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View Full Version : Contemporary Classical Music Sucks: Here's The Science.



Gingersnap
02-22-2010, 11:16 AM
Audiences hate modern classical music because their brains cannot cope

Modern classical music is so widely disliked by audiences because the human brain struggles to find patterns it needs to understand the compositions as music.

By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent
Published: 9:00PM GMT 20 Feb 2010

For decades critics of modern classical music have been derided as philistines for failing to grasp the subtleties of the chaotic sounding compositions, but there may now be an explanation for why many audiences find them so difficult to listen to.

A new book on how the human brain interprets music has revealed that listeners rely upon finding patterns within the sounds they receive in order to make sense of it and interpret it as a musical composition.

Whiile traditional classical music follows strict patterns and formula that allow the brain to make sense of the sound, modern symphonies by composers such as Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern simply confuse listeners' brains.

Philip Ball, author of The Music Instinct, has drawn on the latest scientific findings from neuroscientists to show structure and patterns in music are a fundamental part of musical enjoyment.

He said: "Many people still seem to find modern classical music challenging. If that is the case, then they can relax as it is challenging for a good reason and it is not because they are in some way too musically stupid to appreciate it.

"The brain is a pattern seeking organ, so it looks for patterns in music to make sense of what we hear. The music of Bach, for example, embodies a lot of the pattern forming process.

"Some of the things that were done by those composers such as Schoenberg undermined this cognitive aid for making music easier to understand and follow. Schoenberg's music became fragmented which makes it harder for the brain to find structure.

"That isn't to say, of course, that it is impossible to listen to, it is just harder work. It would be wrong to dismiss such music as a racket."

Mr Ball believes that many traditional composers such as Mozart, Bach and Beethoven subconsciously followed strict musical formula to produce music that was easy on the ear by ensuring it contained patterns that could be picked out by the brain.

In the early twentieth century, however, composers led by Schoenberg began to rally against the traditional conventions of music to produce compositions which lack tonal centres, known as atonal music.

Under their vision, which has been adopted by many subsequent classical musicians, music no longer needed to be confined to a home note or chord.

But such atonal music has been badly received by audiences and critics who have found it difficult to follow.

Professor David Huron, an expert on music cognition at Ohio State University, has studied some of the underlying reasons why listeners struggled with such modern classical pieces.

He said: "Much of what the brain does is to anticipate the future. Predicting what happens next has obvious survival value, and brains are remarkably adept at anticipating events.

"We measured the predictability of tone sequences in music by Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern and found the successive pitches were less predictable than random tone sequences.

"For listeners, this means that, every time you try to predict what happens next, you fail. The result is an overwhelming feeling of confusion, and the constant failures to anticipate what will happen next means that there is no pleasure from accurate prediction."

Dr Aniruddh Patel, a researcher at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, California, said that tonal music such as traditional classical music uses some of the same mechanisms needed for processing language.

"This may be one reason such music is congenial to the human mind," he said. "It may be a reason why atonal music is more difficult when first encountered."

Dr Timothy Jones, deputy principal at the Royal Academy of Music, said: "Mozart and Bach have similar levels of complexity as Schoenberg, but those complexities are in different musical domains. Their music is very information dense.

"I would question how much of the familiarity with the music of Mozart and Bach has to do with culturalisation rather than an innate cognitive inability to understand the music of composers like Schoenberg. Certain people can learn to appreciate it."

Contemporary classical music isn't "challenging", it's fundamentally so far away from the structure of music that it is essentially professionally executed noise. I've been reading a lot about neuroscience and neuroplasticity lately. Everything I have read confirms my belief that certain contemporary art forms in music, poetry, the visual arts, and literature are essentially con games. They bear no relationship to the human ability to appreciate the arts. They are, in fact, de-humanizing in their structure.

If you dislike atonal music, free verse, or chaotic visuals, rest assured that you are not ignorant or provincial. You are a fully functioning human being with a normal sensory apparatus and an engaged brain.

Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/7279626/Audiences-hate-modern-classical-music-because-their-brains-cannot-cope.html)

The Night Owl
02-22-2010, 02:08 PM
Contemporary classical music isn't "challenging", it's fundamentally so far away from the structure of music that it is essentially professionally executed noise. I've been reading a lot about neuroscience and neuroplasticity lately. Everything I have read confirms my belief that certain contemporary art forms in music, poetry, the visual arts, and literature are essentially con games. They bear no relationship to the human ability to appreciate the arts. They are, in fact, de-humanizing in their structure.

If you dislike atonal music, free verse, or chaotic visuals, rest assured that you are not ignorant or provincial. You are a fully functioning human being with a normal sensory apparatus and an engaged brain.

Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/7279626/Audiences-hate-modern-classical-music-because-their-brains-cannot-cope.html)

Ultimately, art and music are intellectual pursuits and as such they don't have to conform to standards which are pleasing or which satisify our pattern seeking nature to be valuable. We should keep in mind that though our pattern seeking nature aids us in many ways it sometimes leads us astray (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martian_canal) too.

Anyway, I agree with you that an aversion to modern art is not necessarily evidence of ignorance but I think it can be evidence of narrow-mindedness.

Articulate_Ape
02-22-2010, 02:15 PM
Ultimately, art and music are intellectual pursuits and as such they don't have to conform to standards which are pleasing or which satisify our pattern seeking nature. We should keep in mind that our though our pattern seeking nature aids us in many ways it sometimes leads us astray (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martian_canal) too.

Let a bunch of five year olds play around with musical instruments and you will have a masterpiece of contemporary classical music. In short, it's what the people that failed music class play.

Gingersnap
02-22-2010, 03:52 PM
Ultimately, art and music are intellectual pursuits and as such they don't have to conform to standards which are pleasing or which satisify our pattern seeking nature to be valuable. We should keep in mind that though our pattern seeking nature aids us in many ways it sometimes leads us astray (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martian_canal) too.

Anyway, I agree with you that an aversion to modern art is not necessarily evidence of ignorance but I think it can be evidence of narrow-mindedness.

Art and music aren't simply intellectual exercises that promote or reveal philosophical, political, or religious views - they are complex codes that engage human brains at a very fundamental level. Pattern recognition is only a part of the code information that is used in art appreciation.

Rejecting modern arts that are entirely subjective and devoid of any common human symbolism or structure isn't narrow-minded. Taking contemporary classical music as an example, a failure to appreciate Cage's 4'33 isn't a rejection of style, it's an acknowledgment that there is no music to appreciate. This piece is meant to say something about ambient sound, audience expectations, and music culture. It's an intellectual observation, not a musical composition.

That's true of much in the art world today. The artist is making bald intellectual or political statements (or impenetrable subjective statements) rather than using any of the structures that are widely accessible to the human mind.

You don't have to know anything about Buddhism to "get" the beauty of Buddhist sculpture. Inuit animal carvings are instantly transparent to any human viewer even if that human has never seen an Arctic animal. Chinese opera may not be to everyone's taste but no one has to be instructed or educated in order to detect both music and story in the performance.

Speedy
02-22-2010, 04:07 PM
My daughter April as part of the Symphony Belles obligated me and her mother to attend all performances and one of the shows featured the work of Bear McCreary the composer who did the soundtrack for Battlestar Galactica and it was amazing. Many of the folks there had not even heard of BSG and were amazed that these compositions were for a Sci Fi television series.

This is one example of his more Classicaly based work. I think it is is just beautiful:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSYPYq9D_No

Here is another. Just awesome work and to think that it was just for TV.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1S81JN7rLk

BadCat
02-22-2010, 04:11 PM
This is why I don't care for Jazz.

I learned to play the guitar, not by being any type of virtuoso, but instead by being able to recognize patterns. I can learn any song by listening to it. There are only so many patterns it can follow.

Gingersnap
02-22-2010, 04:26 PM
My daughter April as part of the Symphony Belles obligated me and her mother to attend all performances and one of the shows featured the work of Bear McCreary the composer who did the soundtrack for Battlestar Galactica and it was amazing. Many of the folks there had not even heard of BSG and were amazed that these compositions were for a Sci Fi television series.


There are a fairly large number of musicians and musicologists who believe that motion picture soundtracks will be regarded as the "classical music" of mid/late 20th century. Atonal compositions will just be footnote folly when the dust settles. ;)

The Night Owl
02-22-2010, 04:30 PM
Art and music... are complex codes that engage human brains at a very fundamental level.

