disney soundtrack songs etc.

I never liked jazz until people told me I could sing it. I practiced a bit over the year, and now I sing it well.

Anonymous said...

"You really want to argue the main point that jazz/rock/etc is rhythmically more flexible than classical?"

No, we want to point out that if you were to play a click track against anyone's performance of a piece of Western classical music, it would rapidly diverge, disproving your stupid assertion that "Germanic rhythm thinks an 8th note is exactly as long as every other 8th note in the composition."

But since you brought it up, most rock and a lot of jazz (hard bop, eg) is rhythmically stiffer than classical music. Compare http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtY3neT3MeU with http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYYAv-QW38Q or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kotK9FNEYU - which tune is hardest to clap along with?

What does this prove? Mostly that you're dealing in gassy generalizations and don't really understand that which you presume to criticize.

-bb

Anonymous said...

Speaking of classical music, it's too bad that it never used many of its instruments to their full potential. To some extent, this was inevitable since the various forms of 'classical music' could not be everything. Same with ballet. You cannot do ballet by tap dancing or shaking your ass. Classical music had its own grammar, sensibility, favored themes, etc, so it had its limitations. Even so, given the rich potential of many classical instruments, the creative neglect was almost criminal. Classical music was very expressive and exploratory with strings, especially violin and cello, and with keyboard. And also good with horns. But it was very limited in its use of brass instruments. Brass instruments really reached their full potential and expressiveness through jazz and even folk forms of music. Why did classical music favor strings over brass? Possibly because brass, by its nature, is a brash instrument. For this reason, it had to be played in a restrained or overly controlled way. Classical music belonged to the polite, refined, upper class/caste, and well-mannered society. One could get away with more expressive freedom with strings because strings are, by nature, more feminine, sentimental, passive, even 'syrupy'--which is why most rock fans despise it. Blues, jazz, and rock, very male forms of music, prefer brass or electric guitar over strings, which has often been favored by the mellower country music. Even when a musician goes 'out of control' with strings, he doesn't necessarily become 'out of line'. But when someone does the same with a trumpet or saxophone, it can be very impolite, hostile, crazy, alarming. Perhaps for this reason, brass instruments were 'suppressed' as secondary instruments in most of classical music. Even when Wagner used it in a very powerful manner, he generally struck to 'straight' lines, musical columns or pillars. Rather than anarchic or wild, they had a sturdy monumental effect--pro-order, pro-civilization, pro-form. Bach and Handel composed a lot of music for brass, but they mostly kept it elegant, tasteful, fancy, and pretty. It was like a horse trained only to trot along chosen paths. Brass could not be as free as string in classical music, which could take on endless shapes, forms, and expressions.
The biggest creative scandal in classical music, for me anyway, is the neglect of the saxophone. Invented in late 19th century, it was ignored by most classical composers/musicians and used mainly for marching bands. This beautifully and powerfully expressive instrument was all but ignored by artists. Charles Koechlin was one of the few who understood its magic and power. It took jazz greats like Ellingston, Adderly, and Coltrane to show the world what the saxophone is capable of. It reminds me of a part in CONNECTIONS by James Burke where he says the Chinese had so much(gunpowder, compass, weaving, prints, etc) but did so little. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ztr7TOWKzXs When it came to brass instruments, classical music did much less than what was possible. Jazz use of brass and even Spanish trumpet in Leone westerns are more colorful and exciting than most classical brass music. And it may have gotten worse as baroque music gave way to the classical period. And given the passion of romanticism, you'd expect an increased respect for brass instruments, but this wasn't the case. In most symphonies, brass was used as a secondary instrument. The best soloists mastered violin or piano, two instruments that were explored extensively by classical music.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the piano, one could argue if classical or jazz went further in exploring its potential, but one thing for sure, jazz piano was more dazzling--like musical skipping stones. One problem with classical piano was its one-dimensionality. Classical piano can be fast and virtuoso, but it seems to concentrate on one idea at a time whereas jazz had the feeling of multi-dimensionality. Jazz piano has more surprises. It is elegant and playful at the same time whereas classical piano tend to be either wimpy-tinkly or heavy-sticky. Of course, jazz piano cannot do a lot of things classical piano do, and I suppose it's kinda like applea and oranges.

