Fine arts/music

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Fine arts/music

Post by tiwonge »

Outside of classical music and opera, the only music I think I hear in the fine arts distribution is jazz. Are there any other genres of music that might be considered art (as opposed to trash)?

Recently, it looks like the circuit has decided that art film can include modern films. Can the same be said about popular modern music? Or older music like blues or folk music?
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by AKKOLADE »

Blues and folk potentially can be. I doubt pop/rock/etc could be. One of the big distinguishing things is "accessibility"; it's easy to get into, like, the Who, but not so for Robert Johnson.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by The Bold Ideas of Bernie Sanders (I-VT) »

I'll admit that a common link "songs/bands at Woodstock" tossup would be pretty awesome.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by Ethnic history of the Vilnius region »

tiwonge wrote:Outside of classical music and opera, the only music I think I hear in the fine arts distribution is jazz. Are there any other genres of music that might be considered art (as opposed to trash)?

Recently, it looks like the circuit has decided that art film can include modern films. Can the same be said about popular modern music? Or older music like blues or folk music?
There was a question regarding the Great American Songbook at ACF Nats this year. I liked the question and think there is a ton of good material in that area that, like blues and folk, is not generally asked about. Also, some older country music might fall in this area (Bob Wills, Jimmy Rogers, etc.). I reckon the way to work it in is to submit them as questions to tournaments and hope they don't get cut.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by Rococo A Go Go »

If quizbowl message boards had existed in 1942, we would have been arguing about whether jazz should be included in the canon, but thankfully time and the benefit of hindsight means there is little debate on the topic now. I think at some point the music distribution will open up to a wider range of genres, but some things may be too recent (and do not have enough musical scholarship focused upon them) to warrant immediate inclusion in the music canon. I definitely agree with Fred that blues and folk deserve a look right now, and I think it's safe to say that the early days of country and rock (can we get a Les Paul question?) are probably worth exploring as well.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by vinteuil »

I wonder how much more valid Stephen Foster—who makes a perfectly reasonable "classical" music tossup—is than any other more recent songwriter. I certainly don't think that anyone would question his placement in "fine arts," but if that's the case, then why not Sir Paul (birthday boy! :party: )? If the instrumentation is the issue ("voice and piano is the only kind of serious song"), then just ask about "The Long and Winding Road" (remix) or "You Never Give Me Your Money" etc.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by Steeve Ho You Fat »

Fred wrote:it's easy to get into, like, the Who, but not so for Robert Johnson.
I'd just like to say that Robert Johnson is one of the most talented guitarists and songwriters of all time, and it's a crime that so few people know about him. The blues is an art form, and deserves way more recognition as such than it currently gets, both in quizbowl and the world at large.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by vinteuil »

Well, Robert Johnson is somewhat of a connoisseur's pick of a bluesman—he certainly has enough recognition (e.g. from Clapton and Rolling Stone) at this point, to the point at which Howlin' Wolf and others seem "neglected" by comparison.

I wonder about calling the blues fine arts though, just as I wonder about calling verismo opera fine arts. They are not designed to be "high art" or whatever, unlike, say Quadrophenia. I would put this at the top of the criteria for something counting as art—being intended to be art. This is why Radiohead or Wilco might eventually be "fine arts," but never, say, Madonna.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by Matt Weiner »

perlnerd666 wrote: This is why Radiohead or Wilco might eventually be "fine arts," but never, say, Madonna.
There isn't a rolleyes big enough for this.

All of these opinions are pretty transparently "music I like or music that I think is 'good' is academic and important and everything else is trash." That is a Bad Opinion. The point of the academic/trash distinction is to make sure people do something other than listen to Pink Floyd in order to succeed at quizbowl. Yes, the Beatles are a good band. No, they are not what the arts distribution is for. Yes, it is a good idea to maintain a separate idea of academic art film and trash film, even in tournaments where both may come up. Yes, it is unfortunate that NAQT does not do this.

If you can't answer music questions, learn more things about academic music. If you can answer real music questions but still have some strange standard by which Wilco is "academic" but Madonna is "trash," possibly related to your oversized novelty hipster sunglasses, then you're still wrong even if the reasons for your being wrong are not self-interested ones.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by cvdwightw »

This discussion has kind of devolved from its original purpose, but I think reviving the central point can bring it back on track.

In April, Tommy posted a discussion of the woeful state of current film questions, identified a number of problems with how those questions are constructed in both answer and clue selection, and proposed reforms that would counter these problems. In my mind, there are some parallels between Tommy's description of pre-2012 film questions and the current state of "miscellaneous auditory fine arts." For instance, there are similarities between what Tommy saw as sort of a self-censorship of foreign film answer choices and the current state of the jazz canon (where over half of the jazz tossups at lower levels are on one of six people). Similarly, there are things that get in the canon because they are "old" or "culturally significant" and not for any measure of artistic relevance.

As I understand Colin's question, he's not asking "What kinds of things other than jazz should be in the misc. auditory arts canon?" but rather, "What are the criteria by which we should judge whether a question goes in the 'misc. auditory arts' or 'trash' category?".

The current response to that question, as Fred points out, is what I'll call the "inaccessibility" criterion: if you are unlikely to encounter the answer in the question in a non-academic environment, then it belongs in "arts." Otherwise, it belongs in "trash." As Tommy pointed out, this is woefully inadequate in film: excluding works of artistic merit just because they are "accessible" is wrong. But this means that we need new standards for judging whether a question belongs in "arts" or "trash."

I don't pretend to have the answers for those new standards. But I hope that the following questions of demarcation help lay out the discussion. Just to preemptively head off criticism, the first four questions have absolutely nothing to do with the "classical music" distribution and everything to do with the "misc. arts" distribution - I'm not advocating that any of this stuff replace the traditional 1/1 classical music (the fifth question deals with whether some things in the "classical music" distribution might be better off in "misc. arts").

1) To what extent, if any, does someone like Jaco Pastorius, who considered himself firmly within the "jazz" tradition, is considered by many prominent jazz musicians to be important within the "jazz" tradition, and yet recorded most (in his case, all) of his important work in the last 40 years, and occasionally worked in genres not considered "jazz" by purists, belong in "arts" as opposed to "trash"? Should these people be treated more similarly to the basic rule for authors ("if an author is clearly in the canon, all of his/her works are in, even if they are more recent/trashy than the works that got him in") or the new suggestion for directors ("such questions are encouraged, but only if they focus on specific kinds of works")?

2) To what extent, if any, do people who heavily influenced the American music tradition (e.g., Stephen Foster, the Carter family, George M. Cohan) belong in "misc. auditory fine arts"? If they do to any extent, what is the proper way to write questions on these figures?

3) Operettas such as Orpheus in the Underworld and Die Fledermaus are solidly "in the canon" (of opera) while Gilbert and Sullivan operettas are borderline (some people are okay with it, some rail against it). Musicals, despite having their roots in operettas, are solidly in "trash" regardless of any potential artistic merit. Are there good arguments for excluding all musicals from the "misc. fine arts" canon based solely on artistic (not cultural, not accessibility) criteria? If so, can those arguments uniformly be applied in the opera distribution regarding the aforementioned works?

4) Consider an album like Pet Sounds that is simultaneously popular and (at least to some extent) considered to have artistic and technical merit. There is obviously a way to write a tossup on this album that is very clearly trash. Is there a way to write a good tossup on this album that focuses exclusively on its musical/artistic/production techniques, similar to what Tommy might do with a tossup on Alien? If so, does such a tossup belong in the "misc. auditory fine arts" distribution?

