Not all classical music is classical music. Classical music, in its true sense, conforms to a particular style and time period – not an exact time, but roughly from 1750 to 1825. Even so, much of what we casually call “classical music” was written before and after that chunk o’ time. So what gives?
Think of it this way: We call a lot of music “rock music” even when it doesn’t conform to the chord progressions and beats of rock & roll. There’s a huge difference between Ike Turner’s "Rocket 88" and The Cardigans’ "Lovefool," yet they both get played on so-called rock music stations.
So, classical music can either refer to the above mentioned period of Western music, or it can be a generic, blanket term for all that stuff you hear on the classical music station, or find when shopping the Classical Music Section at Amoeba Music.
The reason it’s good to know a little about the periods and sub-genres of classical music is it will help you find what you like. For instance, I’m a huge fan of what’s known as the Impressionist style of classical music, so if I find an album of some composer I’ve never heard of – like say, Sir Pooppants McNaughtybits – and he’s described as an Impressionist, there’s a very good chance that I will enjoy his music. In addition, if I see that the compositions on the album are concertos for clarinet (an instrument I love), I know it’s highly likely I’ll love it. (You know what a concerto is because you read my last blog entry.)
Hunting for classical music kinda becomes an exercise in chemistry. You say, “I know I love Baroque music, and I know I love violins, and I know I want something intimate sounding – something that won’t overwhelm me but help me study for my taxidermy exam.”
So, you go to your favorite Amoeba Music employee and offer these guidelines:
✵ Violin prominent
✵ Intimate and easy to study to
And they can offer some suggestions, like the Mystery Sonatas by Heinrich Ignaz Biber…
“But wait,” you coo softly into my ear as you cuddle my tender flesh and lift a chocolate bon-bon to my lips, “I still don’t know the different time periods. Like, what is Baroque?”
I take my time eating the confection before I answer you.
The most important periods of classical music to know are probably:
Medieval… 500 – 1400
Renaissance… 1400 – 1600
Baroque… 1600 – 1760
Classical… 1730 – 1820
Romantic… 1815 – 1910
Modern… 1900 – today
Within these guidelines (and they are just guidelines, always and often up for debate) there are many sub-genres, like Impressionism, Serialism, Musique mesurée, and McNaughtybitism – none of which I’m going to try to cover here, but all of which fall into one of the major time periods listed above. In beginning your orientation of classical music, don’t worry too much about the sub-genres, okay? That’s for later days.
But as for the major time periods, let’s pay some attention… in my next blog. For now, I am distracted by your endless supply of candies.