At the risk of summoning Gator, I should point out that the sound of water flowing down a creek engages my brain at a very fundamental level but I'm hesitant to call those relaxation CDs sold at Bed, Bath, and Beyond great art.

djones520
02-22-2010, 04:33 PM
At the risk of summoning Gator, I should point out that the sound of water flowing down a creek engages my brain at a very fundamental level but I'm hesitant to call those relaxation CDs sold at Bed, Bath, and Beyond great art.

Well one is naturally occuring, another is created by man.

Gingersnap
02-22-2010, 05:17 PM
At the risk of summoning Gator, I should point out that the sound of water flowing down a creek engages my brain at a very fundamental level but I'm hesitant to call those relaxation CDs sold at Bed, Bath, and Beyond great art.

Water sounds are relaxing to many, many people but not because they encode music. Water sounds are relaxing because they function as white noise which blocks out other sounds (both pleasurable and disagreeable). When cds combine water sounds and low-excitement instrumental music, some people believe they become even more relaxed. I dunno.

Those cds may not contain music that can be labeled as great art but it can be identified as music and it produces the same type of activity in the brain that Chopin does - something that many collections of deliberately produced sounds labeled as "music" do not. ;)

PoliCon
02-22-2010, 06:14 PM
If it's not aesthetically pleasing - it's not art.

Articulate_Ape
02-22-2010, 07:32 PM
If it's not aesthetically pleasing - it's not art.

If it was art, it would look like this.

http://i531.photobucket.com/albums/dd359/JamesSavant/underground_modern_art.jpg

PoliCon
02-22-2010, 08:01 PM
Your image is missing . . .

Rockntractor
02-22-2010, 08:02 PM
At the risk of summoning Gator, I should point out that the sound of water flowing down a creek engages my brain at a very fundamental level but I'm hesitant to call those relaxation CDs sold at Bed, Bath, and Beyond great art.
You strike me as the type that could sit for hours contemplating your navel!:rolleyes:

Rockntractor
02-22-2010, 08:03 PM
Your image is missing . . .

What image?:confused:

CaughtintheMiddle1990
02-22-2010, 08:15 PM
Eh, I'll take my Rock N' Roll over classical, new or contemporary any day.

"Hot Patootie bless my soul, I believe love that Rock N' Roll"

Rockntractor
02-22-2010, 08:20 PM
Eh, I'll take my Rock N' Roll over classical, new or contemporary any day.

"Hot Patootie bless my soul, I believe love that Rock N' Roll"

It always sounds pretty good doesn't it? I do like some of the new Age music though.

Bubba Dawg
02-22-2010, 08:22 PM
Eh, I'll take my Rock N' Roll over classical, new or contemporary any day.

"Hot Patootie bless my soul, I believe love that Rock N' Roll"

Yepper. :D

Articulate_Ape
02-22-2010, 08:24 PM
Your image is missing . . .

Oops. Thanks.

PoliCon
02-22-2010, 08:34 PM
Oops. Thanks.

NP - and BTW - that's NOT art.

Rockntractor
02-22-2010, 08:55 PM
NP - and BTW - that's NOT art.

I think they removed the art but some of the backing and adhesive remained!:D

Articulate_Ape
02-22-2010, 11:18 PM
NP - and BTW - that's NOT art.

It is if you are tone deaf enough to like modern classical music, hello? Is there a CU lexicon that I missed?

noonwitch
02-23-2010, 08:51 AM
Back in my high school orchestra days, I had a couple of opportunities to play modern classical music, the one I best remember is at Interlochen. We had to play that 12-tone crap, I hated it and so did the rest of the kids in the orchestra. We did New England Triptich by Schuman. It is horrible. I much preferred playing Tchaikovsky's 5th or even the music from Rodeo, which is Copeland and somewhat modern. It's musical, though, not atonal.

I don't even really like Mahler-too boring. I like Romantic, Classical, Baroque and other music, but the modern classical, with a few exceptions, really sucks. I don't know where Stravinksi falls-Romantic, or modern classical, but I like his work. Same with Copeland and Gershwin-"Rhapsody in Blue" is the quintessential american composition.

