So what is this thing called ‘Classical Music’? What type of music is ‘classical’?
Well I looked in books, looked in dictionaries, and I looked on the internet. And I still can’t tell you what it is exactly. I know it when I hear it. But I can’t describe it exactly.
So let’s try a bad definition. Well, some people say that ‘classical music’ is ‘serious music’. This can be true. Classical music is often music to listen to carefully and think about. But I also know lots of very funny classical music (see, for example, the video of the typewriter piece on the modern page). So not all classical music is serious.
How about another bad definition? Some people say classical music is music that follows certain rules. These rules have been created over a long time by musicians in Europe. This can be true too. Classical music did begin in Europe. Much classical music does follow certain rules. One rule might be that classical music is performed on certain instruments, such as the piano, trumpet or human voice. Another rule might be that classical music is written down and tells the musician exactly what to play. However, no matter which rule you choose, there is always an exception. There is classical music written for non-instruments, such as computers (or typewriters—see again the typewriter piece). There is even classical music that lets the musician do whatever they want at some time during the piece of music! So not all classical music follows rules.
Another bad definition for classical music is to say what it isn’t. In other words, some people describe classical music as not jazz, not popular music, not folk music, not… and so on. This is also true in part. The music of the jazz artist Louis Armstrong is not classical music. The music of a modern rock band is not classical music. And nursery rhymes (one type of folk music) are certainly not classical music either. But there is classical music that could also be called jazz. There is classical music that was very popular when it was written (some of Mozart’s music, for example). And there is much classical music that is like folk music. So we can’t describe what classical music is by saying what it isn’t.
I think the best way to understand what classical music is, is to listen to it. Go to concerts. Listen to CDs. Or even better, learn to play it yourself on a musical instrument. Then you will understand.
And you will also understand just how exciting classical music really is. There is a world of sound out there just waiting to be discovered!
Here’s a little something to get you going. It’s part of Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 (known as the ‘Jupiter’ Symphony).
Fourth movement of Mozart’s ‘Jupiter’ Symphony
By the way, there are lots of different types of classical music. Click on one of these links to find out about some of them:
- A symphony orchestra. This is the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. The photograph was taken by Jason Kindig. I have asked for permission to use the image here. Click here for the source of this image.
- Mozart Symphony 41 “Jupiter” IV Mvt Molto allegro K.551. Mozart Symphony 41 “Jupiter” IV Mvt Molto allegro K.551 Bayerische Kammerphilharmonie Mark Laycock, Dirigent.