5) One common critique of the classical music distribution in recent tournaments is that it overrepresents avant-garde composers at the expense of more solidly canonical (within an academic sense) ones. Should some or all of these questions be moved from "classical music" to "misc. auditory arts"? What are the criteria by which we should make those judgments?
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by Muriel Axon »

Can someone explain precisely what defines "academic" music? I get that classical music is typically included, and some jazz. The term "academic" implies that these are taught in college courses and are the subject of serious scholarly research - which is true - but some trash music is also taught in college courses and subject to serious scholarly research - in some cases even more so than certain academic composers/performers. Like, say, The Beatles.

If we are trying to use popularity or accessibility as a main criterion - in the informal sample of my circle of acquaintances, I can guarantee that people are more likely to listen to Bach or Vivaldi than Sonic Youth or Atom Heart Mother. (Hell, I won't even listen to Atom Heart Mother.) I'm also not really sure how the line is drawn between someone like La Monte Young being considered "art", while his proteges (like The VU) aren't, although I'm willing to accept that the line has to be drawn *somewhere*, and this is just where it happens to be.

I don't think anyone is specifically advocating using how old the music is as a criterion, but in case anybody would dare to try, I should at least point out that there are notable classical composers writing classical music right now (and same with jazz), and there were people making rock and country music 50 or 60 years ago. Maybe we should have a "waiting period" before a composer or his/her work can be considered art, so that critical opinion can coalesce, but that ought to apply across the board, and not just in particular genres.

I'm not stupid enough to try to make the case that there ought to be no academic/trash distinction, but I think the distinction will always be fuzzy, and it might be good for editors to be cautiously flexible in what they're willing to count as academic. What I mean by that is that I think it's a little silly to say that all classical music belongs, forever and always, in the academic distribution, and likewise, that all rock/pop/electronica/country/hip-hop will always be trash.

I hope I'm attacking a straw man here, but I really can't tell.

(Comments on others:
It should be taken as obvious that we can't just have a good music/bad music distinction, or a "music I like"/"music I don't like" if we want to avoid unbridled chaos, and I think Matt Weiner is setting up a straw man in saying that that's what many other people are suggesting. I'm also skeptical of the Satanic Perl nerd's suggestion that we go by the intentions of the creators - a lot of opera and the songs of Stephen Foster may have been written for popular audiences, but today they are recognized as art worthy of academic research.)

In response to some of Dwight's questions:
2. I don't know, but to push the question even further, what about figures like William Billings?
4. Yes, no, maybe so. I can't speak for Pet Sounds in particular, but if there is serious research being done into the musical content of these works, that would be my standard for inclusion. If the question is all about lyrics and the background of it's making, then (like you say) it's trash. There's a big gray area in the middle.
5. What kind of avant-garde are we talking about? Avant-garde today, or "avant-garde" fifty years ago? Maybe we ought to put a question about Thomas Ades or Jennifer Higdon in miscellaneous arts, but I can't see Boulez or Stockhausen suddenly drifting into academic obscurity within the near future. They are as canon as canon gets, in the classical music world. (Notably, most figures who are avant-garde today are still too obscure for most quiz bowl tournaments)
Last edited by Muriel Axon on Mon Jun 18, 2012 10:12 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Fine arts/music

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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by bmcke »

I think making new "art criteria" for the academic QB canon could easily just mean trying to rebuild the "inaccessibility criteria" without actually invoking issues of what's in the mainstream. I recognize that it's unfair to the Beatles and Beatles experts that they're excluded from "music - other" for being more recent than Cole Porter or whatever, but I like it that quizbowl emphasizes a highbrow / snobbish / academic set of things to know. Trash still exists and is still great.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by vinteuil »

Matt Weiner wrote:
perlnerd666 wrote: This is why Radiohead or Wilco might eventually be "fine arts," but never, say, Madonna.
There isn't a rolleyes big enough for this.

All of these opinions are pretty transparently "music I like or music that I think is 'good' is academic and important and everything else is trash." That is a Bad Opinion. The point of the academic/trash distinction is to make sure people do something other than listen to Pink Floyd in order to succeed at quizbowl. Yes, the Beatles are a good band. No, they are not what the arts distribution is for. Yes, it is a good idea to maintain a separate idea of academic art film and trash film, even in tournaments where both may come up. Yes, it is unfortunate that NAQT does not do this.

If you can't answer music questions, learn more things about academic music. If you can answer real music questions but still have some strange standard by which Wilco is "academic" but Madonna is "trash," possibly related to your oversized novelty hipster sunglasses, then you're still wrong even if the reasons for your being wrong are not self-interested ones.
I actually don't really like Wilco so that might have been a bad idea for an example. My point was that some people want their music to be taken seriously and that others don't; this doesn't make one better than the other—I find that an absolutely tremendous amount of horrible and pretentious music springs from that assumption—but it also doesn't mean that ABBA, while having arguably (perhaps a bit of a stretch) more musical value than certain early compositions of Haydn, counts as "fine arts," or that it ever will. I'm not quite sure why you're so angry/annoyed about this point, to the point of deciding that I'm incapable of answering music questions or am trying to enforce my personal favorites as paragons of musical "taste" (I don't think that many other people would really want to spend large quantities of time listening to Cabezón, Weber, and De La Rue) or am just plain wrong due to being a hipster (I listen to Genesis non-ironically...). I rather despise Mahler, but I'm never going to argue against his inclusion on the "fine arts" side, and the same goes for Orff.
The Eighth Viscount of Waaaah wrote: (Comments on others:
It should be taken as obvious that we can't just have a good music/bad music distinction, or a "music I like"/"music I don't like" if we want to avoid unbridled chaos, and I think Matt Weiner is setting up a straw man in saying that that's what many other people are suggesting. I'm also skeptical of the Satanic Perl nerd's suggestion that we go by the intentions of the creators - a lot of opera and the songs of Stephen Foster may have been written for popular audiences, but today they are recognized as art worthy of academic research.)
Fair enough. I'll concede that artistic intentions are not the only possible criterion by any means, then (after all, most/many pre-romantic composers saw their duties as "craft" rather than "art").

The recent evolution of music (after minimalism came into vogue) has been a convergence of "classical" and "popular" music, to the point at which the only distinguishing characteristic is sometimes the presence or absence of drums (considering especially the shoegazing style's absence of big guitar sound and the post-minimalist tendency to introduce guitars into "classical" pieces). I dare you to go to a recital of works by composition students at a university, for instance, and not encounter something that sounds like it could have been on one of those "oversized novelty hipster sunglasses"-approved albums. This makes contemporary music especially ticklish to separate into "trash" and "academic" spheres. I would vote for being relatively lax in favor of "academic" on many albums. Maybe Katy Perry or someone can be our standard of "trash" music (or K/J-pop, or Plastic Bertrand). Heck, even Kanye starts looking pretty academic at some point, relative to much of the current "classical" music scene; Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan are both appearing fairly regularly on "poetry" shelves at bookstores, empirically, so they can't be ruled out as "academic" by any means.

