Talk:Classical Music
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Talk:Classical Music

The image in the lead

Closing this discussion as requested at Resource: Requests for closure; there has been one comment in the past 5 weeks. A consensus on what is the best choice has not been achieved, although some of the options (B and D) were not very popular, so I suggest the best thing to do may be to reframe this as a discussion between two options - the montage (as per option A), or another image (as per option C - and to make things easier, perhaps select what the other image would be first). Fish+Karate 11:45, 7 February 2018 (UTC)
The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

So, nobody seems to agree on how this should be dealt with. The current version (actually: the one that was there before page protection) is, arguably, not satisfactory: why those 20 composers? is this really the best picture we can have to represent classical music? why composers?

In the above section (Talk:Classical music#Gallery of composers), "No such user" argues that having an arbitrary gallery goes against the result of some RfC from February last year. While I personally disagree with that interpretation (which seems to have been aimed at something completely different in the first place), it remains true that a gallery of composers might not be the best option.

As I see it, the following options present themselves:

Option A Reinstate the removed version (File:Classical music composers montage.JPG)
Option B Change/remove some composers (make a new version)
Option C Put something other than composers (example only for demonstration purposes File:Cesare Gennari Orfeo.jpg)
Option D Remove the image completely (and do not replace)

What is your opinion, and more importantly, why? (talk) 01:23, 9 December 2017 (UTC)

Tricky one since 'classical music' encompasses so much. I'm not a fan of the removed version both from'representational' and 'design' perspectives. IMHO one unifying image is preferable (from a design perspective) to a composite image of 20 composers (which is relatively 'busy' given the viewer's attention span).I would go for option C. I like the example image but it kind of singles out the violin. Perhaps an image of a music score with multiple parts (although less interesting) would be more representative of 'composition' (for instruments, voice, orchestra, concertos, opera, etc.). Mikemorrell49 (talk) 15:11, 21 November 2017 (UTC)
  • Support A, Weak support B What picture comes to mind when one thinks of classical music? That is a hardly subjective question and may explain why there is a dispute over this. Of course, we could put a picture of some instrumental ensemble playing. But, classical music is much more than ensemble music - and a symphony orchestra is hardly representative, of, for example, all other forms musical groups can take: quartets, choirs, .... Then, why not some instruments? Again, which ones do we put? People usually associate the piano, or (and) the violin with classical music - but we all know those two instruments (or any other combination) are, in addition to being off-topic (we are discussing music, not the instruments), not representative of the topic as a whole. Then, we come to composers. Is a long dead European male in a wig the first thing you think of when somebody says "classical music"? Hardly. But, it is also true that we usually associate some well known names with the genre (ex. the three "B"s - Bach, Brahms and Beethoven - often also the 2 Bs and Mozart instead of Brahms). Limiting the picture to such a small number is obviously not enough. However, by including a reasonable amount of them, from suitable periods, we can get a pretty satisfying picture. Is the removed version the best one? I'm not sure of that, but it does include notable names from the common-practice period - maybe including Palestrina and Schütz (for the renaissance period) and a few others would make it better, but in my mind it's clear that representing the genre with it's most notable representatives is the best way to do it. (talk) 04:06, 10 November 2017 (UTC)
  • A. There's nothing fatally wrong with it, and the article needs an image to prevent it from being a wall of dry text. Such a grouping of composers is never going to satisfy everyone, so I see no reason to attempt to satisfy everyone; it is sufficiently diverse in nationality and era. Softlavender (talk) 00:22, 11 November 2017 (UTC)
  • C, and oppose all others, per discussion below. There should be something but not faces of men ;) --Gerda Arendt (talk) 12:56, 25 November 2017 (UTC)
  • C, nothing against them being men, but A does make for a dull image which, (after you have played "how many can you recognise"), tells you more about the history of portraiture than about music. I endorse what someone says below that there is never going to be an informative, all-embracing perfect image, but a series of 'alive' ones capturing the activity of classical music making would be both more informative and visually interesting. Good luck choosing them! Pincrete (talk) 13:48, 29 December 2017 (UTC)
  • A. We must define the starting standard and from there exact a consensus on C (or other). Please restore the image, if only for the sake of working purposes. A vital article lacking a lead image is terrible. (Later) None of us are getting any younger. I fully support a consensus. For now we have a relatively non-offensive placeholder. I hope this is fair. - Thrif (talk) 02:46, 30 January 2018 (UTC)


