People who are not able to perceive melodies in classical music

Started by W.A. Mozart, July 04, 2023, 07:02:07 AM

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W.A. Mozart

In the comments of a Youtube video, a guy wrote that in classical music there are not melodies.

Surpisingly, he was not thinking about determined artists of the last two centuries who followed new unmelodic styles of classical music, but he used the music of Mozart to support his idea. According to him, most pieces of Mozart would be unmelodic.

His considerations sound strange, since Mozart is commonly considered as a great melodist, but after the guy developed his thoughts about the subject, I understood what is his problem.
His problem is that the melodies of Mozart stay on the same subject only for a few bars, and then they go to an other subject.

Basically, according to him, something is a melody only if it is simple, if not trivial.
He thinks that only popular-style melodies, where a theme is repeated over and over with slight variations here and there, are really melodies.

If a melody of a piano piece doesn't follow this simple structure, to him it sounds like "random key pressing".

A user in an other forum of classical music wrote that to his cousin this piece of Bach (which is an arrangement of the oboe concerto of Albinoni) sounds like a toddler who plays with piano.



This is an other very strange consideration, since to my ears there is clearily a melody.

Perhaps the difficulty that people have in following melodies in classical music might explain why many people think that classical music is boring.

It has nothing to do with the fact that classical music is slow/soft, since in reality it's not slow/soft (there are many pieces which are really energic), but with the fact that many people consider the melody as the most important ingredient of music but they are not able to perceive the melodies in classical music.


I'm not a neurologist, but I can imagine that in our brain there is a particular area which decodes the sounds perceived by our ears and that, like any other area of the brain, is developed better once you give it difficult tasks.

If you are exposed to classical music since your childhood, this area develops well, because the brain must learn to decode intricate sounds to give a sense to the external stimuls it receives.

On the other hand, if a child is exposed only to simple/trivial music, that particular area of the brain remains in "lazy mode" and when the child will be an adult he will perceive classical music as "random key pressing", because his brain is not able to decode the external stimulus.

It's always possible to develop better a determined area of the brain once you are adult, although it probably requires a greater effort.


The problem is that in the modern society the last pop star is put at the same level of Mozart et al. (you will easily hear that this or the other pop artist is a musical genius or something like that) and not because the music is really at the same level of Mozart, but for the opposite reason: it's simple, and therefore it sounds melodic/rewarding even for the people with the most undeveloped musical ear.

Furthermore there is a lot of realativism, the idea that art is completely subjective, and so you don't have to force yourself to get into the music of Mozart: if it doesn't sound immediately rewarding, it means that it's bad and that the last pop song is better because it's easy to get into it.


The musical industry is profit-driven, it doesn't try to educate the public. In a society with educational music institutions the people would probably receive the message that the music of Mozart might sound difficult at the beginning (if you are not used to it), but that after some hours of exposition your brain will start to develop the "sound area" and you will begin to perceive the order inside the intricate structure.

foxandpeng

Quote from: W.A. Mozart on July 04, 2023, 07:02:07 AMIn the comments of a Youtube video, a guy wrote that in classical music there are not melodies.

Surpisingly, he was not thinking about determined artists of the last two centuries who followed new unmelodic styles of classical music, but he used the music of Mozart to support his idea. According to him, most pieces of Mozart would be unmelodic.

His considerations sound strange, since Mozart is commonly considered as a great melodist, but after the guy developed his thoughts about the subject, I understood what is his problem.
His problem is that the melodies of Mozart stay on the same subject only for a few bars, and then they go to an other subject.

Basically, according to him, something is a melody only if it is simple, if not trivial.
He thinks that only popular-style melodies, where a theme is repeated over and over with slight variations here and there, are really melodies.

If a melody of a piano piece doesn't follow this simple structure, to him it sounds like "random key pressing".

A user in an other forum of classical music wrote that to his cousin this piece of Bach (which is an arrangement of the oboe concerto of Albinoni) sounds like a toddler who plays with piano.



This is an other very strange consideration, since to my ears there is clearily a melody.

Perhaps the difficulty that people have in following melodies in classical music might explain why many people think that classical music is boring.

It has nothing to do with the fact that classical music is slow/soft, since in reality it's not slow/soft (there are many pieces which are really energic), but with the fact that many people consider the melody as the most important ingredient of music but they are not able to perceive the melodies in classical music.


I'm not a neurologist, but I can imagine that in our brain there is a particular area which decodes the sounds perceived by our ears and that, like any other area of the brain, is developed better once you give it difficult tasks.