I think that by the time of Pet Sounds (if any album was going to come up in this discussion...), Brian Wilson was moving towards a compositional method, style, and goal that is near-identical with what we can expect from a "classical" composer. Listening to Smile as it has recently been released is a musically satisfying event in the same way as listening to Franck can be; the intense usage of cyclical form, the division of the album into "suites," the brilliant "instrumentation" with the voices, and the notable lack of most of the instruments that we associate with "pop" show that Wilson was very much trying to be a serious composer. Is it fair that we throw this onto the trash heap because it was released through Capitol Records and presumably would have made it onto the Billboard charts? If we count "accessibility" as a criterion, then, by the Billboard definition, Górecki disappears and so does some Gregorian Chant. The latter, especially, would be ridiculous to exclude.

Where do we put musicals? If we look verismo opera, or, heck, even the singspiele of Mozart through the lens of intent (already debunked as a sole criterion, but still perhaps useful), Sunday in the Park with George starts to look very "classical" (Die Zauberflöte's libretto does not qualify it as art at all, only the music—and the same with Euryanthe). Harold Schonberg (not an "authority" to whom I was hoping to appeal for musical discussions...) includes Weill in his discussion of Busoni, Hindemith, and German music in general around the 1920s. Does the fact that Street Scene or Candide was written by a more "serious" composer make it any less of a musical? Then again, nobody (I might be wrong, but I hope not) will be putting Spamelot (a show I adored live) in the "fine arts" category...

If we limit our definition of "fine arts" music to Elliott Carter, Pierre Boulez, and György Kurtág for contemporary music (no objection to that at all, really), then we do have to start seriously contemplating non-Contes d'Hoffmann Offenbach, Sullivan, and Puccini as "serious" composers.
Last edited by vinteuil on Mon Jun 18, 2012 11:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by Matt Weiner »

I mean, I'm bewildered on both the level of your claim that Madonna is not artistically engineered music that is intended to be taken seriously but Wilco is, which seems rather backwards, and on the level of this discussion going the same place it does as when we have it every six months, which is lots of bizarre standards like "appearing on bookshelves" or "not selling well" being proposed for academicity.

Write more questions, play more good questions, and intuit what's academic and what's trash based on the reason that we have a distinction. The purpose of having an arts distribution is not to ask about the Beach Boys. People can try to argue around this because they're uncomfortable about intuitive standards, but the problem is all the objective standards thusfar proposed are both laughably unsuitable on their face and reverse-engineered in order to get some specific pop singer into the arts canon.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by vinteuil »

Matt Weiner wrote:I mean, I'm bewildered on both the level of your claim that Madonna is not artistically engineered music that is intended to be taken seriously but Wilco is, which seems rather backwards, and on the level of this discussion going the same place it does as when we have it every six months, which is lots of bizarre standards like "appearing on bookshelves" or "not selling well" being proposed for academicity.
OK, let's completely drop that particular comparison (I was attempting not to look too high-and-mighty vis-à-vis recent music). I might add that "artistically engineered music" has absolutely no pertinence to its claim as "serious," or the most over-produced albums would be the best—and K-Pop would start being "fine arts." We can also drop the bookshelves comment, which admittedly falls to pieces when the same bookstore doesn't offer any Edmund Spenser (which I've noted on a few too many occasions).
Matt Weiner wrote:Write more questions, play more good questions, and intuit what's academic and what's trash based on the reason that we have a distinction.
What exactly does this mean? Let me make the assumption that you mean "we distinguish between academic and trash questions for a reason, and stick with that for deciding." What exactly is that reason, and how does it obviate the need for an objective criterion?
Matt Weiner wrote:The purpose of having an arts distribution is not to ask about the Beach Boys.
Value judgment uncalled for.
Matt Weiner wrote:People can try to argue around this because they're uncomfortable about intuitive standards, but the problem is all the objective standards thusfar proposed are both laughably unsuitable on their face and reverse-engineered in order to get some specific pop singer into the arts canon.
I don't think that any of the very few objective criteria suggested above are shoehorning anybody into the canon. Could you provide an example? Also, could you name an alternative, or another systematic approach to labelling music as "academic" or "trash?" This discussion is otherwise rather unproductive.
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Re: Fine arts/music

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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by Muriel Axon »

perlnerd666 wrote:The recent evolution of music (after minimalism came into vogue) has been a convergence of "classical" and "popular" music, to the point at which the only distinguishing characteristic is sometimes the presence or absence of drums (considering especially the shoegazing style's absence of big guitar sound and the post-minimalist tendency to introduce guitars into "classical" pieces). I dare you to go to a recital of works by composition students at a university, for instance, and not encounter something that sounds like it could have been on one of those "oversized novelty hipster sunglasses"-approved albums. This makes contemporary music especially ticklish to separate into "trash" and "academic" spheres. I would vote for being relatively lax in favor of "academic" on many albums. Maybe Katy Perry or someone can be our standard of "trash" music (or K/J-pop, or Plastic Bertrand). Heck, even Kanye starts looking pretty academic at some point, relative to much of the current "classical" music scene; Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan are both appearing fairly regularly on "poetry" shelves at bookstores, empirically, so they can't be ruled out as "academic" by any means.
Yeah, I mean, I'm not entirely disagreeing with you here. In fact, I would go one step further: Not only is the difference between classical and popular music blurred today, it has never been distinct. (Based on the way you discuss opera and Orff, I think you'll agree with me here.) But just because Bryce Dessner and Dave Longstreth write for Bang On A Can, or because Glenn Branca trained Sonic Youth, doesn't mean the distinction between pop/rock/whatever and classical/jazz/whatever doesn't exist at all, any more than Quine's critique showed that there was no true analytic/synthetic distinction. Also, most of this new pop-classical-jazz hybrid stuff is new enough and obscure enough that it won't be asked below the upper echelons of quiz bowl competition for a while, if ever; this discussion is hardly urgent. (You point out Gorecki, who does show up at lower levels; but he's only a problem if we did use accessibility as our demarcation, which is stupid.)
If we limit our definition of "fine arts" music to Elliott Carter, Pierre Boulez, and György Kurtág for contemporary music (no objection to that at all, really), then we do have to start seriously contemplating non-Contes d'Hoffmann Offenbach, Sullivan, and Puccini as "serious" composers.
I don't think there's any unwritten quiz bowl rule that says we have to be consistent in what we're willing to accept as fine art. For the most part, we just go with intuitive distinctions based on historical contingencies through which certain composers, no matter how populist and middlebrow they were considered in their day, have become recognized as part of some bizarre, slopped-together canon of "important" composers. I don't like it, but I also don't think it's immediately obvious what (if anything) is wrong with this situation. It agrees with the distinctions that many people today make about what is and is not art, and for quiz bowl, that makes it useful.

We've similarly forgotten about Louis Moreau Gottschalk and his kin. Sometimes we have to wait for the court of historical opinion to make it's decision, and that takes a long time.

On the other hand, modern and contemporary composers who were not so austere and obviously "arty" as Boulez and Carter have not yet been tried, and it's often just safer to go with the obvious choices of the contemporary canon, like Boulez, Carter, and Stockhausen. Maybe you can toss in a Corigliano here and there. I think it might be okay sometimes to write fine arts questions on composers (and musicians/bands) who might not yet have reached canonical status as "fine art", as long as they're gettable; but it's understandable that others disagree. (EDIT: See my note in a later post to clear up confusion about this section.)
Write more questions, play more good questions, and intuit what's academic and what's trash based on the reason that we have a distinction.
Which is?