As I recall, this issue surfaced once before, two or three years ago. I imagine it must be in the Discussion Archive somewhere. There is no question about Option B, since it would only lead to an interminable discussion of who to include, and who not to include. (If anyone seriously wants to consider this possibility, my suggestion is to include all "classical" musicians--not only composers, but organists, singers, bassoonists, etc.) Option C potentially addresses this point: why should composers take priority over other figures? The article as it stands does seem to make the assumption that composers are inherently more important than, say, conductors, violists, impresarios, or ushers. While this does not seem unreasonable, perhaps it should be made more explicit, if a photo montage of composers is to be accepted. This leaves option D, which may in the end be the only thing that will satisfy all parties, but it would be a shame not to have some sort of image.--Jerome Kohl (talk) 03:58, 10 November 2017 (UTC)
My Idea would be to use Option C and add there something like "The Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra". From my point of view a classical Orchestra is representing classical music. For sure it is not the only one, Opera or a Quartet is also representing classical music. But a Orchestra is somehow unique, with its instruments and the size. Could be also another Orchestra, not necessary "The Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra", its only and example. And yes: The discussion, which Orchestra to choose, could end up again in a edit war.
To choose option D is not a good idea, the article is looking "dead". This would mean also, that resource community is not able to fix such a discussion / conflict. --GodeNehler (talk) 06:59, 10 November 2017 (UTC)
I raised the issue briefly in 2016, in #Gallery of composers section above, still unarchived, but dropped the stick after reception of special pleading followed by a wall of silence. As I argued there, I strongly reject both options A and B, for the reasons stated by Jerome and majority of participants of this RfC, which explicitly deprecated galleries of people. I prefer option C, using a single image of a philharmonic orchestra, which in my opinion is most people's first association on "classical music"; barring that, we could use some montage of 4-5 characteristic ensembles, but I prefer a single iconic image. Even if we don't come to an agreement, I strongly prefer option D (no image) to A or B. No such user (talk) 12:44, 10 November 2017 (UTC)
But, is it really special pleading? And, why should we base our decision making here on that discussion? Guidelines are results of informed discussion, but they are not set in stone and are only there as a help to achieve consistent decision making. Is using a picture of classical music composers (or, per the opinion of others, maybe performers and others as well) to represent the genre the same thing as using a picture to represent an ethnic group? Even if it is, the first purpose of an image is to improve the article, or in this case more specifically to present a representative image to the reader. As I argued above, a symphony orchestra is too restrictive, while a group of composers from multiple periods is much more interesting - it provides interesting articles to explore for the interested reader. I understand that it may be a complicated topic deciding which composers/performers should be included, but one who rejects the idea on the basis that it's too complicated is really acting in bad faith to oneself - I'm sure we can come up with a representative list (if you don't like the present one) that includes the best known composers (and performers) from at least the renaissance to the 20th century. (talk) 00:12, 11 November 2017 (UTC)
I agree that 'D' represents failure. Does the montage of (yes, all-male) composers add to the article? Yes it does, yet other options might add more. How about a photo of Yuja Wang playing the piano in a sort of fishnet microskirt? Or Jacqueline du Pre playing the cello, in her youthful, wild enthusiasm and rather gawky dress-sense? (Is Danny Wiki-friendly? He might have some pics...) Or well, just the usual photo of Beethoven growling from that score, which could be labelled something like "The most widely recognised classical composer". I think recognisability is important, which rules out something like a photo of the Voces8 vocal ensemble (not whether they are "known or not", but whether it's obvious from the photo what they are doing), but supports anything with an instrument. In this sense the suggestion of an orchestra does seem a good one: possibly the Youtube orchestra? Or is it impossible to have a montage of images: Beethoven, Du Pre, a string quartet, and La Scala? Imaginatorium (talk) 07:59, 10 November 2017 (UTC)
I like the idea of a montage including performers and performing groups as well as composers. Arguably, the role of the composer is fundamental to classical music, but the previous montage of 20 dead European male composers hardly gave an idea of the breadth of the field. I don't know how we would ever agree on which images to include in the montage though. --Deskford (talk) 09:33, 10 November 2017 (UTC)
OK, 19 dead European male composers and one dead American male composer - I forgot Gershwin was in there! --Deskford (talk) 09:34, 10 November 2017 (UTC)
  • I propose some musical notation as a lead image, - these small faces of men are only good for those who recognize them, and there's nothing particularly classical nor musical about these faces. Bach comes to my mind, naturally, such as this one which doesn't have much text. --Gerda Arendt (talk) 12:53, 25 November 2017 (UTC)

