Social Question

zensky's avatar

Why don't "regular people" like Classical music?

Asked by zensky (13272 points ) March 23rd, 2012

First, let me say that I put “regular people” in quotes to indicate that there is really no such thing.

Second, I am a very regular person and I do enjoy a cuppa classical now and then.

Third, this was inspired, nay, lifted from an old Dave Barry column – asking just the same. In fact, here it is

Enjoy the column; try to answer the question.

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42 Answers

JustPlainBarb's avatar

My husband is a “regular” guy and has always loved classical music.

Even my little grandson loves it… he calls them HIS songs!

I think people who don’t understand classical music, think it’s just for “snobs” or upper crust.

tom_g's avatar

Classical music just doesn’t work for me. I don’t get it. It feels soulless and technical.

And that’s pretty much it. Music either moves me or it doesn’t. Now, if I had to analyze why, I could come up with some guesses:
1. I don’t particularly like the collection of musical instruments used to create this type of music.
2. There are no drums or steady rhythm of any kind.
3. It feels inaccessible to me. When I listen to music that I like, some part of me is thinking, “hmm…I could do this”. Since I can only play guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and create electronic music, I know I can’t create classical music.
4. It doesn’t seem to cover the range of emotions that I seek in my music (rage, alienation, depression, etc).
5. I associate it with period movies, which I loathe.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Anyone that combines Dave Barry with Classical music gets a GQ. I love classical music. My fav is Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.

DaphneT's avatar

I like some classical music and not others. I think this stems from growing up with certain types of music, and being told that some music is boring and only certain people go to concerts and only people with money can have lessons and recitals, etc.

Now, I personally don’t know classical music like an aficionado would, nor do I know any other type of music with that detail either. I just like listening to the melodies, the rhythms, the string instruments more than to, say, the crass lyrics from something like hip-hop, rap and other modern pieces. I’ve found modern pieces that I love listening to in instrumental form, but the lyrics and lyrical interpretations detract. I dislike a lot of opera music because I can’t understand it. I’ve also heard interpretations of classical music with “rock’n roll” instruments that have been very appealing.

judochop's avatar

I mostly listen to loud rock n roll and hip hop but when I drive, all I listen to is chamber music.

marinelife's avatar

I think of myself as a regular person. and I love classical music. I think your question is insulting.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@marinelife Is that a little harsh? Just asking. Not judging.

marinelife's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe What are you talking about? What is harsh?

filmfann's avatar

From the above link:
“There are two chief kinds of Western music, classical and popular.” Thus we see that “classical music” is defined, technically, as “music that is not popular.”

That had me howling!

I enjoy classical music, especially Mozart and Bach. I think most people don’t have the patience for it, since it isn’t spoon fed in 3 minute bites.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@marinelife “I think your question is insulting” just sounded a little rough.

tom_g's avatar

Wait – what did I miss? What is insulting?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Mellow people. The last thing I want to start is a battle. I just asked a question about a response.

zensky's avatar

@marinelife Maybe you didn’t read the details part of the question. Maybe you didn’t get it. Either way, no-one could be insulted by the question – worse case scenario would be to take insult from Dave Barry’s humour – as I said – I literally took the question from him and quoted him. Besides – what is there to be insulted about?

Bad day?

dappled_leaves's avatar

I challenge your premise. I am regular people, and sometimes I do reach for classical first. It depends on why I want to listen to music at that particular moment. Sometimes, I just get cravings for particular pieces.

tom_g's avatar

@dappled_leaves – Are you under the impression that you are the norm? What leads you to believe that the average person has any interest in – or listens to – classical music.

DominicX's avatar

Most people I know who don’t like classical music are convinced classical music is boring, stuffy, outdated, irrelevant, and “for old people”. And these are intelligent people. But I also know a few who listen to some classical music for the purposes of studying, and I know one guy who knows more about it and does listen to it for fun on occasion, but I’m the only one I know who likes it as much as I do. I have thousands of classical music files and I listen to everything from 17th century Baroque to obscure atonal modern music.

