I was just reading a humorous debate on a music forum regarding the topic of “art music” versus “entertainment music.” I say it was “humorous” because I’m always amused by the certainty that some people have in their opinions about what the function of music should be and how it should sound.
Several of their arguments I have heard for years, such as: most pop “musicians” don’t have any significant musical training. The word “musicians” was actually put in quotes, as if to question whether people who write and perform pop music are actually musicians. Pretty incredible. This reminds me of an interview I once read with the great film composer Jerry Goldsmith. He was demeaning another film composer because that composer couldn’t read music.
Now, I actually have tremendous respect and admiration for the works of Jerry Goldsmith. But he, too, fell into the trap of placing a value judgment on a musician based on the person’s musical training.
I have read for years that Paul McCartney can’t read music. Has that affected anyone’s enjoyment of his amazing melodic gifts, vocal talents, and instrumental skills? Is Sir Paul a musician or just a “musician?” I can guarantee you that one hundred years from now, Paul McCartney’s music will be just as beloved as Jerry Goldsmith’s music (if not more so).
In the above mentioned music forum, another concept that was being argued was that “entertainment music” doesn’t make you think, whereas “art music” does. I can’t speak for anyone else, but when I want to think, I’ll read a book by Plato. I choose to listen to music in those spans of time when I don’t want to read a book. Music is, first and foremost, a sensual experience. If you require intellectual stimulation during your pleasurable moments, that only speaks to YOUR needs, no one else’s. (There is nothing wrong with those needs, but they are your needs alone).
Science has recently discovered that we don’t experience music in just one part of our brain. We experience it in receptors throughout our brain. Scientists believe that one part of the brain might experience the rhythmic elements of music, while another part of the brain is experiencing the pitch. We know from our own life experience that people’s brains assimilate the same information differently. How else could one explain people’s varying opinions on food, art and even politics? Our individual brain wiring might explain why heavily rhythmic music might appeal to some while richly melodic music might appeal to others.
So, to classify music as either “art” or “entertainment” is simply absurd. We are all wired differently and all of our choices in life reflect this. Some people are very cerebral by nature, others are much more sensual, and still others are a combination of both. Music is not a contest, and people need to resist the temptation to turn it into one. (Unless contests are THAT important to you).