[Smt-talk] Is "White Christmas" better than Mozart K570? It depends on the model ...

Giorgio Sanguinetti giorgio_sanguinetti at fastwebnet.it
Wed Dec 10 07:45:49 PST 2014

I often wondered why popular pieces are popular. Here is a short list: 

1) J.S. Bach, toccata and fugue in D minor 
2) Beethoven, Für Elise
3) Saint-Saens, The Swan
4) Mozart, K. 525
5) Beethoven, Moonlight sonata
6) Puccini, All’alba vincerò

For some of these pieces (BWV 565) there has been a discussion about authorship, for others we know for sure that their author was unhappy about their popularity (Moonlight). But, for sure, all of the above mentioned authors have written hundred of pages of much better music. 

The problem is: why are they so persistently popular? I know that they have been used for movies, advertisements, TV series, and all. But then: why the media people picked out them? Or is there something inherent in them that make uneducated listeners sigh with joy when the hear “pahh- pah pahh- pah pah pah pah pah pahh” and say “oh, that’s Mozart”! Perhaps they touch a chord (!) in our collective memory, such as some deeply buried archetypes? I don’t know. 

Giorgio Sanguinetti

> Il giorno 10/dic/2014, alle ore 05:45, Isaac Malitz <imalitz at omsmodel.com> ha scritto:
> I would like to explore the following comments by Timothy Chenette a little further:
> "I was very proud that I “relativized” my teaching of voice leading last year by having my students analyze and discuss a sacred harp piece that used parallels, “inappropriate” doublings, etc. But still, somehow, they left the course still with the idea that “old music was written according to rules, but in modern rock, pop, and jazz music people just do what sounds good.” If people can’t see the connections between what I’m teaching (usually old music) and the music they know best (usually rock and pop), that’s a big problem."
> I think the core issue can be made very clear as follows. Suppose you were to present the following two pieces to Prof Chenette's students:
> [a] Mozart Piano Sonata K570, Mvt 1 played by Mitsuko Uchida
> [b] White Christmas, sung by Bing Crosby
> I would expect that many students would enjoy [b] considerably and would find [a] to be a big yawn.
> (Perhaps I should use something not-so-antiquated for [b], but gee it's Christmas. Many good items of contemporary pop music could be used instead in [b]. Perhaps something from Prince's new albums)
> Of course from a conventional technical point of view, K570 is far superior to White Christmas.
> But is there any way to rationalize a preference for [b] (other than dismissing certain listeners as naive or unmusical or ...) ?
> I think there is:
> There are two different musical models that can be applied to [a] and [b].
> - A conventional academic note-centric model will effectively lead to a preference for [a]
> - However a model which is focused on the experience of music (e.g. OMSModel.com) will tend to prefer [b]
> [brief rant] I can't understand why many professional musical theorists continually try to stretch and distort conventional theory to apply to contemporary music (pop, jazz, serious contemporary, ...). [end of rant]
> I could elaborate on the above, but I'll wait for comments.
> Isaac Malitz
> imalitz at OMSModel.com
> www.OMSModel.com
> 818-231-3965
> _______________________________________________
> Smt-talk mailing list
> Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
> http://lists.societymusictheory.org/listinfo.cgi/smt-talk-societymusictheory.org

Giorgio Sanguinetti
via Giuseppe Avezzana, 6
00195 Roma
giorgio_sanguinetti at fastwebnet.it
tel. 06 32110265

More information about the Smt-talk mailing list