I don't trust "intuitive standards" because it just seems like a perfect cover for laziness. If you can't articulate a reason for considering certain things "art" and other things "not art," at least for the purpose of writing quiz bowl questions, then there might as well not be a distinction at all. It can be an entirely pragmatic reason (as I favor) - we don't need to make any grand aesthetic statements here. But at least it ought to exist.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by vinteuil »

The Eighth Viscount of Waaaah wrote:
If we limit our definition of "fine arts" music to Elliott Carter, Pierre Boulez, and György Kurtág for contemporary music (no objection to that at all, really), then we do have to start seriously contemplating non-Contes d'Hoffmann Offenbach, Sullivan, and Puccini as "serious" composers.

[...]

On the other hand, modern and contemporary composers who were not so austere and obviously "arty" as Boulez and Carter have not yet been tried, and it's often just safer to go with the obvious choices of the contemporary canon, like Boulez, Carter, and Stockhausen. Maybe you can toss in a Corigliano here and there. I think it might be okay sometimes to write fine arts questions on composers (and musicians/bands) who might not yet have reached canonical status as "fine art", as long as they're gettable; but it's understandable that others disagree.
It might just be my HIgh School-only quizbowl experience, but I've only ever seen minimalists and post-minimalists for contemporary music, just like I've only ever seen Tallis (oddly enough) for pre-Monteverdi. I would love to have Varèse tossups every other round, or a Messiaen packet, but it doesn't seem to be in the canon.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by Muriel Axon »

perlnerd666 wrote:
The Eighth Viscount of Waaaah wrote:
If we limit our definition of "fine arts" music to Elliott Carter, Pierre Boulez, and György Kurtág for contemporary music (no objection to that at all, really), then we do have to start seriously contemplating non-Contes d'Hoffmann Offenbach, Sullivan, and Puccini as "serious" composers.

[...]

On the other hand, modern and contemporary composers who were not so austere and obviously "arty" as Boulez and Carter have not yet been tried, and it's often just safer to go with the obvious choices of the contemporary canon, like Boulez, Carter, and Stockhausen. Maybe you can toss in a Corigliano here and there. I think it might be okay sometimes to write fine arts questions on composers (and musicians/bands) who might not yet have reached canonical status as "fine art", as long as they're gettable; but it's understandable that others disagree.
It might just be my HIgh School-only quizbowl experience, but I've only ever seen minimalists and post-minimalists for contemporary music, just like I've only ever seen Tallis (oddly enough) for pre-Monteverdi. I would love to have Varèse tossups every other round, or a Messiaen packet, but it doesn't seem to be in the canon.
You're right, and that's strange, since the minimalists and post-minimalists are probably closer to "pop" than the composers I mentioned. I don't know how I overlooked them; I think, mentally, that I don't really associate them so much with contemporary music, even though that's obviously what they are. In some sense, I think the fact that you mentioned Kurtag and Carter led me to ignore the (correct, but possibly irrelevant) point you were making about them.

Well, there goes that point in my argument. I would still defend the previous two paragraphs, though. The kind of classical/pop borderline stuff you mention is probably least likely to achieve the status of arty, suit-and-tie concert hall music within a short period of time. Reich, Glass, and Riley are now more patriarchal figures in the classical music world than young rebels. They define a non-trivial segment of what critics consider important in the last 40-50 years of classical music. Never mind that Glass wrote his David Bowie symphonies; few people think of him as anything but a classical composer, and the same can't be said of Nico Muhly.

Incidentally, Varese made an appearance at ACF Nats thanks to Bryan, and I've heard several questions on Messiaen at levels down to HSNCT; but you're right, they don't appear in high school very often, and for good reason. Thank goodness nobody is stupid enough to write questions on guys like Gerard Grisey at levels where you could actually play them.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by vinteuil »

Fair enough, and I wonder if Tristan Murail is even at the ACF Nats level.

I think that more "austere" composers could use more representation, along with Renaissance composers. I get that people generally do not know about them; I argue the same for many authors that have become quizbowl canon—one learns about them from quizbowl. Their omission is not due to the standard "Beethoven wrote 32 piano sonatas known mostly by numbers" problem of question writing for music, or the "every piece begins with a G Major arpeggio" problem; in fact, it would be easier to write questions about Carter than almost any other composer, including pyramidality and all. The reason they aren't canon is, well, that they aren't canon (unlike someone as recent as Lahiri or Murakami in lit). This boils down to "accessibility" once again, and, as is well-known, more avant-garde music has less of an audience than that for any other art form in such a state.

Still, if we include the aforereferenced authors, we might as well throw at least a Webern tossup into the mix at the High School level (or even Berio).
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by Muriel Axon »

perlnerd666 wrote:I think that more "austere" composers could use more representation, along with Renaissance composers. I get that people generally do not know about them; I argue the same for many authors that have become quizbowl canon—one learns about them from quizbowl. Their omission is not due to the standard "Beethoven wrote 32 piano sonatas known mostly by numbers" problem of question writing for music, or the "every piece begins with a G Major arpeggio" problem; in fact, it would be easier to write questions about Carter than almost any other composer, including pyramidality and all. The reason they aren't canon is, well, that they aren't canon (unlike someone as recent as Lahiri or Murakami in lit). This boils down to "accessibility" once again, and, as is well-known, more avant-garde music has less of an audience than that for any other art form in such a state.

Still, if we include the aforereferenced authors, we might as well throw at least a Webern tossup into the mix at the High School level (or even Berio).
The problem is nobody would get those questions. I live in a state with fairly decent quiz bowl (Michigan), and often I can't get the high school teams I moderate for to answer questions on Tchaikovsky, let alone Berio or Webern. If modern classical music gets a smaller share of the auditory distribution than modern literature does of the literature distribution, that's a shame, but there's nothing we question-writers can do about it, because very few people will get questions on Webern, while Murakami has at least a decent shot of being converted. We can't make people know things that, in our opinion, they ought to know.

Not that that has much to do with whether we're willing to accept pop/rock/blues/folk/polka into fine arts. To everyone else, apologies for the digression.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by vinteuil »

Actually, I think the paucity of askable recent "classical" music has a bearing on the expansion of "fine arts" for music to include "trash." I suspect that the utter lack of askable composers under the age of 50 (Paul Moravec, who would be a pretty serious stretch at ACF Nats, is 55, I think) makes people uncomfortable, and, upon further enquiry, leads to this discussion to begin with.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by nadph »

perlnerd666 wrote: ...I've only ever seen Tallis (oddly enough) for pre-Monteverdi.
This isn't true; Josquin, Ockeghem, Palestrina, the English Madrigalists, Byrd, Dufay, Peri, Schutz, and their works all appear in questions frequently, along with questions on or about things like chants, motets, madrigals, masses, polyphony, and Church modes. Granted, many of these don't appear in high school-level sets, but that's simply because high schoolers are less likely to know about them in general and is applicable to a broad range of questions.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by Important Bird Area »

perlnerd666 wrote:The reason they aren't canon is, well, that they aren't canon (unlike someone as recent as Lahiri or Murakami in lit).

