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Music that lasts…centuries? September 25, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Here’s a question, and this on foot of Mark Ellen and David Hepworth’s entertaining podcast which asked what contemporary or near contemporary pop music would be around in 200 years time. I’m tempted to say little or none given what is around from 200 years ago. But I genuinely don’t know. How does music last across time periods like that, or does it? Granted classical music remains a contemporary form that rests upon works that are sometimes hundreds of years old but what popular music is likely to have that longevity?

Throw out names and the Beatles, perhaps the Rolling Stones. Elvis? What about Cher, Madonna, Carole King? What about commercial considerations and what corporations are willing to promote?How does critical acclaim or otherwise factor in? Or does the contemporary digital era make music from all eras achieve a certain parity? In other words because everything is available from the last forty fifty years or so in popular music it all moves beyond chronological or other dynamics and into a sort of musical smorgasbord where whether a musician was singing fifty years ago of five months ago is irrelevant.

Is there a critical mass that a group or individual must achieve to have a longer lasting purchase on the culture?

Comments»

1. EWI - September 25, 2021

I think it depends on the ‘occasion’ for the music surviving (therefore disco appears safe).

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WorldbyStorm - September 25, 2021

That’s a great answer. I think you’re right!

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2. Mick 2 - September 25, 2021

It’s a really interesting and important question and, like many questions along its lines, it depends to some degree on your definition of ‘pop’/’popular’. There are songs that have stuck in our collective heads for literally centuries because they are that universally appealing and evocative and, like many historical personages, were there at the right place at the right time, and were there again, and again, such that they have just gone on and on and on and on…

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3. Bob - September 25, 2021

If you look at what gets revived from the last 100 years…; “Birth of the Cool” and “Rumours”?

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Mick 2 - September 25, 2021

There are certain recordings that will last the eons because they’re always in those canonical lists and presumably will continue to make them. A lot of people say Tusk is a superior album to Rumours. I’m subject to the circular on civil servants and political activity so I couldn’t possibly comment.

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4. Michael Carley - September 25, 2021

It’s nearly a century since Louis Armstrong’s first recordings.

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Fergal - September 26, 2021

But not two!
Too soon to tell is the honest answer if a bit of a cop-out too.

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5. polly - September 26, 2021

Great question. Someone wrote a long careful essay trying to work this out logically by looking back to see what made Gluck, Mozart, certain folk songs, etc survive and their contemporary peers fade out. I thought it was Ian Penman, but can’t find it now under his name. The writer concluded it was some combination of objective merit, and association with an important event or emotion that recurs in every generation. He tried to apply his formula to the Beatles, the Stones, Bob Dylan and Elvis, he thought only one would make it through, and dammit I can’t remember now which one.

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Bob - September 26, 2021

Will any popular music endure separately from its recorded performance? Dylan’s lyrics have a Nobel to recommend them but whre else, apart, perhaps, from The Beatles, is the music and lyrics sufficiently original and and emotional enough to be revived in an era when the cultural link with the 60’s is eventually broken.

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WorldbyStorm - September 26, 2021

yeah, I can’t work out if the link though functions in the way we all would assume it would, that once the 60s recedes past memory does that mean it is gone in the way it once would have been. For example, I’ve a friend in their early 30s who is a huge Stone Roses fan. Thing is they would have been perhaps 1 or 2 when the first Stone Roses album was released. Granted they’ve seen them live, but I remember listening to that on LP back in 1989 when it came out. And though I’m very fond of that album – though I think it a bit overrated, or maybe them as a band overrated more accurately, I think my friends love of them is much deeper than mine. Again, and to go with your point. Bob, they saw them live so maybe that’s the key thing but they were massive fans before that. Not sure they’re a band that will ring down the ages. But then maybe the cultural link with the late 1980s is still pretty robust.

That’s really interesting polly, objective merit, association with an important event or emotion. I can see how bundled together that would give some music a certain cachet. For my money It’s the Beatles who I think would come out ahead of those four and the reason being they had a broader range of sounds, not necessarily they were the best as such (though I could make an argument for them being the more innovative of that selection). .

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