Other Classical Musics argues that there are at least 15 musical traditions around the world worthy of the title “classical music”:
According to our rule-of-thumb, a classical music will have evolved… where a wealthy class of connoisseurs has stimulated its creation by a quasi-priesthood of professionals; it will have enjoyed high social esteem. It will also have had the time and space to develop rules of composition and performance, and to allow the evolution of a canon of works, or forms… our definition does imply acceptance of a ‘classical/ folk-popular’ divide. That distinction is made on the assumption that these categories simply occupy opposite ends of a spectrum, because almost all classical music has vernacular roots, and periodically renews itself from them…
In one of the earliest known [Western] definitions, classique is translated as ‘classical, formall, orderlie, in due or fit ranke; also, approved, authenticall, chiefe, principall’. The implication there was: authority, formal discipline, models of excellence. A century later ‘classical’ came to stand also for a canon of works in performance. Yet almost every non-Western culture has its own concept of ‘classical’ and many employ criteria similar to the European ones, though usually with the additional function of symbolizing national culture…
By definition, the conditions required for the evolution of a classical music don’t exist in newly-formed societies: hence the absence of a representative tradition from South America.
I don’t understand the book’s criteria. E.g. jazz is included despite not having been created by “a quasi-priesthood of professionals” funded by “a wealthy class of connoisseurs,” and despite having been invented relatively recently, in the early 20th century.
As far as I can tell, the question that best predicts whether the book considers a given tradition “classical” or not is: “Is this musical tradition considered, by its home culture, to be a ‘serious’ tradition for musical sophisticates?” Philip Tagg’s concept of “art music” tracks this book’s selection to some degree, but not that well.1
Here are the listening recommendations from each chapter that I found on Spotify, plus some of my own recommendations in some cases.
- European: You don’t need me for this. Though I did write a beginner’s guide to modern classical music.
- Jazz: You don’t need me for this. Though I am writing a beginner’s guide to modern art jazz.
- Southeast Asia:2 Music of Cambodia, Vol 1: 9 Gong Gamelan; Music of the Ancient Royal Court of Luang Prabang; Thai Classical Music Performed by the Prasit Thawon Ensemble; Royal Court Music of Thailand; Siamese Classical Music vols 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. My track pick: “The Rako Overture.”
- Java: Java Court Gamelan vols 1, 2, 3; Indonesia, Central Java, Solonese Gamelan, A Garland of Moods; Gamelan of Java vols 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. My track pick: “Gending: Tedjanata / Ladrang Sembawa / Ladrang Playon.”
- Japan: Japan: Nagauta. I’ll add: Gagaku: Japanese Court Music. My track pick: “Ninin Wankyu.”
- China: An Anthology of Chinese Traditional & Folk Music Played on the Guqin volume 1; China: Art of the Guqin; The Peking Opera: The Forest on Fire, The Princess Hundred Flowers;
- North India: The Raga Guide; Living Music from the Past: Kesarbai Kerkar; Ragini Yamani; Sound of the Sitar. My track pick: “Raga Yamani, Alap.”
- South India: None, but I’ll add: South Indian Classical Music. My track pick: “Swara Raga Sankarabharanam Adi Thyagaraja.”
- Mande Jaliyaa: Ali & Toumani; Big String Theory; Behmanka; Music of Senegal. My track pick: “Hakilima.”
- Andalusian: None, but I’ll add: Al Andalus; Tunisia, Vol. 1. My track pick: “Andalusian Nawbah in the mode Sika.”
- East Arabian: Enta Oumry; Turath; The Art of Improvisation in Arabic Music. My track pick: “Maqam Nahawand.”
- Turkey: Tanburi Cemil Bey vols 1, 2 & 3; Gazeller vols 1, 2, 3; Niyazi Sayin & Necdet Yasar; Neva; Bezmara. My track pick: “Sevkefza Saz Semaisi.”
- Iran: Persian Classical Music; Masters of Improvisation. My track pick: “Eveil / The Awakening.”
- Central Asia: Tajikistan: Classical Music and Songs; Ouzbekistan: Monajat Yultchieva. I’ll add: Uzbekistan: Maqam Dugah. My track pick: “Monajat.”
Finally, I present below some features of the musical traditions covered in the book, as far as I could tell from the book and some Googling. The first column is a list of common instruments, all listed in the singular and using English language category names — e.g. the Andalusian rabāb and the Hindustani sitar, both of which are types of lute, are simply listed as “lute.” The last two columns are subjective ratings from 1 to 5 that I made up on the basis of my impressions after reading each chapter. Historical documentation refers to how well-documented the tradition’s compositions and stylistic developments are. Innovativeness refers to how much pressure there seems to be within the tradition to invent new musical ideas, and how much musical innovation we observe (before ~1950, when Western classical music invaded everything).
I got bored part-way through assembling the table, so it is incomplete.
|Some typical instruments||Historical documentation||Innovativeness|
|European||piano, harpsichord, violin, viola, cello, double bass, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, french horn, trombone, tuba, drum, voice||5||5|
|Jazz||piano, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, clarinet, bass, drum, guitar, voice||5||5|
|Southeast Asia||xylophone, gong circle, oboe, drums, cymbal, voice||1||1|
|Java||metallophone, drum, xylophone, flute, spike fiddle, voice||1||2|
|Japan||flute, pipe, mouth organ, lute, zither, drum, gong, voice||3||2|
|China||zither, lute, harp, fiddle, dulcimer, guitar, voice||2||2|
|North India||lute, drum, veena, violin, zither, flute, oboe, dulcimer, harmonium, voice|
|Mande Jailyaa||xylophone, lute, harp, voice||1||2|
|Andalusian||lute, flute, clarinet, drum, tambourines, voice||2||2|
- Tagg (2000), ch. 2, distinguishes art music, folk music, and popular music by historical development (figure 1) and by other characteristics (figure 2). [↩]
- I didn’t list the selections for Vietnam, here, because from the chapter it seemed to me that traditional music of Vietnam had less of a claim to being a “classical music.” [↩]