Still, if we include the aforereferenced authors, we might as well throw at least a Webern tossup into the mix at the High School level (or even Berio).
Some relevant data about answerability:

Murakami (clearly the most-answerable of this set): 1/8/2 in 25 rooms of IS #98, which is to say: too hard for an IS-level tossup

Lahiri: has never appeared as an NAQT tossup answer at any level; was once a bonus part at HSNCT

Webern: has not been a tossup below DI ICT; appeared once at HSNCT (as the third part of a bonus)

Berio: has not been mentioned in a question in the history of NAQT
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by vinteuil »

OK, that's fair. I won't crusade any further for canon-expansion.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by Muriel Axon »

Well, sure, but we ought to be fair to people who study music widely recognized through history as significant. They will understandably be pissed when one of their precious fine arts questions is on Joanna Newsom. It's these kinds of pragmatic concerns that constantly get overlooked in discussions like this; we can talk all we want about how quiz bowl ought to be, but in the end, the purpose of our questions is 1) to allow people to have fun, and 2) to distinguish better teams from worse teams. If we end up constantly subverting expectations for no particular reason other than some notion about the way things ought to be, we won't achieve either of these goals. We want questions that are gettable, and depending on the level, they ought to have at least some degree of predictability.

So basically, we don't have any particular quota of recent composers/works to fill, and if we can't fill it, we could just do older composers/works. If we want to include The Beatles as fine arts, we can't do this on the basis that there aren't enough modern composers in questions (and there actually are at higher levels); we have to find some other justification. I think the availability of scholarly literature on the musical content of a work or artist could be a pretty good criterion, most of the time, of distinguishing academic from trash questions, but we also have to ensure that our sets are playable.

Adding to Nikhil's point, I find that Palestrina actually comes up a lot.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by vinteuil »

nadph wrote:
perlnerd666 wrote: ...I've only ever seen Tallis (oddly enough) for pre-Monteverdi.
This isn't true; Josquin, Ockeghem, Palestrina, Musica Transalpina and the English Madrigalists (e.g. Byrd), Peri, Schutz, and their works all appear in questions frequently. Granted, many of these don't appear in high school-level sets, but that's simply because high schoolers are less likely to know about them in general and is applicable to a broad range of composers.
<pedant>Schütz is a generation after Monteverdi, and Peri is the same generation. Byrd never wrote explicitly titled madrigals, and that's what Musica Transalpina is.</pedant>. Also, I can't imagine a Peri tossup, partly because even a non-specialist musicologist would only know around 2 works by him.

I was referring explicitly to High School, where Palestrina should be a completely reasonable tossup, and Josquin at least Nationals level. The cop-out of "polyphonic" style for the third part of an early music bonus (HSNCT and NASAT this year) is a little bit much, especially given that there were easy-enough parts (Gregorian Chant, Vaughan Williams) in both.
The Eighth Viscount of Waaaah wrote:Well, sure, but we ought to be fair to people who study music widely recognized through history as significant. They will understandably be pissed when one of their precious fine arts questions is on Joanna Newsom. It's these kinds of pragmatic concerns that constantly get overlooked in discussions like this; we can talk all we want about how quiz bowl ought to be, but in the end, the purpose of our questions is 1) to allow people to have fun, and 2) to distinguish better teams from worse teams. If we end up constantly subverting expectations for no particular reason other than some notion about the way things ought to be, we won't achieve either of these goals. We want questions that are gettable, and depending on the level, they ought to have at least some degree of predictability.

So basically, we don't have any particular quota of recent composers/works to fill, and if we can't fill it, we could just do older composers/works. If we want to include The Beatles as fine arts, we can't do this on the basis that there aren't enough modern composers in questions (and there actually are at higher levels); we have to find some other justification. I think the availability of scholarly literature on the musical content of a work or artist could be a pretty good criterion, most of the time, of distinguishing academic from trash questions, but we also have to ensure that our sets are playable.
This is an excellent point, one that I hadn't really contemplated. Given the 1/1 distribution common for "fine arts music" in most packets, using one on Eli and the Thirteenth Confession does seem counterproductive...
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by nadph »

perlnerd666 wrote:
nadph wrote:
perlnerd666 wrote: ...I've only ever seen Tallis (oddly enough) for pre-Monteverdi.
This isn't true; Josquin, Ockeghem, Palestrina, Musica Transalpina and the English Madrigalists (e.g. Byrd), Peri, Schutz, and their works all appear in questions frequently. Granted, many of these don't appear in high school-level sets, but that's simply because high schoolers are less likely to know about them in general and is applicable to a broad range of composers.
<pedant>Schütz is a generation after Monteverdi, and Peri is the same generation. Byrd never wrote explicitly titled madrigals, and that's what Musica Transalpina is.</pedant>. Also, I can't imagine a Peri tossup, partly because a non-specialist musicologist would only know around 2 works by him.
Sorry about that, I thought Schutz and Peri were pre-Monteverdi for some reason. My point was not that these folks get tossed up, but that questions come up incorporating them (as clues, bonus answers, what have you). I'm also very confused why Tallis would get tossed up at a high-school level thing, since (again) high schoolers know very little about him - where did this happen?
I was referring explicitly to High School, where Palestrina should be a completely reasonable tossup, and Josquin at least Nationals level. The cop-out of "polyphonic" style for the third part of an early music bonus (HSNCT and NASAT this year) is a little bit much, especially given that there were easy-enough parts (Gregorian Chant, Vaughan Williams) in both.
Unfortunately, what gets tossed up at a nationals-level tournament should be dictated by what the majority of high-schoolers know. I feel confident in saying that you are an outlier, rather than a representative, of high-school musical knowledge - certainly this should be rewarded, but within the context of a system that allows other people to be rewarded as well, in proportion with their knowledge. The mathy folks in quizbowl could demand 5/5 representation theory in every tournament, but what would that accomplish? Better to limit such things to hard bonus parts or early tossup clues. For higher-level questions, play higher-level tournaments.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by vinteuil »

My fault for generating a little confusion (and another tangent)—he was the first part of two bonuses (again, HSNCT and NASAT). Of course, they both gave Spem in Alium as clues, but it was still rather strange.

The NASAT bonus on gregorian chant named Du Fay, Ockeghem, and Josquin (if I recall correctly), but did not ask to produce anything notable about them, especially considering that the answer of "polyphony" would already be known to anyone helped by that.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

Jacob, what is your playing, staffing, and question writing experience?
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by vinteuil »

I would protest the question as "ad hominem," but it's understandable—maybe 10 HS tournaments (plus HSNCT and NASAT), and then quite bit of packet reading. I suspect some shit might hit the fan after my previous comments now....
Yes, I've seen far too many Varèse tossups in ACF Regionals packets.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by Deviant Insider »

Just some basics, Jacob--
When Colin, Dwight, or somebody like them asks a nuanced question in the college section, they are looking for answers dealing with collegiate quizbowl coming from people with at least a decent understanding of collegiate quizbowl. That's why there is some hostility being directed towards you. Don't take it the wrong way. If you want to discuss this issue as it comes up in high school quizbowl, feel free to start a thread in the high school section on the same topic. Quizbowl is always in need of intelligent people willing to have intelligent discussions, and my impression is that you fit those criteria.

In collegiate quizbowl, there often is a Your Choice category that allows people to write questions on Pet Sounds or similar topics that are on the border between Fine Arts and Pop Culture. So, even if people decide that Pet Sounds isn't really Fine Arts, people can still ask questions dealing with the artistic side of Pet Sounds--they just need to fill their Fine Arts quota with questions that are clearly Fine Arts.