On the scope of the article

While we are at it, we might also consider whether the subject of the article isn't being misrepresented rather too broadly. If a symphony orchestra is truly representative of the "popular image" of the topic, is it reasonable to consider the 6th century as a starting point? It seems to me that the defining moment of the beginning of the concept of "classical" music has got to be some point when a conscious difference is made between this and "popular" or "folk" music. Perhaps this does actually go back as far as the sixth century but, if it does, why stop there? Is it not just as reasonable to include, say, the Epitaph of Seikilos and the Delphic Hymns under the rubric. After all, these have a far better claim to the title "Classical" than anything after the 3rd century. If the concept does not reasonably go back that far, then is it right to apply it to music of, say, the 14th century? What about the 16th? The section of this article on Renaissnce music already hints at the fact that the important distinction up to that time was between sacred and secular music, not between "classical" and ... what? "Unclassical"? Naturally, there is a valid distinction also between the way music was viewed in the time of its production, and the way it is viewed through the lens of history, but this whole "classical" terminology is not very well-founded, it seems to me, as it depends in the first instance on a widespread popular usage that is nothing like being consistent in application. Before we choose an image to represent a thing, we really need to decide whether that thing is adequately defined in the article meant to explain it to readers.--Jerome Kohl (talk) 01:01, 11 November 2017 (UTC)
Agree that ancient music is beyond the scope of this article - unless we can come up with enough sourced information about European ancient music (which is hard, except maybe for ancient Greece). But, if we keep the scope of the article the the "popular idea of classical music", then we basically should just restrict ourselves to the common practice period - which I think we can agree is too strict. And this is not an article about the "popular image" of classical music. Is the medieval period too early? That is arguable - but we cannot limit ourselves simply to the c. p. period. (talk) 01:29, 11 November 2017 (UTC)
Certainly if we take the image of the symphony orchestra as somehow representative of what "classical music" is, beginning with the common-practice period sounds about right, and at the same time there is no reason to define "classical" music as coming to and end with the dissolution of the common practice, any more than symphony orchestras dried up and blew away in 1910. In this respect, the orchestra image does not seem such a bad idea.--Jerome Kohl (talk) 01:37, 11 November 2017 (UTC)
Absolutely correct (if I ignore my objection about the symphony orchestra not being representative), except there's already an article (a bad one, but I still think we should have separates article about the period and classical music as in the performing tradition and what came before common practice) about the common practice period and this article should be larger in scope (we don't want to have two basically duplicate articles, right?) (talk) 01:46, 11 November 2017 (UTC)
If we regard the common-practice period as merely the beginning-point for "classical" music, and not its end-point, then I see no problem. I hate to throw cold water over our warm agreement on this point, but our opinion naturally requires a reliable source to back it up. It is significant that there is no article on "classical music" (in our sense) in the New Grove, the Harvard Dictionary, the Oxford Companion to Music, or the Oxford Dictionary of Music. The term "classical" there is restricted to what we call the "Classical Period". If I recall correctly (and I don't have the volume within reach), the MGG is more helpful in this regard, though still cautious about too broad a usage of the term. The core of the problem is that it is much easier to determine what agreement there might be within "the academy" than how "people generally" think. Here, we must fall back on more general dictionaries and, astonishingly, the OED is just as cautious as the specialist references, with plenty of illustrative quotations but, when it comes down to a definition, offers this as sense 9 of "classical":

