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Western classical music in modern society

09 Mar 2017Arts Essays

Music has constantly evolved from ancient times to the present era and it represents cultures of both ancient civilizations and modern society. The music that modern society enjoys now is music that is a conglomeration of many kinds of music influencing current forms. However, one kind of music has barely changed over the years and is still performed much the same way now as it was hundreds of years ago; this is classical music. In the Western World, classical music was lauded for its elegance and quality, as well as its complex musical characteristics. Aside from the way it was performed and the instruments used, there is little or no change at all to this kind of music.

The most important elements of Western Classical Music are “perfection of form structure, the humanitarian continence and aesthetic ideals.” (Telenet) It has basic qualities that are common with all kinds of western classical music; these include, an aesthetically chosen pre-designed sequence of sounds, an ascending pattern, a sound scale consisting on the average of 8 sounds, give and take, dependence on the rules of harmony or polyphony, an absence of pre-designed traditional motifs for a chosen scale or tonality, a beginning that is based on a pitch pre-fixed by Western standards, basis on a written score with little or no improvisation from the performer, and a score that is written according to the Western International Sol-fa system which is the same for all Western Countries. (Telenet) In terms of performance, Western Classical music can be performed by a soloist or a full orchestra with the addition of one other member in big performance to harmonize other musicians, and this is the conductor. Performance of Western Classical music in this modern age has change barely through the years mainly because of the constant tonal qualities of western classical music. The first note of every performance is never changed and so when pitch changes are needed; it is only the scale that varies but never the initial note. This has much to do with how western classical music is performed. This basically means that the music that was played by Benjamin Britten, Aaron Copland & Dmitri Shostakovich during their times is almost the same as the classical music performed today and like earlier periods, western classical music is never performed extempore because days or even months of preparation go into a single performance.

The most distinct changes to classical western music performance in modern society have to do with its delivery, its influences, and its use. Now, there are more modern auditoriums and top-of the line instruments that deliver sound qualities that were unprecedented during early periods. Performers now are more at ease in performing in fully-air conditioned, sound insulated auditoriums. Unlike the earlier years of western classical music, with this kind of music being considered as elite, performers had to endure the heat of the auditoriums in their physically restraining uniforms or costumes. Nowadays, this is something that musicians no longer have to deal with, and instead only have to focus on playing their music perfectly. In terms of the kind of music performed, “by the middle of the 20th century, melody had resurfaced as a centerpiece of modern works with an increased emphasis on rhythm; influenced in part by other popular genre such as jazz and pop music.” (TCPClassical) This is due partly to the reality that emerging musical personalities assume that classical music may be modified according the changes in the modern society.

“Publishers and conductors routinely bastardize the scores of Mozart, Beethoven, and other titans, conforming them to their own allegedly superior musical understanding or to the narrow taste of the public.” (MacDonald) This results to the corruption of Western Classical Music in terms of performance. However, despite such moves by modern musicians, western classical music has remained intact. In fact, in the middle of the twentieth century certain conductors and musicians felt a need to recreate western classical music as it truly was and they traded their steel-stringed modern instruments for the more primitive baroque style instruments and studied the original music sheets of the masters, which resulted to a more emotionally charged performance. This simply shows that western classical music, albeit changed significantly by many modern miracles, is still actually better performed in the ways it used to be performed. With the advent of modern technology, western classical music also found newer and more practical uses aside from just its performance quality.

“While classical music became more elite, the advent of recordings, radio and television gave classical music a new niche; the insatiable demand for music needed for new media, and film music in particular required much original music and recruited composers educated in the classical traditions.” (Mfiles) This meant that despite creation of new and more original music, the classical basis of performance still remains. Aside from this need for classically oriented composers, evangelical music as well as the presence of millions of audiences still impassioned with the melodies of Western Classical Music has ensured the vibrant existence and evolution of this particular art form which may well go onward into the new millennium not as corrupted western classical music but as the kind of music that the masters created and still lives on today.

Works Cited

  • MacDonald, Heather. "Classical Music’s New Golden Age." City Journal. N.p., 2009. 
  • Mfiles, . "Music Periods." Mfiles.com. N.p., 2009. 
  • TCPClassical, . "Periods in Western Classical Music." TCPClassical.com. N.p., 3 Dec. 2008. 
  • Telenet, . "Classical Western Music." Telenet.com. N.p., 2006. 

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