Similarly, people writing for a high school tournament that has a Pop Culture distribution can write a question in Pop Culture on Pet Sounds (or probably, better yet, the Beach Boys), and nobody will be upset if the first few clues (if it's a tossup) or the hard part (if it's a bonus) somehow focuses on the artistic aspects of it. A difference between high school and college is that the high school canon is smaller, and it is perfectly acceptable to just hammer away at it with every question in the tournament, especially if we are talking about a regular high school difficulty tournament or easier. (Depending on the audience, it's sometimes fine to just hammer the collegiate canon in a collegiate tournament.) Basically, it's a good thing when Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, and people like that come up at every single tournament. Furthermore, tournaments generally want tossup conversion rates above 80%, and that means that writers aiming at a high school audience can't use most of the people you mention. There are fewer than 50 composers you would ever want to use as the answer to a tossup in a regular high school tournament. Palestrina comes close, but is too difficult, and many of the people you mention don't come close. It's fine to use those people as clues or as hard parts of bonuses, but that's their only possible role in a regular high school tournament.

I apologize to the mods for bending some forum rules in posting this. My intention was to move this in a positive direction. I think that Colin and Dwight are asking good questions that I hope will get answered by people more knowledgeable about fine arts and collegiate quizbowl than me.
Last edited by Deviant Insider on Tue Jun 19, 2012 10:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots »

For a little context, practically everyone you just named comes up in college tournaments. In some cases, like Webern and Varese, they come up a lot. So it's not like quizbowl is just ignoring a bunch of modern composers; we've just made the collective decision not to filter those questions down from hard tournaments, which I think is a good one.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by ThisIsMyUsername »

Agreeing with Coach Reinstein and Matt Bollinger here. You seem to know a lot about classical music in the real world, but very little about the realities of music questions in collegiate quizbowl. I'm very sympathetic to this, because I was in a nearly identical situation two-and-a-half to three years ago. I blazed into these forums with a lot of notions about how to make quizbowl music more reflective of academic practice (I'm one of two musicologists in training in quizbowldom; the other being Kevin Koai), but my ideas would have been better and my approach to discussing them more productive had I taken more time to immerse myself in the realities of the game. If you're interested in seeing what collegiate quizbowl music questions look like, I recommend reading ACF Regionals 2010-2012, MAGNI, and THUNDER II for regular difficulty, and HI 2010, Minnesota Opens 2010-2011, and ACF Nationals 2011-2012 for nationals difficulty. These will both give you a better sense of canon, and a good sense of the different approaches taken by different editors, since Ted, Magin, Rob, Kevin, and myself (the music editors for these tournaments) all reflect different sensibilities on this topic, enacted in practice. I won't speak for the other editors, but if after reading through these tournaments, you have questions or comments about the choices we made in answer selection or cluing, I'm happy to answer any you might have.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by ThisIsMyUsername »

Here are my personal answers to your questions:
cvdwightw wrote: 1) To what extent, if any, does someone like Jaco Pastorius, who considered himself firmly within the "jazz" tradition, is considered by many prominent jazz musicians to be important within the "jazz" tradition, and yet recorded most (in his case, all) of his important work in the last 40 years, and occasionally worked in genres not considered "jazz" by purists, belong in "arts" as opposed to "trash"? Should these people be treated more similarly to the basic rule for authors ("if an author is clearly in the canon, all of his/her works are in, even if they are more recent/trashy than the works that got him in") or the new suggestion for directors ("such questions are encouraged, but only if they focus on specific kinds of works")?
This gets into the area of jazz where I'm not particularly knowledgeable, but certainly I would consider Pastorius' work with Weather Report to be within Fine Arts, since it is solidly part of the jazz canon. I don't know enough about his other works. I'm surprised by the distinction you make between how we treat directors and authors. Is there a particular example of an author you were thinking of whose "trash" works have been snuck into the canon because he also wrote "real literature"?
2) To what extent, if any, do people who heavily influenced the American music tradition (e.g., Stephen Foster, the Carter family, George M. Cohan) belong in "misc. auditory fine arts"? If they do to any extent, what is the proper way to write questions on these figures?
I would put Foster and Cohan in the Misc. Arts distribution, since that is where we also put Ragtime, which has a similar historical/cultural role. I don't know enough about the Carter family to comment. They could not be tossup fodder at regular difficult anyway I don't think. I see no particular reason to write about them differently then we do other figures in the Misc. Arts distribution.
3) Operettas such as Orpheus in the Underworld and Die Fledermaus are solidly "in the canon" (of opera) while Gilbert and Sullivan operettas are borderline (some people are okay with it, some rail against it). Musicals, despite having their roots in operettas, are solidly in "trash" regardless of any potential artistic merit. Are there good arguments for excluding all musicals from the "misc. fine arts" canon based solely on artistic (not cultural, not accessibility) criteria? If so, can those arguments uniformly be applied in the opera distribution regarding the aforementioned works?
In my own writing/editing, I have written and allowed questions on historically and culturally significant musicals into the Misc. Arts distribution. The Great American Songbook is an inseparable part of the same cultural heritage as jazz. Certain works of Sondheim, such as Sweeney Todd, are regular performed in classical concert halls and opera theaters, and are often considered part of the "classical" repertoire even thought they are not classical. I won't try to speak for the other editors, but it appears that Magin has done something similar in his editing.
4) Consider an album like Pet Sounds that is simultaneously popular and (at least to some extent) considered to have artistic and technical merit. There is obviously a way to write a tossup on this album that is very clearly trash. Is there a way to write a good tossup on this album that focuses exclusively on its musical/artistic/production techniques, similar to what Tommy might do with a tossup on Alien? If so, does such a tossup belong in the "misc. auditory fine arts" distribution?
I think without question Brian Wilson is one of the major American composers of the 20th century, but he also belongs in the Trash distribution. This is an instance where the Trash / Fine Arts distinction is not a value judgment. Certain elements (what we hope are the best elements) of "pop culture" become simply "culture" with time. It is not true that all classical music today is simply popular music of a different era. There were distinctions between art and popular genres back then, too. Were we playing quizbowl in the 1870's, Brahms (most of his stuff, anyway) would be in the Fine Arts distribution and Johann Strauss Jr. would be in the Trash. Now, we are fine with putting Johann Strauss in the Fine Arts distribution. We can only do that because we are in age where his continued presence in our midst is no longer as part of "pop culture", and we now engage with him in the same ways and in the same venues in which we engage with his more artistically-minded contemporaries. We are in a post-jazz age, and so enduring culturally significant jazz goes in Fine Arts instead of Trash. Until we're in a post-rock age, we can't put Brian Wilson and The Beatles in the Fine Arts just yet.
5) One common critique of the classical music distribution in recent tournaments is that it overrepresents avant-garde composers at the expense of more solidly canonical (within an academic sense) ones. Should some or all of these questions be moved from "classical music" to "misc. auditory arts"? What are the criteria by which we should make those judgments?
This overrepresentation is a result of people writing too much on the avant garde and not enough on more solidly canonical works. This problem is clearly not limited to the music distribution. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that some canonical works have a paucity of material that makes for good clues, since it is difficult to translate melodies into clues. However, it's particularly exacerbated by people's unwillingness to tossup things with titles like "X's Symphony #Y". In the past year or so, this problem has been getting better. A lot of editors and writers seem more willing to do this than before. Magin, in particular, has done commendable work on this front.