What I find is that when I play classical for “regular people”, they never hate it. They always think it’s either pretty good or okay, but they never have the reaction that I would to screamo or country or something. If more people knew the variety of classical music and that it isn’t all just one violin and a piano (though that is good too!), then more people would like it.

And I also think a lot of the people who claim they don’t like classical music have only heard one type of classical music. There’s over 400 years of it. There’s probably some kind of classical music that they would like.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@tom_g My point is exactly that it depends on how you define “regular people”. In what way would you say that I am unusual?

Michael_Huntington's avatar

There’s a lot of reasons to not like classical music and all of them are just as valid as not liking any other kind of music. It’s just a matter of taste.
In fact, I have more respect for someone who does not like classical music (for a valid reason) than someone who pretends to like classical music (e.g. because it makes them look cooler or smarter), because fuck posers.

tom_g's avatar

@dappled_leaves – You challenged @zensky‘s premise. Regarding how you define “regular people”.... do you feel that the average American has any interest in classical music? Do you feel that they purchase this music at levels that comes close to any other genre of music? Do the local radio stations in your area provide as many options for classical music as other genres?

I don’t have data on this stuff, but I think the cultural signs are there: the average person in the US doesn’t like classical music.

I really had no idea that the premise would be controversial or insulting.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@tom_g I’m still mystified that anyone is finding this question insulting… but I see a difference between saying “most people don’t like classical music” and “regular people don’t like classical music”.

From the latter, I infer that “regular people” have things in common that aren’t particularly limited to their tastes in music.

Regarding radio stations – yes, there are as many classical stations here as, for example, classic rock stations or country stations. I’m not sure that clear conclusions could be drawn from that, given that radio appeals to a smaller segment of the population than music does.

tom_g's avatar

@dappled_leaves – Sure, “regular people” needs to be interpreted. I’m just surprised that “regular people” can be translated into anything that doesn’t include “most” or “average”. Admittedly, I’m going off anecdotal evidence here, but it would be fair – in my opinion – to say that the “average American” or the “average joe” or “regular joe” or “regular person” doesn’t like classical music in the US. Everything seems to point to this.

I have known one person who liked classical music, and he was a music major in college. When I pass people on the road during the summer, I don’t hear Bach blasting.

I think you are unusual – and that is not a judgement. I typically reserve “unusual” for compliments. In this case, however, it’s just a way of differentiating your musical taste from the “regular” people.

gailcalled's avatar

This is a silly and oversimplified question. I love classical music.

wundayatta's avatar

Regular People! [Shudder]. Hate them!

Haaaaaaaate them!

Just being near a regular person sets my nerves on edge. It’s like there’s some kind of radio frequency only I can hear and it makes like the constant screeching of a blackboard inside my head. Do not try this at home, kids. Not that you know what a blackboard is. Good thing, too.

Black boards are like the total elixir of regular people. They used to be in all the best schools and now they are in all the worst schools. Piddly that! Schoolmarm shoo-in for the fly contingent. Shoo-fly pie. All that.

But my god! Classical music? Talk about elixir! Elixir for the soul. Though my son is pending. He’s learning Bach. Sometimes he likes it. Sometimes not. What am I going to do if he’s a regular person? [Shudder].

It’s the acid test. Or maybe the litmus test. Or maybe the base test. Is acid good? Base bad? Is it the electric cool-aid acid test? Does Tom Wolfe like classical music?

Perhaps it’s the LSD test? Listen to classical music on acid and what happens? Surely only regular people [shudder] walk off the roofs?

marinelife's avatar

@zensky Perpetuating a stupid stereotype is not fun or funny. Just because Dave Barry wrote it doesn’t give it an imprimatur.

I thought that perpetuating the stereotype that “regular” people don’t like classical music was ridiculous.

GladysMensch's avatar

I take great offense to the insinuation that “regular” people don’t enjoy classical music. After all, you could set your watch based on my bowel movements, and I thoroughly enjoy classical music. As a matter of fact, the three Nocturnes of Claude Debussy were composed with the explicit intent of a predictable colon. In contrast, there are almost no examples found in “popular” music, dubstep not withstanding.

zensky's avatar

I put regular people in quotes. I quoted Barry. I said I was a regular person.