Similar to the neglect of brass is the neglect of beat in classical music. Western music has beat in marching bands, folk music, etc, but generally drums were distrusted as 'savage' and 'wild'. So, drums in marching band music tend to be orderly and disciplined than free and colorful. And since Western culture had been moralized by Christian distrust of sensuality, even folk music could had to go easy on too much rhythm and beat. (Of course, white people weren't all that rhythmic to begin with.) In the area of the beat, Hindus, Africans, and even Japanese were far more expressive than Europeans. For Africans, it wasn't just music but a language with which people could hold entire conversations. Before blacks had free-form rap battles, Africans had drum-trash-talk-contests. As a result, Africans developed a very rich and varied use of drum music.
Maybe it was necessary for the West to suppress excess drum-ishness since a civlization needs orderly and disciplined people--just look what's happening to the underclasses in the US with all that hip hip ass-shaking beat. Even so, something was lost in Western music with the suppression of beat--and indeed modern Western music gained a new life through incorporation of this beat. Modern pop music owes a great deal to Western melody and harmony, but it wouldn't be the same without the beat and rhythm that came from non-western, especially African/black, sources. Brazil has tons of great music, and they owe something to African rhythm and beat--Africans also had a great sense of harmony through their folk songs. There's one theory that the music of Amazing Grace may have been inspired by an African song

Anonymous said...

Regarding the piano, one could argue if classical or jazz went further in exploring its potential, but one thing for sure, jazz piano was more dazzling--like musical skipping stones. One problem with classical piano was its one-dimensionality. Classical piano can be fast and virtuoso, but it seems to concentrate on one idea at a time whereas jazz had the feeling of multi-dimensionality. Jazz piano has more surprises. It is elegant and playful at the same time whereas classical piano tend to be either wimpy-tinkly or heavy-sticky. Of course, jazz piano cannot do a lot of things classical piano do, and I suppose it's kinda like applea and oranges.

Similar to the neglect of brass is the neglect of beat in classical music. Western music has beat in marching bands, folk music, etc, but generally drums were distrusted as 'savage' and 'wild'. So, drums in marching band music tend to be orderly and disciplined than free and colorful. And since Western culture had been moralized by Christian distrust of sensuality, even folk music could had to go easy on too much rhythm and beat. (Of course, white people weren't all that rhythmic to begin with.) In the area of the beat, Hindus, Africans, and even Japanese were far more expressive than Europeans. For Africans, it wasn't just music but a language with which people could hold entire conversations. Before blacks had free-form rap battles, Africans had drum-trash-talk-contests. As a result, Africans developed a very rich and varied use of drum music.
Maybe it was necessary for the West to suppress excess drum-ishness since a civlization needs orderly and disciplined people--just look what's happening to the underclasses in the US with all that hip hip ass-shaking beat. Even so, something was lost in Western music with the suppression of beat--and indeed modern Western music gained a new life through incorporation of this beat. Modern pop music owes a great deal to Western melody and harmony, but it wouldn't be the same without the beat and rhythm that came from non-western, especially African/black, sources. Brazil has tons of great music, and they owe something to African rhythm and beat--Africans also had a great sense of harmony through their folk songs. There's one theory that the music of Amazing Grace may have been inspired by an African song

Anonymous said...

Another problem of classical music is its vocal restrictions. Opera may well be the greatest form of vocal art, but, as with everything else, its expressive range is limited. It's emotionally grandiose, ripe, rich, creamy, etc. Certainly powerful, beautiful, tragic, uplifting, noble, humorous, but there's a whole bunch of emotional shades it cannot express. Pavarotti's operatic takes on song-songs are insufferable. The problem isn't opera per se but the rules of classical music that required all SERIOUS vocal music to be either be choir-ish or opera-ish. Even those German lieds are mostly female falsetto or some guy bellowing. Such refinement or narrowing of style removes or suppresses variety, personality, etc. Again, the problem isn't the opera or German lied per se but the idea in classical music that all vocal music had to be like that. Classical music had no use for someone like Stevie Nicks, which is too bad.
This may sound philistine-ish, but I'd rather listen to JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR than most classical vocals. True, JCS is mostly crap, but Yvonne Elliman's "I don't know how to love him" has real heart, personality, etc. It really sounds like a hooker who's come to feel shame and know grace. If it had been song in an operatic or German lied style, the hooker wouldn't sound like a hooker but an iconized sacralized version of a hooker. Western painting and classical music elevated 'nobleness', beauty, and holiness to such extent that naturalness was often lost. Just look at all those Crucifixion paintings where everyone is painted with ripe colors and making SIGNIFICANT gestures. It's overly mannered. Now, there is a place for that kind of art, and I'm not knocking it. But when it comes to dominate THE RULES OF WHAT ART MUST BE--and all SERIOUS artists conform to it--, there goes vitality, variety, and vivacity out the window.
There isn't much vitality in classical vocals. There's a lot of beauty, grandeur, nobility, etc, but little feeling of 'this is me and my feelings from the heart'. Too much of classical music are like those giant European paintings of classical themes or dead Jesus and people striking grand poses all around him. I mean enough already. I'm not saying Danny Boy is better than an opera; I'm only saying classical music should have provided room for vocal music other than choir or opera or overly mannered German lied stuff. And so, I'd rather listen to Danny Boy than German lied. I'd rather listen to old German folk songs than German lied. Anything but German lied.