Of music: of acknowledged excellence; of, relating to, or characteristic of a formal musical tradition, as distinguished from popular or folk music; spec. of or relating to formal European music of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, characterized by harmony, balance, and adherence to established compositional forms.

Apart from the obvious conflation with "Classical Period", this of course devolves entirely on the word "formal", and cross-checking this in the OED reveals the definition to be hollow, since there are half-a-dozen possibly applicable senses, none of which make the required distinction from "popular or folk". In short, it is a case of "everybody knows what we mean, so we don't have to bother discussing it."--Jerome Kohl (talk) 02:07, 11 November 2017 (UTC)
Newby here and just an observation. The list of of classical and art includes a link to this page with the title Western classical music. It is stated that Western classical music is simply called 'classical music' in the Engish language. I wonder whether this true of readers accessing English articles from outside Euope and the US (India for example).Just a thought.Mikemorrell49 (talk) 15:16, 21 November 2017 (UTC)
For the purpose of this article, I think we can safely assume the most common usage is the European/North American one. As we were discussing earlier, the problem with the definition of "Western classical music" is that no reliable source gives a description for it - they instead use "classical music" more accurately for the specific period (roughly 1750 - early 19th century) within this tradition. As Jerome states above, for most of those established reliable sources, it's a case of "everybody knows what we mean, so we don't have to bother discussing it." - i.e. popular, not academic definition, and there is no reliable source despite this being a very real and common (and thus, worthy of being discussed) use of the term. So the current (rather warm) agreement we have reached is that this includes at the very least the whole of the common practice period (so, 1600 - roughly 1900) and (probably) the modern performing tradition. (talk) 01:17, 24 November 2017 (UTC)
  • I'd say most people mean Western CM when they say CM, as the primary topic. Perhaps a hatnote could explain that? --Gerda Arendt (talk) 12:53, 25 November 2017 (UTC)
@Gerda Arendt:The hatnote's already there - the question of whether the given date for the beginning is accurate is what we've been discussing (indirectly): where does the "popular" definition of classical music start and what do sources say of it, if they say anything? (talk) 13:38, 25 November 2017 (UTC)
If the critical moment in history is when "popular" and "classical" music diverge, then it may be useful to consider the article Popular music. While it is evident that this divergence is not clearly agreed upon, there are at least a few suggested criteria in that article, which at one place cites a source giving the late-18th to early 19th century as a benchmark.--Jerome Kohl (talk) 23:23, 25 November 2017 (UTC)
Nice, but that's not what I was saying - I was thinking of the fact, which we discussed above, that this article is mostly about the popular definition of classical music, in opposition to the academic definition (as you demonstrate by the lack of any adequate definition in sources). As for "popular" and, say, "learned" (for lack of a better term) music diverging, the dates seem about right - though there was a distinction between those two in the time of Bach (i.e. early-to-mid-18th): "in eighteenth-century German usage, Musicant denoted the ordinary music maker of the street-musician and beer-fiddler variety [and the use of this term by Johann Adolf Scheibe in 1737 angered Bach, who instead thought of himself as a musician-scholar]" (Wolff, The Learned Musician, 2001, Chapter 9, p. 305). (talk) 03:08, 26 November 2017 (UTC)