Anyone who still wants to feel insulted, well, to paraphrase; you can’t offend someone without their help.

On another note, as someone who is quite regular and likes the occasional clasical music, someone on the (classical) radio station said something interesting about how it’s still around after all these years. Think about it – if it weren’t good, and if people weren’t listening to it – it would’ve vanished into thin air. How much of today’s music would you guess would still be around in say, 100, 299, or 400 years from now?

I think I don’t have to really expand upon the premise of this question for the odd person who misunderstood it. I think classical music is amazing – I wish I understood and appreciated it more. It’s almost vital and instrumental (pun) in children’s learning the fundamentals of music, and when all is said and done – probably what I would take with me to the proverbial deserted Island. It stands the test of time.

DominicX's avatar

What’s even cooler about classical music is that a lot of it was written with the idea that it would be forgotten or only performed once. Composers in the 18th century probably could never have imagined that there’d be recordings of their music listened to by various people hundreds of years later. It’s excellent that it’s ben able to endure that long.

zensky's avatar

Exactly.

marinelife's avatar

@DominicX Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos were composed for a job interview he had and found stuck on a shelf.

thorninmud's avatar

I think of this as being like the culinary world. Back when Escoffier was enshrining what would come to be called “classical” French cuisine, everyone was in awe of it. It was so much more refined and elaborate than the old regional dishes.

A century later, we still appreciate the virtuosity that went into those dishes, and they still have their aficionados, but they’ve largely fallen out of favor as being too heavy, too rich, and too overworked. We associate it with excess and faded glory. The pendulum has swung back toward lighter fare with folksier roots and more spontaneity. So it goes.

Plucky's avatar

I tend to be more irregular than regular of a person. I love some classical music but hate others. Just as there are some modern music I love and others I hate. I believe there is at least one song out of each genre that I love. I love music but I also hate some of it ..if that makes sense.

My partner seems more “regular” of a person than I am ..she’s not into music that much. She certainly doesn’t get classical music at all. My sister likes music but not into classical either. The people I know that aren’t into classical don’t seem to “get it” like I do. It’s hard to explain.

Perhaps classical music is better appreciated by the more creative individuals out there; and not irregular people. I am highly creative and have always been. So maybe that’s the distinction.

What this all means, I don’t know :P

Sunny2's avatar

If you haven’t been introduced to classical music by your family when you were growing up, it may be hard to learn to like it. Yet, many people learn to like it as background music in movies. I’m thinking of Star Wars and 2001, A Space Oddessy, not to mention scary movie themes. It is more complicated music than pop or rock and has the possibility of arousing the emotions over a longer period of time than a song. you can shut your eyes and get lost in the classical themes that go on for ½ hour to 45 minutes. You might fall asleep, but it’s definitely worth learning about and trying. Of course, if you learn to like it, you can no longer consider yourself “regular.” It shouldn’t either/or anyhow. It should be both/and. I also like jazz, some rock, Grand Old Oprey, grand opera/ Broadway musicals, folk music from many countries and have even sat through a Chinese opera and gotten a kick out of it.

Symbeline's avatar

My knowledge of classical music is sorely lacking, and I seem to gravitate mostly around the more violent classical stuff, like O Fortuna, or stuff that Basil Poledouris composed for some movies. Still, my dad was a big fan, and I liked it when I heard it. It’s really relaxing, and it helped me to concentrate when I was drawing or doing my homework. We even had a teacher who played the The Ring of the Nibelung cycle during big epic tests. I love that Ride of the Valkyries piece.
I am also a regular people. Denno why some don’t like it. Maybe because it doesn’t fit the times, or the media and mainstream entertainment doesn’t praise it. Or just personal taste. I mean, classical is culture and history, but that doesn’t mean everyone has to like it.
I know you’re not saying that. I’m also frustrated that, when looking for legit pieces on the net, all I ever find are techno remixes. I mean I love Industrial and all, but goddamn it that doesn’t work with Frankenstein. What’s next, a rap version of Gloomy Sunday? Is that even considered classical? someone needs to teach me

MollyMcGuire's avatar

They do. I’m regular people and I like it.