If you are exposed to classical music since your childhood, this area develops well, because the brain must learn to decode intricate sounds to give a sense to the external stimuls it receives.

On the other hand, if a child is exposed only to simple/trivial music, that particular area of the brain remains in "lazy mode" and when the child will be an adult he will perceive classical music as "random key pressing", because his brain is not able to decode the external stimulus.

It's always possible to develop better a determined area of the brain once you are adult, although it probably requires a greater effort.


The problem is that in the modern society the last pop star is put at the same level of Mozart et al. (you will easily hear that this or the other pop artist is a musical genius or something like that) and not because the music is really at the same level of Mozart, but for the opposite reason: it's simple, and therefore it sounds melodic/rewarding even for the people with the most undeveloped musical ear.

Furthermore there is a lot of realativism, the idea that art is completely subjective, and so you don't have to force yourself to get into the music of Mozart: if it doesn't sound immediately rewarding, it means that it's bad and that the last pop song is better because it's easy to get into it.


The musical industry is profit-driven, it doesn't try to educate the public. In a society with educational music institutions the people would probably receive the message that the music of Mozart might sound difficult at the beginning (if you are not used to it), but that after some hours of exposition your brain will start to develop the "sound area" and you will begin to perceive the order inside the intricate structure.


It often takes me a while to get hold of melodies that are subtle or fleeting, I have to say. Not suggesting that is always the case, but I find that perseverance is the only key to seeing what others seem to be able to appreciate far more quickly.
"A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people ... then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one's neighbour — such is my idea of happiness"

Tolstoy

W.A. Mozart

Quote from: foxandpeng on July 05, 2023, 07:03:58 AMIt often takes me a while to get hold of melodies that are subtle or fleeting, I have to say. Not suggesting that is always the case, but I find that perseverance is the only key to seeing what others seem to be able to appreciate far more quickly.

There some pieces of classical music in which there is not a clear sense of melody, but I bet that you are not speaking about Mozart. 

The person we're talking about was using Mozart as an example to show that classical music is unmelodic.

foxandpeng

Quote from: W.A. Mozart on July 05, 2023, 07:36:27 AMThere some pieces of classical music in which there is not a clear sense of melody, but I bet that you are not speaking about Mozart. 

The person we're talking about was using Mozart as an example to show that classical music is unmelodic.

No, indeed. A great many of the listening choices that I make tend not to lean hard into melody, although that is a bit of a generalisation and certainly not a fixed pattern. In the example you mention, Mozart would be hard to describe as lacking in melody, although it is some years since I really listened to anything he composed.

I think it is fair to say that the essential necessity of obvious melody in rock and mainstream 'chart' music probably leaves many listeners expecting accessible tunes that require little effort to remember. Nothing wrong in that, just doesn't prep people so easily for classical music.
"A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people ... then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one's neighbour — such is my idea of happiness"

Tolstoy

Daverz

I can understand how Mozart's "too many notes" might obscure the melody for unfamiliarized listeners.  On the other hand, I'm not sure the original YT post should be taken at face value given the strong cultural biases at play in any discussion of "classical" music (biases that I'm certainly not immune to).

Cato

Quote from: Daverz on July 05, 2023, 04:26:06 PMI can understand how Mozart's "too many notes" might obscure the melody for unfamiliarized listeners.  On the other hand, I'm not sure the original YT post should be taken at face value given the strong cultural biases at play in any discussion of "classical" music (biases that I'm certainly not immune to).



Quote from: foxandpeng on July 05, 2023, 09:05:12 AMI think it is fair to say that the essential necessity of obvious melody in rock and mainstream 'chart' music probably leaves many listeners expecting accessible tunes that require little effort to remember.

Nothing wrong in that, just doesn't prep people so easily for classical music.



Is the original YouTube comment a satire on popular taste?

To paraphrase Edward Gibbon, we could ask whether the popularity of e.g. Adele, Taylor Swift et al. condemns the taste of our era.

Some of the stupidest, clumsiest, and too-many-notesiest "melodies" can be found in our era's "popular music."  There are "songs" which cry out to be fixed by severely editing the number of words and finding synonyms with fewer syllables to improve the lyrics.

If the comment is not a satire, we should ask the writer how chanting on one or two notes qualifies as a "melody."

And yet, it is perhaps that very limited nature of what young people are saturated with aurally which has limited the expansion of their listening horizons.

QuoteOn the other hand, if a child is exposed only to simple/trivial music, that particular area of the brain remains in "lazy mode" and when the child will be an adult he will perceive classical music as "random key pressing", because his brain is not able to decode the external stimulus.