Well, if we are going to fall back on that sort of evidence, I think I recall a similar line in the late-9th-century Alia musica (or perhaps that was on the difference between "musicians" and "singers"). But a "music-scholar" is not exactly the same thing as a "classical musician", is it? I don't think it would be at all difficult to find reliable quotations from bona fide "classical musicians" today (never mind other varieties) distancing themselves from those repugnant "music-scholars".--Jerome Kohl (talk) 07:06, 26 November 2017 (UTC)
What you're quoting is, I think, a poem by Guido of Arezzo: "Musicorum et cantorum magna est distantia [...]" (Wolff, ibid.) - who seems rather to be making a distinction between composers and performers (i.e. we can think of this as being, respectively, cantors and choir boys). And the term is not "music scholar" (i.e. musicologist, about whom you're probably right), but musician-scholar (i.e. a "learned" musician, as per the title of Wolff's book) - Wolff clearly states that "Bach would not have wanted to pit the musical performer and the musical scholar against each other as mutually exclusive species" (Wolff, ibid.). (talk) 13:44, 26 November 2017 (UTC)
And for people who don't have the book, here is the relevant page I have been quoting all this time. (talk) 13:47, 26 November 2017 (UTC)
Well, no, I wasn't thinking of anything nearly so recent in time. Perhaps it was not the Alia musica, but something else of approximately that date or earlier. If we try really hard, we may be able to come up with something similar from Martianus Capella or Aristoxenus. This doesn't get us any closer to a solution for out problem, however. The 18th century is a much more plausible watershed, though we find the same composers and repertory containing what might be classified as "learned" music on the one hand and "popular" music on the other. For example, Telemann was often inclined to including a fugue alongside galant dances in his sonatas, and Mozart did not hesitate to write serenades and small dances for entertainment purposes, alongside his concertos and symphonies. Indeed, it is a good question whether these concertos and symphonies were really intended to be reserved only for connoisseurs, and the tunes from his operas were probably whistled in the streets and played by mere Musikanten.--Jerome Kohl (talk) 01:26, 27 November 2017 (UTC)
Well, Guido of Arezzo lived in the late 10th-11th century so your initial date wasn't too far off. If we start only in the 18th century, then we are excluding a good portion of Baroque music and all of the Renaissance (and the development of music throughout the Middle-Ages, including things such as apparition of notation, polyphony and tonality), missing out on composers such as Schütz, Monteverdi, Purcell and Palestrina. (talk) 03:26, 27 November 2017 (UTC)
Do you mean their popular, or their classical music?--Jerome Kohl (talk) 06:12, 27 November 2017 (UTC)
Well, I don't think people today see much (if any) major differences between popular or "classical" music of 500 years ago - and at the time, they weren't "day and night" (as today): a number of obviously "learned" music from the time is based on popular songs, such as L'homme armé. In fact, even the distinction between sacred and secular music doesn't seem to have been as large as today - some lutheran hymns in fact took their melody from secular songs, such as O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden (which takes it's melody from a secular love song). And if we just ignore "popular vs classic" for a moment, we cannot deny that the Middle-Ages, as much as they are known (rightly) as the Dark-Ages, are still the origin of Western classical music (i.e. the topic of this article) and it would be illogical to speak of the history of Western classical music while skipping the whole medieval period and what follows, which eventually lead to the norms and practices of the common practice period - which we both agree is a crucial part of the topic. (talk) 13:37, 27 November 2017 (UTC)

