Musical genre - Género musical

Opera: representation of Turandot de Puccini at Luna Park in Buenos Aires (2001).

A music genre is a category that brings together musical compositions that share different affinity criteria, [ 1 ] such as their function ( dance music , religious music , film music ...), instrumentation ( vocal music , instrumental music , electronic music ...), the social context in which it is produced or the content of its text.

While the traditional academic classifications in musical genres have mainly attended to the function of the musical composition (for what the piece is composed, as in the previous examples), the classifications by genres of modern music , used by the recording industry , have paid more attention to specifically musical criteria ( rhythm , instrumentation , harmony ...) and to cultural characteristics, such as the geographical, historical or social context; The concept of musical genre has thus been assimilated to that of musical style , and today it is common for flamenco , rock to be described as "genres"or the country [ 2 ] (example: the rock is a musical genre very marked rhythm ). [ 3 ]

Academic classification of musical genres

Musical works have traditionally been separated by genre according to what purpose they have been composed for, that is, according to their social function and instrumentation (functional or material criteria).

Classification by function

Classification by instrumentation

  • Vocal music: all music in which the voice intervenes. Vocal music without any kind of accompaniment is called “acapella”. If it is a group of voices, it is called choral music .
  • Instrumental music : works performed exclusively by musical instruments, without the participation of the voice. Within classical music, if the grouping of instruments is small, we speak of chamber music . When the musical work is performed by an orchestra it is spoken of symphonic music . If the instruments that perform the work are electronic, we are talking about electronic music .
  • Pure or abstract music: it is music without reference to the extramusical; does not try to describe or suggest something concrete beyond what the listener is able to perceive and feel
  • Programmatic music : is the one that is based on a literary program, guide or extra-musical argument. It is music that tries to tell a story or tale, the life of a character, etc. A derivation of this genre is descriptive music , which is what describes a landscape, phenomenon or event (a battle, a storm, etc.)

Musical genres in current music

When the expression "musical genre" is currently used in non-academic contexts, such as commercial ones, in authors' societies [ 4 ] or by popular music critics, it is used as a synonym for musical style . Today often distinguish three major families of styles or genres: classical music , folk music and popular music .

Cult music

Classical music is also known as classical music , [ 5 ] [ 6 ] scholarly or academic . The nickname of classical music is a term often vague but deeply rooted and institutionalized in the society , in addition to the usual way of referring to other words like, which first appeared in the Oxford Dictionary Inglés of 1836 . [ 7 ] It involves all kinds of theoretical considerations ,aesthetic and structural and usually carries a long written tradition , which is why its interpreters usually have years of training in a conservatory .

folk music or traditional

Traditional music has been transmitted orally from generation to generation outside of academic musical education as one more part of the values ​​and culture of a people . Thus, it has a marked ethnic character that normally makes it difficult to understand on an international scale, although there are notable exceptions such as flamenco , jota , samba and, in general, all Latin rhythms that have maintained a certain entity of their own over time. . In recent times they have been grouped together in the artificial name known as world music (in English world music ).

Popular music

Popular music is opposed to academic music and is a set of musical styles that, unlike traditional or folk music, are not identified with specific nations or ethnicities . Due to the simplicity and short duration of their forms, they do not usually require high musical knowledge to be interpreted and they are commercialized and disseminated thanks to the mass media . [ 8 ] [ 9 ]This last statement is disputed by many composers and performers, and more and more popular music and cultured music tend to be thought of as music of different practices, although they share many characteristics of their language. There are popular musics that require high musical skills and, on the other hand, extremely simple cultured music. In general, it can be said that cultured music comes from music written in sheet music and popular music from the unwritten tradition, be it popular or professional. In part, the rise of the mass media and the music business have contributed to blurring the lines between these types of music. [ 10 ]

In short, it can be said that popular music emerged in Europe with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century , when technological improvement made it possible for manufacturers to start producing musical instruments in series and selling them at a reasonable price, thus reaching to the middle class . Another important advance in the development of this kind of music is produced in the nineteenth century thanks to the phonograph of Edison and the phonograph of Berliner , which allow the general public to record your own music or listenmusic composed by others without the need to attend a live concert . In fact, by the late 1920s of the following century , many prestigious composers and popular performers had already made multiple recordings that could be disseminated through other modern inventions of the time such as radio and, later, television . But it will not be until the fifties when popular music really reaches the popularization that it has today thanks to the development of rock and roll and the popularity that jukeboxes reached in bars , pubs, cafes and restaurants . In addition, he did not spend much time before they appeared in the sector new styles like pop music , electronic music , heavy metal , punk , hip hop , and reggaeton , to the extent that currently musical styles are so many and varied, and the borders so diffuse that it is difficult to know when one is talking about one and when the other.

Currently there are a multitude of musical styles in constant evolution. From those who present an established conception ( tango , blues , salsa , hip hop , among others); to broad and diffuse musical categories covering a heterogeneous absolutely framework musically, newly created by record labels to bring music to the layman and facilitate their classification in by them called "genres": ( rock music , universal music or world music , electronic music , among others).

Musical genre: Tango .

Classification of genres of popular music

Classification problem

Categorizing music is necessary to classify it commercially and historically, in addition to conceptualizing, distinguishing and defining it more clearly. The use of labels can also currently direct the development of new music to the extreme of helping to cultivate audience interest and participation in the early stages of a trend .

However, one of the drawbacks when grouping music by genre is that it is a subjective process that is highly influenced by personal knowledge and the way each one feels and listens to music. This is especially true in the "major categories" that classify music as cultured or popular music , due to the high degree of abstraction that the complexity of the ensemble requires to find common characteristics, and -at the other extreme- in the case of subgenres by detailed specification that also contrasts with the complexity of origins and influences of a given work. An example of the latter is the music of Led Zeppelin , which can be called heavy metal , hard rock, blues rock , depending on what each one interprets.

Some people feel that the categorization of music into genres is based more on commercial and market motives than on musical criteria. For example John Zorn , a musician whose work has covered a wide range of genres, wrote that these are tools used to "make an artist's complex personal vision more convenient and marketable." [ 11 ]

See also


  1. Van der Merwe, Peter (1989). Origins of the Popular Style: The Antecedents of Twentieth-Century Popular Music. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-316121-4.
  2. Royal Spanish Academy , Genre (art) , Dictionary of the Spanish language , twenty-third edition, accessed January 4 , 2008 .
  3. Royal Spanish Academy , Rock ( broken link available in Internet Archive ; see history , first and last version ). , Dictionary of the Spanish language , twenty-third edition, accessed January 4 , 2008 .
  5. Definition of "classic" according to the dictionary of the RAE
  6. Definition by Vert
  7. Classical, en el Oxford Concise Dictionary of Music, de Michael Kennedy (2007)
  8. ^ "Popular Music - MSN Encarta" . December 6, 2008. Archived from the original on December 6, 2008.
  9. «Popular art».
  10. ^ Aharonián, Coriún (1997-07). "Carlos Vega and the theory of popular music: A Latin American approach in a pioneering essay" . Chilean musical magazine 51 (188): 61-74. ISSN 0716-2790 . doi : 10.4067 / S0716-27901997018800003 . Retrieved June 20, 2020 .
  11. John Zorn, Arcana: Musicians on Music

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