It's always possible to develop better a determined area of the brain once you are adult, although it probably requires a greater effort.


I believe that could be true: modern research has shown that "old dogs can learn new music."  8)

Concerning the "geniuses du jour" of popular music today...

Many years ago, I was asked to compose "something in a Spanish idiom" for organ and guitar.  (The organist was a good acquaintance, albeit mercurial, like too many musicians whom I have met throughout the decades, but that is another story.)

So, I came up with a melody emanating an Iberian perfume, along with variations, after studying guitar concerti from various composers, and kept the organ part spare, then created a sonata.

After delivering the finished product and waiting several days, my acquaintance called me and said - with disgusted incomprehension - that the piece could not be performed...

...because the guitarist could not read music!


I asked: "Well, then how does he play the guitar?!"

"He said he needs 'tabs' to play anything."

Neither of us knew what that meant, but a visit to a music store cleared that up: the guitarist would never be able to play the melody, as he expected simply to strum three to five basic chords.

Some years later, when Paul McCartney got the itch to "compose" the Liverpool Cantata, I discovered that he also claimed to be unable to read music: he hired somebody to notate everything for him (and to give it some sort of form, I suspect).

Sic semper gloria cantorum temporis nostri!   8)









"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)

Florestan

Why should you guys bother with, let alone be bothered by, what some bloke wrote on YT?  :D
When I'm creating at the piano, I tend to feel happy; but - the eternal dilemma - how can we be happy amid the unhappiness of others? I'd do everything I could to give everyone a moment of happiness. That's what's at the heart of my music. — Nino Rota

Spotted Horses

People with little or no exposure to classical music have a limited idea of what a melody is and don't find what they consider "melody" in classical music. So what? Don't we have anything better to do that bash people who haven't been exposed to classical music.
There are simply two kinds of music, good music and the other kind. - Duke Ellington

Florestan

Quote from: Spotted Horses on July 06, 2023, 12:00:06 PMDon't we have anything better to do that bash people who haven't been exposed to classical music.

I can certainly think of much better things to do: HIP vs non-HIP immediately comes to mind.  :D
When I'm creating at the piano, I tend to feel happy; but - the eternal dilemma - how can we be happy amid the unhappiness of others? I'd do everything I could to give everyone a moment of happiness. That's what's at the heart of my music. — Nino Rota

Karl Henning

Quote from: Florestan on July 06, 2023, 12:14:25 PMI can certainly think of much better things to do: HIP vs non-HIP immediately comes to mind.  :D

(* chortle *)
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Maestro267

At least the guy tried to make a discussion that wasn't just "What do you think of this piece?" Credit where credit is due.

W.A. Mozart

Quote from: Maestro267 on July 06, 2023, 11:36:19 PMAt least the guy tried to make a discussion that wasn't just "What do you think of this piece?" Credit where credit is due.

The discussions about pieces are the most interesting ones, since the fundamental point of a forum like this one is to discuss about music.

If you don't find this kind of discussions interesting is probably because of the lack of partecipants, but in other online communities have born long and interesting discussions around single pieces, sometimes even polemical discussions.

The implicit meaning of that kind is discussions is not to simply to anwser the question "Do you like the piece?". "Yes" "No". It's only an input to start a discussion about it. I expect critical reviews.
The point is also to suggest recordings.

W.A. Mozart

Quote from: Spotted Horses on July 06, 2023, 12:00:06 PMDon't we have anything better to do that bash people who haven't been exposed to classical music.

I'm not "bashing people". I'm trying to analyze the reasons for which some (many?) people find classical music boring and I'm also suggesting that they might start to appreciate it after some hours of exposure, when their brain, after a bit of training, starts to make a sense of more intricate melodies and harmonies in respect to the ones they are used to.

W.A. Mozart

Quote from: Cato on July 05, 2023, 06:08:02 PMIs the original YouTube comment a satire on popular taste?

I copy-paste the discussion here below.



ijuka (about the Moonlight Sonata of Beethoven)
---------------------------
What I really love about these songs by Beethoven is how melodic they are. Even with tons of notes going on the melody's more often than not there, and usually the melody itself is really great as well.

That's my criticism for someone like Mozart, tons of notes but not super melodic in comparison to Beethoven, which is why I don't find Mozart to be nearly as listenable.




W.A. Mozart
---------------------------
What are you saying? Mozart is known for eleborated and singable themes, while Beethoven is known for writing simple and small themes. For the Moonlight Sonata Beethoven has written long, lyrical melodies like Mozart usually did.