Anonymous said...

Whatever one may say of Rock Music, it most certainly unleashed the greatest vocal variations and styles ever. And lots of personalities too, everything from Lennon's snarl to Dylan's growl to McGuinn's snicker to Hendrix's roar to Burdon's raging to McCartney's sweetness to Springsteen's dash to Gaye's groove, etc. Too bad classical suppressed all this by not only favoring but demanding only few sets of vocal styles.

Anonymous said...

The danger of classicism is form without individuality. The danger of modernism is individuality without form.
People who are taught only to play or draw in a certain way--to master established techniques--are not encouraged to develop their own style or personality; and this may indeed be a problem with many Asian classical musicians. Also, some music teachers demand that their students do it ONLY THIS WAY, and the students come think there is no other way.

But the other danger is excess modernism where students are not required to master anything but just 'express' whatever. Many art schools don't even teach stuff like drawing anymore. It's 'anything goes' mentality. It's like everyone's an 'instant artist' and it's 'reactionary' to 'force' them to master old dead white male art. Requiring students to draw 'conventionally' would be to 'impose' a discredited or outdated definition of art on his budding creativity and originality. In fine art, this leads to all the crap we see in contemporary museums. In music, we have a lot of crappy noise which puts itself forth as 'bold', 'daring', 'different', and 'avant garde' or some such.
Early modernists knew both form and embraced freedom. PIcasso learned the conventional craft of art--and knew all about it--before he embarked on his experiments. But the later fools just did whatever and got worse and worse. And when the art world got tired of all that, art was no longer art but 'art', something to be determined by the 'discourse' between the 'artist', critic, market forces, etc, etc. It became a form of sociological intellectual game, and maybe idiot Warhol was its master. After all, no one really cares about WHAT Warhol did but HOW he did it.

The Romantic period was especially interesting as a bridge between form and individuality. It broke free from the formal strictures of the classical period and made room for greater individuality but it didn't believe art was 'whatever you feel like'.

Anonymous said...

Here's the problem with control-freak parents who start their kids off with classical music. They are starting with refined stuff than with raw stuff. Kids need to come in contact with the raw before they come to know the refined. It's like you don't start mountain climbing at the top but at the bottom. You must first know the world of dirt, plants, rivers, streams, animals, people, etc, before you venture up the mountain. The view from the peak is thrilling because you've been down there at the bottom with rest of mankind, animalkind, plantkind, and earthkind. Even at the top, you feel an emotional connection to the world below--with all its good stuff, bad stuff, beauty, ugliness, nobility, vulgarity, etc. Astronauts out in space appreciate the view of Earth because they've been down there. Similarly, a diamond gem is cut out of rough diamond rock, marble sculpture is made from a crude slab of marble, and gold ring is made from a clump of gold. Before you get to the refined final product, you must first know the feel of the rough stuff. Only then do you appreciate the finer stuff. It's natural for man to refine stuff, make it more perfect, more poetic. Poets work on their verses over and over, and filmmakers edit the raw material into a movie. But they must first deal with raw reality, raw truth, real emotions, real passions, etc. The refined object is the final product of a process that begins with the raw stuff of life and creative materials. Though electric guitar playing became very elaborate and sophisticated, it began with country and blues guitar playing, and the great guitarists understood and appreciated this connection. As Dylan said of rock music, kids shouldn't just listen to him but the people who came before and influenced him.

