Welcome to the 21st Century

This is a silly little useless bit of information I noticed, but far more interesting than blogging about politics:

The iTunes Music Store has reclassified "20th Century" in the Classical section as "Modern/Contemporary." I had made such a suggestion to them a while back, pointing out that much of what was in the Post-Romantic period was composed in the 20th Century, and since it’s now the 21st Century, any new releases classified in this category wouldn’t really be appropriate. I’ve always hated the classification of “20th Century” as referring to contemporary classical music, for those very reasons. Welcome to the 21st Century, everyone. We’re here.

This is odd though. They have classified Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and Shoenberg as "Post-Romantic", while Shostakovitch is currently featured as in the Modern/Contemporary section. I surely would have placed Shosta-K squrely in the Post-Romantic set. In fact, I think the whole classification of Post-Romantic is somewhat off with iTunes, and difficult to pin in general because here in history (early to mid 1900s) is where styles began to differ wildly. When I hear the term “Post-Romantic”, I think Mahler, Richard Strauss, Shostakovitch much of Prokofiev, and the like. They have got Dvorak in there, which is clearly in the original, core Romantic period, and a bunch of impressionists like Ravel and Debussy. Stravinsky and Schoenberg need a new category altogether – and within those two, it’s really hard.

Stravinsky found atonality early, while Shoenberg’s earliest works like Verklärte Nacht were definitely dripping with the heavy syrup of Post Romanticism. Schoenberg quickly discovered Atonality and eventually invented 12-tone, while Stravinsky evolved to a retrospective style of Neo-Classicism and eventually to an abstract, more sparse, introspective style at the end of his career. You can’t put this stuff in one box easily. And that only scratches the surface – then you have stuff like Minimalism, Film, and everything else that kids are calling Avant-Garde these days.

Classifying music, especially artist themselves, is a frustrating and somewhat impossible task. There are pieces like some of Beethoven’s late Quartets that still sound ‘contemporary’ by today’s standards (and even the 2nd movement of the 7th symphony has a bit of chromaticism, and stuff written today that could easily have been Baroque, Romantic, Impressionist, or what have you. Same thing for other genres – what the hell is the difference between Alternative, Rock, Metal, Grunge, etc? I see the Foo Fighters in the Alternative bin in one day, the Rock bin the next, and the Metal bin in a third location. Is Kenny G Jazz or Elevator Music? And from Björk, it’s impossible to categorize one place for the artist: Trance, Pop, Jazz (Gling-Gló, It’s Oh So Quiet), and even Classical (such as an arrangement of Hyperballad, Evelyn Glennie stuff, etc.)

But you have to put the recordings somewhere I suppose, if you’re going to sell it. Sometimes I wish it was all just in alphabetical order. I never know where to find stuff – let me just sort the whole thing alphabetically please. When I’m running iTunes, this is how I listen to stuff anyway – put the whole collection on shuffle/repeat.