I'm not sure which composers you're thinking of moving to the Misc. Arts distribution, but I think this should be a matter of genre rather than sort of traditional / avant-garde dichotomy. So long as they self-identify as working within the classical tradition and the critical or academic community seems to agree with this identification, I have no problem with putting them in the classical music distribution.

Let me add one more caveat: I would discourage people submitting packets from writing on these borderline cases (especially the Great American Songbook, Blues, and Jazz/Fusion cases), but would encourage editors and house-writing teams to include a small amount in their tournaments. This is not out of snobbery, or any kind of claim that the people who edit tournaments are better qualified to make these decisions because of expertise. Rather I think that no more than 1/1 of these borderline cases should appear in a tournament, and only an editor is in a good position to control this. The last thing we want to do is open the floodgates. (Keeping the different Misc. Arts genres in balance is already one of the more difficult parts of Fine Arts editing packet submission tournaments.)
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by Cheynem »

I really liked the Great American Songbook bonus at Nationals (well, I liked the idea of it, I went into a violent rage after not really understanding the first part), but I agree with John that such things are best reserved for editors dropping a pinch of such material into their tournaments. Nobody objects to a small amount of material on "fringe" topics at tournaments, but too much of it through editors or packet submission leads to disaster. For example, I wrote a NASAT question on Jackie Robinson for the history distribution, but that doesn't mean there should be probably more than 1/0 or 1/1 sports history within the American history distribution.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by grapesmoker »

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:I think without question Brian Wilson is one of the major American composers of the 20th century, but he also belongs in the Trash distribution. This is an instance where the Trash / Fine Arts distinction is not a value judgment. Certain elements (what we hope are the best elements) of "pop culture" become simply "culture" with time. It is not true that all classical music today is simply popular music of a different era. There were distinctions between art and popular genres back then, too. Were we playing quizbowl in the 1870's, Brahms (most of his stuff, anyway) would be in the Fine Arts distribution and Johann Strauss Jr. would be in the Trash. Now, we are fine with putting Johann Strauss in the Fine Arts distribution. We can only do that because we are in age where his continued presence in our midst is no longer as part of "pop culture", and we now engage with him in the same ways and in the same venues in which we engage with his more artistically-minded contemporaries. We are in a post-jazz age, and so enduring culturally significant jazz goes in Fine Arts instead of Trash. Until we're in a post-rock age, we can't put Brian Wilson and The Beatles in the Fine Arts just yet.
This is one of the best explanations I've read about this distinction anywhere. I strongly encourage people to read and understand it.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by theMoMA »

There is plenty of room in the distribution for serious tossups on important artists of any stripe in the "other academic" section. I do wonder if John's explanation, which I think is an excellent way of framing the issue, undermines Tommy's film arguments a bit. It seems strange to me to argue that "film" is a category that encompasses both "film that we engage from an artistic standpoint" and "film that we engage from a pop-culture standpoint," while "other music" is a category that encompasses only "music that we engage from an artistic standpoint." Unless someone can articulate a rationale for this disparate treatment, I'd prefer to see all of the more pop-culture topics coming up in "other academic" than to see film get a different treatment than music.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by eliza.grames »

I think the best distinction between fine arts music vs. pop culture music is the context in which you would theoretically (or actually) study it in an academic realm. Art that fits in "fine art" is something you would study for the intrinsic value or style of the work in the same discipline (e.g. art history or music); art that fits in the "trash/other" category is something that you'd study in a media or cultural studies class.

For example, you would never study Cole Porter to understand his use of time signatures - you'd study his impact on the pop culture of the Greatest Generation and the nostalgia his music generates. On the other hand, you wouldn't study Shostakovich's impact on pop culture, because that'd be a limited subject. The same thing applies to art - Shepard Fairy (who you would learn about in a design class) is not art, but Mondrian is art because you would study him in an art history class. I don't know much about film, but I'd guess there is a similar distinction there as well between art films and films made for viewing pleasure.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by ThisIsMyUsername »

eliza.grames wrote:I think the best distinction between fine arts music vs. pop culture music is the context in which you would theoretically (or actually) study it in an academic realm. Art that fits in "fine art" is something you would study for the intrinsic value or style of the work in the same discipline (e.g. art history or music); art that fits in the "trash/other" category is something that you'd study in a media or cultural studies class.

For example, you would never study Cole Porter to understand his use of time signatures - you'd study his impact on the pop culture of the Greatest Generation and the nostalgia his music generates. On the other hand, you wouldn't study Shostakovich's impact on pop culture, because that'd be a limited subject. The same thing applies to art - Shepard Fairy (who you would learn about in a design class) is not art, but Mondrian is art because you would study him in an art history class. I don't know much about film, but I'd guess there is a similar distinction there as well between art films and films made for viewing pleasure.
Sorry to be rude, but you've picked possibly the two worst examples for proving your point in the respective fields that you're discussing. Cole Porter's music, more than that of any other musical theater composer except possibly Gershwin, is routinely used in jazz and popular music harmony classes to teach modulation and major/minor ambiguity in a non-classical context. His intrinsic musical value is generally considered to be high. Shostakovich, more than almost any other 20th century classical composer is often taught as part of Soviet social/cultural history, with his music examined not for any of its intrinsic musical values but rather as a case study in attempting to write either resistance art or skeptically conforming art in a totalitarian regime.

This is also not a useful metric for the Academic/Trash distinction because there are many works of art that are routinely studied only for their cultural/historical importance rather than their intrinsic value that we comfortably situate in non-Trash categories. An example in literature would be Uncle Tom's Cabin. This also becomes a really dicey distinction when we start discussing politically oriented art.
Last edited by ThisIsMyUsername on Tue Jun 19, 2012 2:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by ThisIsMyUsername »

theMoMA wrote:There is plenty of room in the distribution for serious tossups on important artists of any stripe in the "other academic" section. I do wonder if John's explanation, which I think is an excellent way of framing the issue, undermines Tommy's film arguments a bit. It seems strange to me to argue that "film" is a category that encompasses both "film that we engage from an artistic standpoint" and "film that we engage from a pop-culture standpoint," while "other music" is a category that encompasses only "music that we engage from an artistic standpoint." Unless someone can articulate a rationale for this disparate treatment, I'd prefer to see all of the more pop-culture topics coming up in "other academic" than to see film get a different treatment than music.
First of all, I don't think we should conflate Other Academic and Trash (especially since the latter is not permitted at ACF Nationals). To me, Other Academic is not for things that straddle the Academic/Trash boundary, but rather for things that straddle multiple academic boundaries. The kind of popular music we're discussing doesn't really fit this category: it should be considered Fine Arts or it should be considered Trash, and I think it should be considered Trash for the reasons I stated above. Likewise film: it is not an Other Academic discipline. It is Fine Arts or it is Trash. I do not think we should include "film that we engage from a pop-culture standpoint" in part of the academic distribution, whatever its merits, for the same reason I do not support including The Beatles in the Fine Arts.

However, film is definitely a harder case than music, because era distinctions are less clear cut. There was a jazz age, we are no longer in that age; jazz is no longer the popular music. When does our current era of film begin? Does even the idea of a historical/stylistic cutoff make sense for film as it does for music? If it does, one (possible) logical cutoff is the end of the Hays Code (1968). This might seem a conservative cutoff to some, though. The next logical cutoff would be the end of the New Hollywood era and the beginning of the blockbuster era, but that is far more ill-defined. Some claim that Star Wars (1977) is the end of that era. Some push the date all the way to the early 80's. This is partly generational. If we must pick a chronological/stylistic cutoff, I would support the end of the Hays Code as the latest possible date a mainstream Hollywood film could have been made without being "pop culture" rather than "culture". (Some of us are old enough that anything later than that really is "pop culture".) I'm not fully comfortable with this. But I think having no obvious sense of cutoff is perhaps even worse. I'd curious to hear what more film-savvy people have to say about this.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by cvdwightw »

John, that was a great post.

