Saturday, March 8, 2014

Popular and Classical

I don't know if this sheds any light on the post I recently did about styles and genres, but I found it intriguing at least. Here is an article from The Telegraph that lists the top 20 most popular musical artists from the BBC program "Desert Island Discs". These were chosen simply due to how often they were mentioned as favorite discs that guests would take with them if they were marooned on a desert island. Most of the top 20 were of popular artists and no surprise that the number one spot is held by The Beatles. But who do you think is number 2? Beyoncé? Nope. This probably reflects a couple of things about the demographic: that the data covers decades of the series and that the guests are probably an older demographic and also probably more highly educated. Number 2 is Bob Dylan. Number 3 is Beethoven and number 4 Mozart! Rather distressingly, number 5 is Pink Floyd. However, number 6 is Bach, so that's ok. I insist however that that hideous portrait does not depict J. S. Bach. Number 7 is the Rolling Stones and number 8 is Edward Elgar. What?!? Oh, right, This is a BBC program... Next is Ralph Vaughan Williams. I won't keep listing them, just to mention that the next two places that have classical composers are occupied by Puccini and Handel.

So the list reflects the tastes of BBC listeners, or at least of invited guests to a popular BBC program. I guess the only thing I want to take from this is that classical music is not quite as unpopular as we often think or as the mass media tells us. Also, it does tend to support my contention that some popular music might transcend its genre and become "classical" in some special sense of that word.

Here are pieces by the top four artists on that list, in order:

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