One of my goals for this blog is to expound my theory of musical supergenre. My idea is one of musical taxonomy taking into account fundamental differences in the way musical information is conveyed. Is the music written down in its entirety, conveyed aurally, or exchanged in skeletal form (the common jazz-world practice of lead sheets)?My theory aims to provide taxonomy for the entirety of human musical creation progressing from three supergenres into genre, subgenre, and style.Eventually, I hope to provide a database of musical creators and their creations, with their musical taxonomy defined.
Similar projects do exist but have organizational schemes that I feel are overly influenced by the music industry where categories exist primarily for marketing purposes. Some fantastic (but flawed) resources are the All Music Guide (artist database) and the Music Genome Project (implemented in Pandora Radio).
Perhaps an anecdote might be a good introduction to why I feel standard musical categories are important. I recently attended a conference hosted by the American Composers Forum at McNally Smith College of Music. The American Composers Forum (ACF) has, traditionally, catered to composers with a capital “C”. That is, people who work within that type of music at times labeled as serious music, art music, classical music, as well as those who create film music, or think of their works as avant-garde, or maybe electronic, or new music, contemporary classical, or concert music. It seems to me as though all of these labels refer to music that is created with careful intent toward posterity – toward high art. Art Music. At the conference, different presenters used the labels classical, new music, and contemporary. Art Music is a standard label used in academic circles so why hasn’t it become the standard label? Composers don’t have a standard label to describe what they do to those outside the high art musical world. The best they can do is attempt a description in terms of music the “outsider” might already know. Such explanations quickly become labored until common musical descriptors are found. Similar difficulties arise with all musical creators attempting to describe what they do to musical “outsiders.”
I’m sure all the musical creators reading this have experienced the frustration of trying to explain what they do to someone who doesn’t have a clue about their type of creation. Tell me about it!