Option C

Here are some beautiful images I found in Commons that could look nice in the lead. The orchestra might be the most representative image of classical music, as others have said above. In the chamber music image you can feel the movement and the team work, which is cool. The close ups of hands playing classical instruments offer a more intimate alternative. Atón (talk) 21:50, 22 December 2017 (UTC)

@Atón:The first image might be the best of those you propose. The chamber music image, while it does have movement, is a tad too restrictive if we want to use it to represent classical music as a whole (since, although the string quartet is a well known form, we'd be neglecting all others...). The "Lute Player" focuses on an instrument which is barely played anymore, and shows it as too much of an individual effort, while we all know classical music is a team effort (in the very least of cases, between the composer, who writes some information on the score, and the performer who must decipher it). I like the last image, but it singles out the piano, which wasn't commonly used prior to the second half of the 18th century. The first image offers a great point of view, but it again singles out the string section (though, at least, it's somehow open-ended - you see the conductor at the far end - and because of that, you can imagine the rest of the orchestra without seeing it). (talk) 15:15, 25 December 2017 (UTC)
Why should there be an emphasis on instruments? In addition, orchestras, pianos, string quartets, and even lutes are used in many different kinds of music, not only so-called "classical".--Jerome Kohl (talk) 01:57, 26 December 2017 (UTC)
The image is not a substitute for the article, it's just an accompaniment. Besides, since it's impossible to accurately represent all classical music in one image, the "perfect image" doesn't exist. The only option besides no image is a "good enough" image. That being said, my idea was to emphasize the playing--the movement, the hands, the relationship with the score, etc. That's why I prefer a close up more than a bird view of a whole ensemble. Do you have other photos in mind? What elements should the image show, in more concrete terms than "all classical music", to be good enough? Atón (talk) 07:49, 26 December 2017 (UTC)
Personally, I think the montage of composers was a better option, even if the precise choice of individuals might be a matter of some contention. At least those composers could be regarded as representing "classical" music, unlike a photo of a piano, orchestra, accordion, or bagpipes. (You might just want to take a look at the photo credits for that shot of the piano, by the way.)--Jerome Kohl (talk) 17:31, 26 December 2017 (UTC)
The intention of this thread was to explore the possibilities of option C. I apologize for being unclear. Besides instruments or musicians, others before have proposed some musical notation. Maybe there are other possibilities. Atón (talk) 23:42, 26 December 2017 (UTC)
Sorry. As previously noted, I nevertheless see problems with this option generally.--Jerome Kohl (talk) 00:41, 27 December 2017 (UTC)
Could we put together a montage of all four of these images (perhaps adding a couple of others)? The strength of the Pantheon of Dead White Men was that at least it portrayed a reasonable cross-section of the genre's defining composers; picking one single image of these four would be roughly akin to the (in retrospect hilarious) decision by the builders of Boston Symphony Hall to carve only Beethoven's name above the stage. Any accompanying header image should strive for a fair degree of representing all of what classical music has to offer. ?.ZenSwashbuckler.? 21:52, 29 December 2017 (UTC)
I take it that no one has taken up my suggestion, above, about checking the provenance of the piano photograph? If jazz is in fact a subset of "classical" music, then we need to do a major re-write here, as well as at the article "Jazz".--Jerome Kohl (talk) 23:31, 29 December 2017 (UTC)

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Art music

It says in the beginning the classical music is "art music". Is it, really? I mean, maybe we generally consider it "art music" today, but I think that a lot of classical music was made more for functional purposes. I'm not an expert on this but of what I know the whole "art music" idea is more of a 19th century mode of thought. -- Preceding unsigned comment added by Lonious (talk o contribs) 15:17, 22 March 2018 (UTC)

New image

User: Francis Schonken, what is your problem with the new image? And none of the stuff you said is true, the "current one" is not the result of the RFC above (seems like you are desparately trying to get the new image removed, given this and the fact that you could have easily reverted but instead chose to take out the picture from the article entirely, but whatever).ScepticismOfPopularisation (talk) 17:54, 19 June 2018 (UTC)

And looking at the edit history, you acknowledged this as well, and added that picture yourself (taking it personally, eh?). This only further harms your position.ScepticismOfPopularisation (talk) 17:59, 19 June 2018 (UTC)


See WP:SYNTH for applicable guidance. There seems to be some synthesis going on in this article. For instance: the development of a notation system is (in the Hall/Neitz/Battani source) not described in the context of the topic of this article (classical music) but in the context Folk music (and is a sociological analysis). Similarly the Blanchard/Acree source (which seems rather a school textbook, not the most ideal source) does not refer to classical music on the cited page. --Francis Schonken (talk) 11:09, 20 June 2018 (UTC)

See literally every book on classical music.ScepticismOfPopularisation (talk) 11:12, 20 June 2018 (UTC)
Please supply full citation data ;-)--Jerome Kohl (talk) 18:16, 20 June 2018 (UTC)

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Music Scenes