Earthgirl's avatar

When thorninmud brought up the cooking comparison I thought he was going to go in another direction with it. I will use the analogy (thanks TIM!) but use it for making another point. Just as there is purported to be an “educated” palate vs. and uneducated palate it takes exposure to the music and receptiveness to it to appreciate certain classical works. There are the all time greatest classical hits that almost everyone seems to like and the less popular but just as brilliant lesser known works. Classcal music is so diverse that I would find it hard to believe that there are many people who wouldn’t like at least some of it if they were more exposed to it and gave it a chance.

I think it requires a certain patience from the listener and attentiveness. I remember going to concerts in high school and I used to close my eyes and try to imagine scenes that were in keeping with the mood of the music, almost as if it were a sound track. That probably does make some purists shudder, but at least I enjoyed the music. If I hadn’t done that I probably wouldn’t have been able to relax and get into the music.

And therein lies the problem I think for most people who grow up listening to top 40 radio. The attention span is so short. I just read an article that Wundayatta posted on my question about lyrics writing.
Here it is. I was astounded by the whole cold machinery of writing a modern Hit song. This part was really eye opening and shows you how short our attention spans have become.

”“It’s not enough to have one hook anymore,” Jay Brown, the president of Roc Nation, and Dean’s manager, told me recently. “You’ve got to have a hook in the intro, a hook in the pre-chorus, a hook in the chorus, and a hook in the bridge.” The reason, he explained, is that “people on average give a song seven seconds on the radio before they change the channel, and you got to hook them.”

The last line sums it up nicely. “The song is neither clever nor subtle—we are a long way from Cole Porter here….”

Yes we are.

mattbrowne's avatar

It has to do with making use of neuroplasticity in our auditory cortex. People need to learn how to listen to music, which usually happens during childhood. Exposure to more complex music literally changes our brain. We learn to perceive smaller and smaller nuances such as harmonic progressions. An untrained auditory cortex has trouble to distinguish the various musical instruments in a large orchestra for example. If a teenager just listens to rap and hip hop he or she won’t be able to hear the difference between Bach, Mozart, and Brahms. It more or less sounds the same and often can’t be appreciated. Learning how to sing or play an instrument is at least 50% about listening and making corrections. This too leads to physiological changes of the auditory cortex.

Earthgirl's avatar

mattbrowne Very interesting. You made me want to read more. Maybe I“ll read this book, MUsicophilia

mattbrowne's avatar

@Earthgirl – There’s also some recent research on senior citizens learning to play the piano for the first time and fMRI scans clearly show how thousand of neurons are being rewired and new neurons are growing. The book sounds very interesting !

wundayatta's avatar

If you want to learn music at an older age, try a workshop given by someone who has been trained by Music for People.

Sunny2's avatar

@Symbeline You might like to find out what Carmina Burana (O Fortuna) is about. It’s about Spring, dancing on the green, girls flirting, boys chasing girls and sex. The pulsing sexual rhythms leading up to coitus is obvious. The bit when the girl sings after climaxing is gorgeous.
Listen to the whole thing sometime. If you can find one on Youtube that show dancers during the dance interludes, that’s even more fun.

Plucky's avatar

@Sunny2 I love that piece. But I am quite positive it is mainly about the woe’s of fate. :)

cwilbur's avatar

Because people have to learn to understand music. Between about 1910 and about 1950 popular music moved away from the principles that underlie large-scale classical music. As a result, before 1910, people learned to appreciate music by listening to popular music: classical music did the same things, just on a larger scale. After 1950, people learned to appreciate popular music by listening to popular music, but they did not get any understanding of traditional classical music from that understanding.

So your average person tries to understand Beethoven as if Beethoven is doing the same things as Michael Bublé or Lady Gaga. Since Beethoven isn’t, the average person can’t make sense of his music very easily. And people generally don’t like what they don’t understand.

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