A quick guide to the four main periods of classical music are Baroque, Classical, Romantic and 20th century. However there is one I sense is at great risk of becoming extinct like many animals and birds. Now called “The Great American Songbook” it’s the first 60 years of the 20th century containing a true Golden Era never before achieved in music. You’d think the later bilge brigade with guitar obsession monotony would have insured it from disappearing, but for some reason our kind of music is currently in a truly fragile state. It simply doesn’t deserve such a final fate as falling out of favour.
Essentially a crooning age, it’s a multi-faceted melodic and harmonic journey featuring jazz, big bands and light orchestras. From that, many societies (including the Robert Farnon Society) came out of the woodwork, providing music with a huge coverage of popular styles. And as for song titles, many have become great standards like You Go To My Head with symphonic overtones. Classical purists refuse to recognize their place in history. They don’t know what they’re missing!
But I still fear the worst. Little by little those gems of the past are beginning to be heard less and less. Why? The media is largely at fault neglecting them. It’s got nothing to do with the next generation outdoing the previous one. Perhaps the songs became just too professional with experts covering every angle. The world got sick of the best of everything and fell for a world of amateurs - ghastly voices and awful ditties purporting to offer a more poetic reality.
I am almost pleased to think I won’t be around to hear what’s next on the pop agenda. Why can’t our music be considered as important as classical? After all it didn’t affect the world of serious music. Their epochs remained set in stone as it were. Maybe it’s a bit early in history to elevate them but one day I’m sure the crooners will win the day and receive the praise they deserve.
I know it’s been all said before, but with the style in the process of doing a “Titanic”, how would it end? I’m absolutely positive though in the final analysis our music will eventually find its rightful place and join that illustrious band of great composers and lyricists.
Without any doubt I go as far to say there will never be an era like it because the world itself has never been in such a state and out of control. It was inevitable that something had to save it - music!
I too am concerned about a genre of music disappearing; a genre that in its inventiveness and engaging quality deserves fully as much respect as the greatest of the classics, and despite what the musical pundits and other musical intelligentsia may tell us, the purveyors of this music have as much skill and stature as do those in a more serious field. Indeed, in many cases there have been actual crossovers by some of these figures.
I am as concerned as Bob is, but I suspect that we are talking about two different things.
I am not referring to those figures who get most of the credit for the popular tunes that I am convinced will live on, such as Richard Rodgers, Cole Porter, Vincent Youmans, Irving Berlin, etc., many of whom may have banged their tunes at a piano with one finger, and limited in their ability to read music.
I'm referring to the many arrangers who by their efforts succeeded in making those tunes sound viable, in addition to being estimable composers on their own tight.
Whole programs could be set up featuring the work of these skilled composer/arrangers (David Ades would have been delighted with this idea) and in the past we have been fortunate enough to hear programs, mostly outdoor summer concerts devoted to such figures as Robert Russell Bennett, Leroy Anderson, and so forth. Nowadays, such presentations are as dead as the dodo.
In the past, I have indicated, somewhat regretfully, my being from the USA, that there is a marvelous tradition of light music coming out of the UK, from such figures of former years as Albert W. Ketelbey, Haydn Wood, Eric Coates, Felton Rapley and Peter Yorke, largely unmatched in this country, although we do have our strengths in this area, if not the same extent of a tradition.
All these figures I mention here along with many others I could name are virtually forgotten today, and quite undeservedly. Leroy Anderson's name is still occasionally mentioned, but to most there is a complete misconception of what he was really about; moreover, he himself resented being referred to as a tunesmith, and rightly so in his resentment.
There are specialists seeking to keep this genre of music alive, and I can only hope that their efforts will ultimately bear fruit and win an audience.
Although this is not primarily the subject of my comment, I agree with Bob in his worry about what the future of popular music will bring. I do not at all like the directions and trends that I am witnessing today, and perhaps, being of considerably old age, I might be spared seeing what the future trends will give us along those lines.
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