Similarly, a gardener doesn't begin with flowers. He begins with seeds, soil, water, etc. He must get his hands dirty and he must have a feel for earth. And the seed sprouts by feeding on the nutriets in the soil--the rot, the dead insects and leaves, the crap, etc. It reaches above the ground and toward the sun, but it is connected to the earth. It has roots in the soil. The pleasure of a gardener as he gazes at the blooming petals owes to the fact that he toiled with the soil, He understands that the flower's beauty doesn't exist independently. It is linked to the soil. Likewise, music is connected to the muck of life, creativity, emotions, etc. Classical music refined and grew out of that matter. Great classical artists seemed to understand this, but I don't think people like Chua do. I can understand her disdain for the trashy vulgarity of much of modern pop music, but her disdain of Gamelan music as 'simple' folk music is just stupid. She sees the blooming petals but is blind to the stem, the roots below the earth, the earth itself.

So, children should be introduced to folk music, the soil, the muck, and nutrient of all music, before they're introduced to classical music. Similarly, a mother loves her kids precisely because of the pain and ewww-ishness of childbirth, with all the yucky slimy stuff coming out of the vagina. But that's where life comes from. No child arrived on the planet all clean, pretty, toilet-trained, well-behaved. Instead, the parent has to take raw biological material and shape it into a 'person' through caring, concern, affection, and all that.

Anonymous said...

And kids should be made aware of this fullness of life. They should be made to come in contact with the rawness of life too. Besides, kids naturally relate to animals in zoo and nature and all that. Kids should be led toward classical music, not taken straight to it while everything else is bypassed and neglected.
Without connection to the raw source of life, its creativity,and musical spirit, classical music cannot be truly appreciated. It's like in WINGS OF DESIRE. The angel abandons his wings and becomes human. Just being a refined spiritual creature wasn't enough for him. He needed to feel real emotions and real pain and real raindrops.
Indeed, what is the point of heaven without the experience of life? Going to heaven and being one with God only has meaning if one has lived a life. If classical music is the heaven of music, one should know the music of the earth before one reaches for the gold-lit sky.

It's like the casting of the bell in ANDREI RUBLEV. Tarkovsky doesn't just show us the wonderful final product but shows us the crazy, arduous, unpredictable, haphazard, violent, and wild process. And from this Andrei Rublev himself comes to understand that an artist, no matter how talented, cannot divorce himself from the raw stuff of life.

The odd thing about Chua is that the lifestory of her ancestors is very interesting, dramatic, compelling, the very stuff life's ups and downs. Even as she makes a big deal out of it, it's as though she's going all out to shield her children from that reality. It's as if, on some level, she feels ashamed at the lowly hardships and difficulties underwent by her ancestors and only wants the best, refined, and dignified stuff for her kids.

Anonymous said...

And kids should be made aware of this fullness of life. They should be made to come in contact with the rawness of life too. Besides, kids naturally relate to animals in zoo and nature and all that. Kids should be led toward classical music, not taken straight to it while everything else is bypassed and neglected.
Without connection to the raw source of life, its creativity,and musical spirit, classical music cannot be truly appreciated. It's like in WINGS OF DESIRE. The angel abandons his wings and becomes human. Just being a refined spiritual creature wasn't enough for him. He needed to feel real emotions and real pain and real raindrops.
Indeed, what is the point of heaven without the experience of life? Going to heaven and being one with God only has meaning if one has lived a life. If classical music is the heaven of music, one should know the music of the earth before one reaches for the gold-lit sky.

It's like the casting of the bell in ANDREI RUBLEV. Tarkovsky doesn't just show us the wonderful final product but shows us the crazy, arduous, unpredictable, haphazard, violent, and wild process. And from this Andrei Rublev himself comes to understand that an artist, no matter how talented, cannot divorce himself from the raw stuff of life.

The odd thing about Chua is that the lifestory of her ancestors is very interesting, dramatic, compelling, the very stuff life's ups and downs. Even as she makes a big deal out of it, it's as though she's going all out to shield her children from that reality. It's as if, on some level, she feels ashamed at the lowly hardships and difficulties underwent by her ancestors and only wants the best, refined, and dignified stuff for her kids.

crawfurdmuir said...