If you think that there is no melody in Mozart's pieces then you didn't listen to them or you don't have a good musical ear. I suggest to listen to the following symphonies of Mozart: 5, 6, 14, 25, 29, 41. Can you explain exactly how would these pieces be not melodic?



Frogony
---------------------------
@W.A. Mozart: Mozart has no melody



W.A. Mozart
---------------------------
@Frogony you look like a troll. Most people in classical music forums consider Mozart as one of the best melodists. Why? Because, in respect to some other famous composers, he used to write long melodies which feel already complete in themselves even without development... and infact many movements of Mozart have a short development section: the movements are covered for the 90% with exposition-repetition-recapitulation.



bujjibuugy
---------------------------
@W.A. Mozart Mozart rarely has melody for more than like 2 seconds and how would Frogony be a troll, he's literally speaking the truth.
If you want to experience real melody, I suggest you listen one of Percy Wenrich's pieces such as Golden Deer, Chicago express, Silver Bell, or one of Charles Leslie Johnson's pieces such as, Swanee Rag, Golden Moon, or one of Scott Hayden's pieces that is Kismet rag. All of those have real melody.

Once you listen to those you will realize how wrong you are and that classical music has no melody



W.A. Mozart
---------------------------

@bujjibuugy So, according to you the symphony 25 and the piano sonata no. 8 have no melodies?

Mozart was formed by galant music, and everyone knows that the galant style is strongly focused on melody.


bujjibuugy
---------------------------

@W.A. Mozart I'm not saying those don't have melody, I mean most pieces from Mozart have it for like 3 seconds and I'm not saying all pieces are like that, just most.
His music usually just switches melody every 2 secojds.
And I'd say all Mozart melodies can't even compare to Percy Wenrich or E.T. Paull for example

Mozart and classical music is honestly just boring to listen to. You don't have to understand music theory to like ragtime, ragtime just sounds good.


W.A. Mozart
---------------------------

@bujjibuugy The emotional reaction to classical music is subjective, but the fact that you admit that you don't like it because it's not simplistic like popular music shows that the problem of classical music is not the lack of artistry, but the opposite.
So, I don't want to convert you to classical music, but I think that you should admit that your lack of appreciation is the result of your inability to appreciate musical pieces which are not based on simplistic chord progressions but on more complex chord progressions with extensive development.

Classical music is complex in general and the music of Mozart is particularily complex compared to other classical music composers of his time: as you correctly wrote in your previous comments, his music doesn't stay in the same subject for more than a few bars. It's not copy-paste composition.


bujjibuugy
---------------------------

I don't listen to today's popular music, I only listen to ragtime. Pop music today is so bad.

Classical music to me just sounds like piano spamming. Random key pressing



W.A. Mozart
---------------------------

@bujjibuugy It's not spamming. Classical music is usually written in a structured form. You perceive it as spamming only because you don't understand the forms and because they are not simplistic like the forms commonly used in popular music.

Take for example the piece in the video here above, which is is written in the sonata-form.
The structure:
00:00-1:43 exposition
1:43-3:31 repetion of the exposition
3:31-4:22 development
4:22-5:51 recapitulation (altered exposition)
5:51 to end coda

The structural coherence is given by the fact that the development and the coda are based on the themes introduced by the exposition.
The structure is symmetric, because the development is preceded by the exposition and is followed by the recapitulation, which is nothing else than a variation of the exposition.

The exposition has an internal structure too.


There are complex structures and simple structures. If you went inside a large castle you might have the perception that it's a labyrinth, but your perception might be simply the consequence of the fact that structure is big and complex and you need a lot of effort to learn it.
Everyone who has studied classical music at least a bit knows that the classical music composers of the classical period were pedantic with structures, at the point that their music might be accused of being squared and predictable.

So I honestly see your consideration as poorly informed.


I bet that if you listened to the Rondo alla Turca of Mozart you wouldn't perceive it as spamming, because the rondo is a more simple form based on the repetition of a theme alternated with developments. Rondos in classical music are probably the closest things to popular music.

Keep in mind that if other pieces of Mozart sound like spamming to your ears is not because they are not structured, but because their forms is more complex than something like Rondo alla Turca.
I can ensure you that once you understand the form of the music of Mozart you see it as a square.





Cato

Quote from: W.A. Mozart on July 07, 2023, 03:50:15 AMI copy-paste the discussion here below.


Thanks: I suspect a good number agree with "Bujji," like my brother-in-law, who once claimed within 30 seconds that Stravinsky's Infernal Dance of King Kastchei was putting him to sleep.  :o

It was this vigorous version with Leopold Stokowski and the London Symphony.  😇


"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)