Luther College, and really the entire town, is well known as a bastion for music. Our choirs, bands, and orchestras are all top-notch and travel the world to show their abilities. It’s a amazing blessing, but it comes with its own problems. For example, the average person will come across way more classical music snobs.
You know the type. “Oh, you haven’t heard 'Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor'? Well, you simply must! So much better than the schlock we hear today.” They’re the kind of people who’ll crap on any music made after the 1950’s even though they haven’t listened to a song made after 1920.
Keep in mind, this isn’t about people who like classical music. It’s, of course, a high quality art form with a deep history and centuries-worth of literature. This is about the people who not only love classical music, but look down from the top of their contrabass clarinet on anyone who doesn’t listen exclusively to Giuseppe Verdi or some other random Italian.
“Pop is the slow destruction of music as an art,” they’ll say. Well, I’ve got news for you. Pop and modern music is exactly what music was meant to be.
A friend of mine recently had the gall to say Beyoncé was overrated and untalented. His biggest complaint and the one I hear most often about pop music is that it’s all simple and is made for people to just party and dance around. Ignoring the fact that Beyoncé’s last two albums were critically acclaimed art pieces and not dance songs at all, music you can dance to and sing along with isn’t a bad thing.
Think about the origins of music, of sound and rhythm. I’m talking the beginnings of human history. Music was a tool for celebration! Entire tribes of people would gather together to sing and dance. If not that, music was a tool for sadness or mourning. Woeful wails would bring the entire community into a shared grief. I’m sure you’re catching on. Music was always supposed to be simple, a tool for everyone to express emotions whether they be happy or sad.
So where does classical music fit? Let’s look at the time period. Classical music’s heyday was a time of great innovation musically, but it was also a time when music stopped being communal. It would be composed to be performed at giant churches or at symphony performances or for rich people’s entertainment. In other words, it was largely for the elites. Knowledge of classical music and the ability to play the instruments in a symphony were often lessons taught to the children of nobles and the rich. Your average layman would be lucky to have heard it live, let alone be able to participate and understand the intense complexity of the music.
Classical music’s great at creating an ambience, but what good is it if it’s not for the entire community? At the time, the communal music, the music of old, was taking form in folk songs. Sure, they were simple. They were happy or sad, easy to play, and easy to listen to. That’s what made them great, and that’s why people remember "Scarborough Fair" more than Dietrich Buxtehude’s "Chaconne in E minor".
The equivalent to classical music today is, well, classical music. The equivalent to folk music today, the music that upheld the traditions all music was built on, is pop. I can’t begin to count how many times friends and I have belted "Crazy In Love" like madmen, and everyone around us who heard knew exactly what was happening. Some pop even transcends language with the energy and spirit of K-pop and J-pop being a hit in the USA (sly anime joke). Sure, some pop music is bad, but there’s something magical about that sensation of knowing that no matter who you are, you share the same spirit of music.Of course, you can enjoy classical music without being elitist and pretentious. As someone who basically only performs classical music (outside of showtunes), I know I do. It has so much to appreciate and learn from, and without it, modern music may not be in the shape it is today. Just remember, as much as it seems so superior to simple layman’s music, it’s the pop songs that can really feel like music to everyone.