FeministX - Again, it depends upon whether by 'classical' one has in mind the narrower definition, meaning music from the period following the Baroque/Rococo and preceding the Romantic, or its broader signification as European art music before (say) the deaths of Puccini or Rachmaninoff. But even within the less inclusive category, there is music in which the performer has a great deal of interpretive and improvisational leeway. Any concerto that has a place for a cadenza is an invitation to the improvisational skills of the performer. It was also standard practice well into the classical period strictly so called for a composer to provide a figured bass, the realization of which was largely up to the instrumentalists responsible for it.

There are even more remarkable examples in the Baroque period, such as the unmeasured preludes of such 17th-c. French composers as Louis Couperin, Champion de Chambonnières, and Jean-Henri d'Anglebert. See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unmeasured_prelude

An easy example to play is Henry Purcell's imitation of such a piece, with the realization written out, in the prelude to the "Suit of Lessons" (Z. 665).

crawfurdmuir said...

Here's a rendition of Louis Couperin's unmeasured prelude no. 9, played on a Yamaha YPR9 electronic keyboard (using a vibraphone setting!):

http://www.andrys.com/lcoup9.m3u

Steve Sailer said...

Interesting about brass instruments.

It's worth considering how much styles drive instrumentation and how much instruments drive styles. Given the existence of the saxophone, how inevitable was the development of a more sexualized music like jazz?

Leonard said...

I've known plenty of classical performers - professional musicians in orchestras etc - who were as dumb as three boxes of rocks. Not sure how one reconciles this with Steve Sailer's conclusion. (Because orchestral players' labor unions tend to be remarkably powerful, even in countries like America where unionism is on the skids generally, it's hard nowadays to dismiss even the most lethargic player from his job.)

FeministX said...

The amount of improvisation expected in Litzt or Rachmaninov is nowhere near what is normally expected in jazz.

Anon,

And about clapping to classical- that has nothing to do with rhythmic flexibility. You do not appear to grasp the concept. Jazz is easy to clap to because it "swings". It is *because* the notes are held for very slightly differing periods that some beats seem heavier on a consistent basis. Those beats stand out and will be clapped to.

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting book well worth reading though maybe a bit PC for my taste. There was a good review by Terry Teachout in Commentary magazine.

CLASSICAL MUSIC IN AMERICA:

A History of its Rise and Fall

by Joseph Horowitz

http://www.josephhorowitz.com/content.asp?elemento_id=13

And our discussion of Asian interest in Classical Music echo some of the issues in this book. We say East Asian devotion to classical music is slavish than creative, reverent to the point of being mindlessly programmatic.

Horowitz says much the same about American classical music in the 19th century. Instead of encouraging the drawing of inspiration from the rich/complex/exciting world around them, the brahmins of good taste in music promoted a slavish admiration of European music. There was nothing wrong with admiring and learning from European classical music, of course; after all, it was the finest in the world. Even so, for Americans to be truly creative and original, they would have had to explore/express their own particular emotions and experiences to the music. But the American experience, subjects, and influences--folk music, etc--were considered too uncouth, vulgar, lowly, and elementary for something as high/mighty and noble as classical music. So, elite American composers were encouraged to strictly adhere to the European model. Those who deviated from this rule were shunned or neglected and became nobodies.
Today, we have greater regard for Stephen Foster than most 'serious' American music composers of the 19th century. (One of the great things about American Western music--the best ones anyway--is the classical use of frontier themes. The score for SHANE and BIG COUNTRY are really grand and uplifting, even if it may not be truly great music. It's very American.)

This kinda reminds of the power of Bosley Crowther as a film critics from the 40s to 60s. As head critic of NY Times, he had the power to make or break any foreign film. For a long time, his was the final word on aesthetics and morality. FOREIGN FILM RENAISSANCE ON AMERICAN SCREENS by Tino Balio does credit him for promoting many foreign films, but his narrow moralism/humanism also ruined many films, and by the 60s, he was a dinosaur behind the times. As Andrew Sarris said at the time, the problem with Crowther was really his power than his taste.

Anonymous said...