Kyle
02-23-2010, 04:16 PM
Let a bunch of five year olds play around with musical instruments and you will have a masterpiece of contemporary classical music. In short, it's what the people that failed music class play.


I don't think what your saying is fair. I do agree though that twelve tone and a-tonal music is an undesirable art form and most people do not like it. But i find twelve tone and a-tonal music very relaxing and/or exciting. Sometimes i feel like my brain is craving it and I'll listen to while driving or to relax and fall asleep at night.

Rockntractor
02-23-2010, 04:30 PM
I don't think what your saying is fair. I do agree though that twelve tone and a-tonal music is an undesirable art form and most people do not like it. But i find twelve tone and a-tonal music very relaxing and/or exciting. Sometimes i feel like my brain is craving it and I'll listen to while driving or to relax and fall asleep at night.

I hope it doesn't make you fall asleep while you are driving!

Gingersnap
02-23-2010, 04:43 PM
I hope it doesn't make you fall asleep while you are driving!

Like we can talk. You and I both listen to New Age. :p

Rebel Yell
02-23-2010, 04:48 PM
Here's the science...........

Music
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uY3LAFJbKyY


Shit
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrOJcEHXYWM&feature=PlayList&p=928B960DEC639263&index=10

Kyle
02-24-2010, 09:15 AM
Comparing Metallica to Ravel is like comparing western society with a random tribe in Africa, in no way are they better then each other, or have any similarities. The african tribe probably wouldn't like western society and western society defiantly wouldn't like the african tribe's way of living. there two completely different cultures that you cant compare. when i listen to metallic its sounds cheesy, repetitive, and boring. when you listen to Ravel im sure its boring and you just want him to get to the point of why he took three months to compose such a long piece of music.

noonwitch
02-24-2010, 09:24 AM
Comparing Metallica to Ravel is like comparing western society with a random tribe in Africa, in no way are they better then each other, or have any similarities. The african tribe probably wouldn't like western society and western society defiantly wouldn't like the african tribe's way of living. there two completely different cultures that you cant compare. when i listen to metallic its sounds cheesy, repetitive, and boring. when you listen to Ravel im sure its boring and you just want him to get to the point of why he took three months to compose such a long piece of music.



Have you ever listened to Metallica's S & M album? They recorded it with the San Francisco Symphony. It is way cool-it's not quite rock-classical fusion, because it is mostly rock, but it is a good combination of instruments and style.


Rock and roll is the result of the combination of lots of music traditions, including classical music. Classical influences might be more obvious in other rock genres than heavy metal (60's British pop, for example), but they are still there. Eleanor Rigby has baroque-style string backround music, for example.

Gingersnap
02-24-2010, 10:12 AM
Have you ever listened to Metallica's S & M album? They recorded it with the San Francisco Symphony. It is way cool-it's not quite rock-classical fusion, because it is mostly rock, but it is a good combination of instruments and style.


Rock and roll is the result of the combination of lots of music traditions, including classical music. Classical influences might be more obvious in other rock genres than heavy metal (60's British pop, for example), but they are still there. Eleanor Rigby has baroque-style string backround music, for example.

I've gotta go with Kyle here. Rock, regardless of its influences or unholy symphonic mergers, is a style of popular of music. Both rock and classical music use (or can use) a common notation and they can both be defined or described by the common musical structures they use but for the purposes of this discussion, they're not similar.

Driving a speedboat in a race and manually sailing a clipper ship across the ocean both involve floating transportation and water but enthusiasts of either form would be quick to point out that the differences in execution and goals are too great to lump the activities together. ;)

Rebel Yell
02-24-2010, 10:23 AM
Have you ever listened to Metallica's S & M album? They recorded it with the San Francisco Symphony. It is way cool-it's not quite rock-classical fusion, because it is mostly rock, but it is a good combination of instruments and style.


Rock and roll is the result of the combination of lots of music traditions, including classical music. Classical influences might be more obvious in other rock genres than heavy metal (60's British pop, for example), but they are still there. Eleanor Rigby has baroque-style string backround music, for example.

The S&M album kicked ass.