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Art Music Vs Commercial Music

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I had a conversaton with my father a while ago about music in general. At one point the conversation plunged into the inevitable subject of commercial music. We both came to the conclusion that there is a destinction between art-music and commercial music, but it's very hard to draw the line.

A little background information: When my father was a teenager he was a big fan a John Lennon. His first big musical cruss was on Imagine. There might be a thruth in saying his love for popmusic started when popmusic was on it's best. Like many of his generation, and also of other generations, he feels that it all went downhill from then on. He and I both have a aversion against music that is made soley to make money. We can both realy enjoy music that is a product of artistry. We started to try to draw a line between the two, but it proved to be difficult.

I think many agree when I state that Sgt Pepper is more artsy then Biebers new album (if not: why?). But, when Brithney sings the vocal part of Baby with all her heart, shouldn't the singing part of that song be considered art, but the rest of it not? If Rebecca Black thruly felt Friday was a song she could poor her heart in (she's a teenage girl and it's not uninmaginable that she felt connected to the song right?) isn't the vocal part of Friday a piece of art? If the bassline of Ushers You make me wanna is played wholeheartedly isn't that bassline art?

But, what is art in popmusic (and in general)? When can we consider a piece of music art and when can't we? What do you think, can we draw a line between artmusic and commercial music in popmusic? And if where?

Edited by Gijs
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That is a hard call for me and I have been on the outside looking in.

The only "art" I find in Jackson Pollack's work I find is con artist himself. Maybe the message isn't for me and maybe it's lost in the medium that only those with special vision can appriciate. Or maybe it's the emperor's new clothes.

The same thing holds true for music. Some of it I don't get, granted I'm old and I carry an old guys perspective. About the Beatles

I loved the beatles. Learned to play guitar using beatles fake books. That was my and my friends bible. But I never saw them as being really really out there. A lot of rock bands were doing a lot of exciting things at the time but none of them were the beatles.

And a lot was happening in jazz experimentation during the 50's and 60's but none of it stuck. "Free Jazz" was niether free nor jazz to my ears. I wasn't the only one. Which is why free jazz isn't performed much these days.

I play a few instruments. I've played in more then a few styles professionally. I've played with young as 13 to old as 90 all of my life. I've witnessed some amazing talent at all ages and at every stage of my past 36 years of playing music. But I've also been exposed to music that was "performance art" absolutely horrendus and based on the fact that someone wanted a stage for attention. Maybe I don't understand the medium, maybe the message isn't for me. Or maybe someone is acting out a psychotic episode and needs treatment.

About ten years ago I was invited to a jam. I almost never turn down the chance to play infront of or with others. And since I've had a varied experience playing I like the idea of playing outside of my normal realm. Well the "performance artists" were great at demonstrating thier lack of abilities with the instruments. I sat it out and replied "Interesting" as it was the polite response. So eventually I got a chance to perform some of my stuff and some covers. They were more impressed with me then I them. "Wow, you can tune a guitar" yes, "Wow you can play whole songs note for note" yes "Can you read tablature?" Yes, "Can you read regular sheet music?" yes. "We don't like that, we think that music should be just feelings, we think all that stuff gets in the way"

These guys were in their early 20's and quite possibly the second worst act I'd seen in my life. But they were all about noise as art (I wouldn't call it music) and they didn't strike me as the most artistic lot all their songs sounded the same from what I could decifer. To them it was something to do on a whim that would bring attention to themselves.

My point is this. We as listeners are not boundless. We have borders whether we consider ourselves musicians or not. Some performances may be outside our boundries so far outside that we can't build a bridge to them. As musicians or people we develop tastes in music. Those taste serve as the foundation of what is to come in our own musical evolution. As we explore define and refine they explore define and refine us. It's not just limited to technique

And it's not a generational issue though some like to percieve it as being such. When something goes to far outside our boundries we reject it. One person can't embrace all things.

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What is art?

for me art is the intentional expression of creativity using skill within one or more media. Admittedly many remove skill or intention. Certainly something that doesnt employ skill, creativity or intention can be perceived artistically.

The point is that commercial pieces can be just as artistic as uncommercial pieces. The distinction is in fact between art produced for yourself, versus art produced for a specifc audience or audience other than yourself.

Of course you can produce art, including music, for both yourself and others... so it isn't necessarily black and white.

What I often see being misunderstood is the wooly notion of "artistic integrity". The notion that somehow by producing commercial music it is either unartistic or that everyone who makes commercial music is unartistic, or has automaticallly lost their artistic integrity is something put forth by people jealous of the commercialsuccess of someone else's music, even as fans this can be felt. To me artistic integrity is compromised (if anything) when art is modified for commercial reasons only. Does thatmake the work artistically invalid? nope... or we would have no music industry!

Is it wrong to make money from art? Not at all. Is it wrong to write something that has a popular appeal? no way.

A writer can be self indulgent or not, but that is not the same as uncommercial versus commercial, artistic vs unartistic.

It is something levelled at musicians... as if artists dont need to eat or pay bills. Next time a builder repairs by house and doesnt expect payment because he did it for the pure expression of his craft I must ask...

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