Anyway, the people who wielded the power of high/serious culture in 19th century America tended to look down on American culture while promoting slavish admiration of all things American. So, Europeans came to see the genius of Edgar Allan Poe before Americans did. And Mark Twain's stories weren't taken seriously by the literary brahmins of his time. They preferred 'serious' works that imitated European literature. Today, Twain is remembered but most of those 'serious' novels are all but forgotten. (And in the 50s, it took Europeans, especially the French, to point out that Hollywood has its share of genuine artists. Of course, Hollywood took its stories, ideas, etc from all spectrum of American life. The western or gangster story was not ignored because it was 'too low'. Hollywood wasn't just about SERIOUS ART all the time. It drew from life, myths, legends, lore, etc.)

American music had its folk richness in the 19th century, but most of this was ignored by the cultural elite who looked to Europe for REAL CULTURE. This surprised Antonin Dvorak who toured the US and was amazed by the musical variety and richness, not least among the Negroes. He advised Americans to take inspiration from their own musical/historical material, but most brahmins of American taste--centered in Boston--sneered at this. Because serious American composers neglected their own cultural roots, Dvorak decided to take a go at it, and produced his greatest work: the New World symphony. Now, some music critics have said that Dvorak's borrowing from American sources was rather superficial; NWS in fact owes more to Bohemian music than to American sources, Negro, Indian, or otherwise. But in spirit at least, Dvorak made a legit point. Americans were stupid to sneer at their own culture, experience, and expressions.

Horowitz agrees with Dvorak and traces the downfall of classical music in America to this never-ending slavishness to Europeanness instead of finding inspiration in its own history and folk music. Horowitz credits the success of jazz, pop, and rock to the fact that they did draw from indigenous sources. True to some extent, but I would argue the appeal of classical music was bound to be limited in America because it is elite music, and America is a democratic nation. Also, the indigenous sources of American music, rich as they were, were more suited to popular forms of music than classical music.

Even so, the aesthetic strictures of the 19th century demonstrates the danger of elitism. Art is by nature elitist, but cultural elites can serve it very badly by insisting ONLY THIS IS ART. If such people wield a great power and influence, especially among the patrons of the arts, it can kill the chances of a serious artist who cannot rely entirely on popular support; after all, popular taste has its own tyranny in the form of LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR.

The kind of support a true artist needs is seriusness of appreciation among the elites but also broadmindedness.
Of course, the problem today is the elites call ANYTHING art or music. If the elites in the past were afraid of being considered 'vulgar', elites today are deathly afraid of being considered 'conservative' or 'unhip', so they praise anything that's supposed to be 'radical'.

Anyway, it seems like people like Chua are not using music appreciation in her kids as a bridge between life/history and art/culture but using music as a castle surrounded by a moat from the world.

Crawfurdmuir said...

Anon. writes that "Bach and Handel compoosed a lot of music for brass, but... [i]t was like a horse trained only to trot along chosen paths."

The reason for this was technological, not artistic. The natural trumpets in use in their day could not play the complete diatonic scale. Valved instruments can, but were not invented until the nineteenth century. Their invention, in turn, required machining capacity of sufficient precision, which was not available in the time of Bach and Handel.

Audacious Epigone said...

The GSS has only directly inquired about musical preferences once, in 1993, but it's the best quantitative measure we have available to consult. The mean wordsum score for that year among whites was 6.24, so it's reasonable to presume those answering 7-10 of the vocab test questions correctly have triple digit IQs, while those answering 5 or fewer correctly are in double-digit territory.

The median score is consistently 6, however, so placing this middling group firmly in either the XX or XXX camp is unsatisfying. Consequently, only the 0-5 and 7-10 cohorts should be considered. Further, foreign-born respondents need to be excluded to avoid language fluency issues.

The percentage of XXers who say they like classical music "very much" (the strongest affirmative option) is 8.2%, compared to 23.6% of XXXers. Looks like when the person in question is a XXer, you'll get a false positive about one in twelve times.

Among XXXers, 4.2% report "disliking it very much" (the strongest negative option), and only another 9.5% say they merely "dislike" it, the rest either having mixed feelings towards or appreciating it, bringing the total among XXXers who have no use for classical music to 13.7%. By comparison, 41.2% of XXers feel this way. Gottfredson's tactic appears to be one that doesn't return too many false negatives, either.

Robert said...

Steve Sailer asks: "Given the existence of the saxophone, how inevitable was the development of a more sexualized music like jazz?"

I'm not convinced that it was inevitable in the slightest. For something like 80 years, the saxophone had been used by classical composers in France well before jazz was thought of. Examples of these composers include Meyerbeer, Berlioz, Bizet, Massenet, Saint‐Saëns, and Vincent d'Indy. They just used it as one more orchestral tone color (ditto German composers such as Richard Strauss and Hindemth later on), with no sexual connotations.

Anonymous said...

The comments in these last posts prove that all kinds of people really, really care about music.
And that's me being tactful.

Gilbert Pinfold.

Anonymous said...

FeministX: "You do not appear to grasp the concept. Jazz is easy to clap to because it "swings". It is *because* the notes are held for very slightly differing periods that some beats seem heavier on a consistent basis."

No kidding. What you're groping for is that running eighths in jazz are played in "swing time". But swing time is just a convention where two written eights are shorthand for a performed quarter and eighth triplet. There are plenty of "swing note" passages in classical music, too; the notation is just different.

But don't take my word for it: In music, a swung note or shuffle note is a performance practice, mainly in jazz-influenced music, in which some notes with equal written time values are performed with unequal durations, usually as alternating long and short. Music of the Baroque and Classical notes inégales era follow similar principles....
In most styles of music that use swing rhythm, the music is written with straight eighth notes, with an implicit understanding that eighth notes should be played with swing feel.


So, to recap:

(1) classical music can be swung, and jazz's swing time doesn't make it "more flexible;"
(2) classical music is full of rubato and any competent performance will have plenty;
(3) Baroque music, in particular, made use of unmeasured notation and pervasive improvisation.

I believe this settles the rhythm issue since every one of your arguments has been refuted.

It's pretty dumb to cite Liszt and Rachmaninoff's published pieces as evidence that classical piano music isn't improvisatory. Liszt and Rachmaninoff were superlative improvisers. For instance, Liszt would often take arbitrary themes from audience-members and improvise elaborate, lengthy solos from them.

Both wrote pieces for the home market to be performed "as written," much as jazz greats would publish carefully arranged albums in which everything other than the solos was precisely calculated, like Sketches of Spain or any Stan Kenton album.

Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, et al were extremely dedicated improvisers, eg JS Bach would improvise 5-voice fugues, and Beethoven would improvise 20-minute piano solos that got rave reviews (see the critical response to the concert where he premiered the 5th and 6th symphonies; the improvisation beforehand got the best reviews.)

Moreover, in Baroque music, except for solos (and sometimes even then, see 2nd mvmt), the keyboard part was expected to be improvised.

I sincerely hope that next time, you spend 5 minutes browsing Wikipedia before posting the kind of off-the-top arrant nonsense that makes educated professionals despair. Much less pursuing it through however many ill-informed posts.

-bb

Anonymous said...

classical is boring as shit idiot pride yall

David said...

>the "income boost" from liking classical music is bigger than the boost from having a college degree, [...] maybe if the president really wants to invest in our children's future, he should just find ways to make classical music really popular among kids<

I fear that would be putting the cart before the donkey. Classical music doesn't make one smart. Being smart tends to make one like or at least appreciate classical music.

frost said...

Classical music? Bah. Back in its day it was just popular music for popes and kings. Now its only use is for social signaling.

Case in point: Telemann. Has anybody heard a piece of his which was not boring, vapid and uninspired? Yet he is still in heavy rotation on the local classical station.

Anonymous said...

Now its only use is for social signaling.

Uh, no. That's not its only use. Some of us really do love classical music and don't care what the fuck it "signals".

You're right about Telemann, though. But most classical music radio stations nowadays are run by marketers with no understanding of or love for the music and are just trying to lure in those silly Yuppies who do use it for status signaling. Which is why those who really love classical music have stopped listening to most classical stations. (I haven't listened to my local station in years.)

William said...

Some of us really do love classical music...

I didn't mean to imply that people couldn't find classical enjoyable. I am more interested in debunking the idea that classical is somehow 'better' than any other kind of music. Way more effort and attention gets put into it than it deserves, IMO.

And I also don't mean to deny the importance of social signaling. Even tho I try to be relentlessly rational I find myself doing it quite a lot and it too can be can be pleasurable. A particular kind of music is often quite closely associated with particular social groups. There is a wikipedia page covering the scores of varieties of 'metal' music which illustrates this idea very well.

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