To answer your first question:
ThisIsMyUsername wrote:I'm surprised by the distinction you make between how we treat directors and authors. Is there a particular example of an author you were thinking of whose "trash" works have been snuck into the canon because he also wrote "real literature"?
I'd encourage you to look at this thread from about five years ago in which Eric Kwartler was claiming that Remains of the Day was literature and Never Let Me Go was trash (you can find the relevant argument about halfway down). In the ensuing discussion, this ended up being the consensus:
Matt Weiner and, concurring, Andrew Yaphe and Ryan Westbrook wrote:the rule to me has always seemed to be that all of an author's works are in if the author himself is in.
Compare that to Tommy's distinction between "works of Ridley Scott that are askable in fine arts" and "works of Ridley Scott that have no place in the fine arts distribution."

To answer your second question, I wasn't thinking of any composers in particular, because I'm not a particularly strong specialist and I have a hard time sorting out all the post-1900 movements. I think that your point:
ThisIsMyUsername wrote:So long as they self-identify as working within the classical tradition and the critical or academic community seems to agree with this identification, I have no problem with putting them in the classical music distribution.
is probably a good guide for anything in the arts.

To discuss what Andrew is saying, it seems like the current demarcation threads have hinged on the distinction between things that we engage in from an academic standpoint and things that we cannot easily engage in from a pop-culture standpoint. It sounds like Tommy is advocating for the first standard while John is advocating for the second standard. I'm not sure there really is a consensus, though I might be wrong here. It actually wouldn't bother me one bit if the first standard was applied regularly to "misc. visual arts" and the second to "misc. auditory arts;" it also wouldn't bother me at all if different tournaments held different standards based on the views of their editors, as long as there was within-tournament consistency. In either case, it's not enough to just say "these things come with experience and you have to intuit it" like Matt is claiming. The more proper response is to choose one or both of these standards and tell new players/writers that they have to intuit whether a borderline case fits the standard.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by Rococo A Go Go »

ThisIsMyUsername wrote: I think without question Brian Wilson is one of the major American composers of the 20th century, but he also belongs in the Trash distribution. This is an instance where the Trash / Fine Arts distinction is not a value judgment. Certain elements (what we hope are the best elements) of "pop culture" become simply "culture" with time. It is not true that all classical music today is simply popular music of a different era. There were distinctions between art and popular genres back then, too. Were we playing quizbowl in the 1870's, Brahms (most of his stuff, anyway) would be in the Fine Arts distribution and Johann Strauss Jr. would be in the Trash. Now, we are fine with putting Johann Strauss in the Fine Arts distribution. We can only do that because we are in age where his continued presence in our midst is no longer as part of "pop culture", and we now engage with him in the same ways and in the same venues in which we engage with his more artistically-minded contemporaries. We are in a post-jazz age, and so enduring culturally significant jazz goes in Fine Arts instead of Trash. Until we're in a post-rock age, we can't put Brian Wilson and The Beatles in the Fine Arts just yet.
I agree with this wholeheartedly, and to bring this thread back to what was being discussed at the outset, there are two lines of questioning that I'd like to throw out there in relation to this idea:

1) What genres are becoming more allowable? Certainly no one is going to argue that we're in a post-rock age, but I think one could possibly argue we are in a post-blues age. With that being said, it might also be argued that nothing from the early days of blues have yet to transcend the line between popular and academic culture. Folk music is harder to quantify in my opinion, because I'm not sure there will ever be a post-folk era, although folk music is very different from what it was 70 or 100 years ago. Have we got to a point where someone like Joe Hill is possibly askable?

2) Even if we aren't in an age where we can claim The Beatles or Johnny Cash are "fine arts" rather than "popular culture", is there any precedent for asking about the early developments of modern genres like rock and country? For instance, would a question on a musical instrument like the guitar be able to use clues about its influence in genres like blues, rock, and country?

EDIT: One other thing I forgot to mention is that I think the history distribution may play an interesting role in this. Mike Cheyne pointed out he wrote a question on Jackie Robinson in sports history, and I think most people can attest that the study of popular culture is quite active in the history profession today. To use an example from earlier in this post, I've discussed Joe Hill in history classes, and I think topics like this might actually (in extremely small amounts) have a place in the history distribution for the time being.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by magin »

Sulawesi Myzomela wrote: EDIT: One other thing I forgot to mention is that I think the history distribution may play an interesting role in this. Mike Cheyne pointed out he wrote a question on Jackie Robinson in sports history, and I think most people can attest that the study of popular culture is quite active in the history profession today. To use an example from earlier in this post, I've discussed Joe Hill in history classes, and I think topics like this might actually (in extremely small amounts) have a place in the history distribution for the time being.
In fact, I wrote a history bonus for the 2011 ACF Nationals which asked about Joe Hill, as well as a history bonus part about "The Battle Cry of Freedom." People can and do use the history distribution to ask about these sorts of things.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by felgon123 »

theMoMA wrote:There is plenty of room in the distribution for serious tossups on important artists of any stripe in the "other academic" section. I do wonder if John's explanation, which I think is an excellent way of framing the issue, undermines Tommy's film arguments a bit. It seems strange to me to argue that "film" is a category that encompasses both "film that we engage from an artistic standpoint" and "film that we engage from a pop-culture standpoint," while "other music" is a category that encompasses only "music that we engage from an artistic standpoint." Unless someone can articulate a rationale for this disparate treatment, I'd prefer to see all of the more pop-culture topics coming up in "other academic" than to see film get a different treatment than music.
With all due respect, Andrew, this is a misrepresentation of my argument. I do not think that film should encompass both "film that we engage from an artistic standpoint" and "film that we engage from a pop culture standpoint." Rather, I think it should encompass "film that people studying film engage from an artistic standpoint," and that alone. Part of the logic behind my thinking is that refusing to ask questions on a newer director like Martin Scorsese is truly robbing people who study film of potential points. Anyone who studies film will study Martin Scorsese. I'm not sure it's true, though, that anyone who studies music will study The Beatles, and that's what seems to me to be the important distinction here. I don't study music, so I may be wrong about that; I'm just clarifying what the argument for newer film is. Also, with film, the scholarship keeps up with the new material coming out pretty vigorously, so the time delay for critical evaluation that John skillfully described is much less significant. The relative newness of film as a medium may explain this to an extent. I imagine (again, I might be wrong) that a large portion of musicologists couldn't care less about The Beatles, let alone contemporary bands, but most film scholars, even those that specialize in something as esoteric as Nazi cinema, are nonetheless interested in what Christopher Nolan is putting out.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by eliza.grames »

ThisIsMyUsername wrote: Sorry to be rude, but you've picked possibly the two worst examples for proving your point in the respective fields that you're discussing. Cole Porter's music, more than that of any other musical theater composer except possibly Gershwin, is routinely used in jazz and popular music harmony classes to teach modulation and major/minor ambiguity in a non-classical context. His intrinsic musical value is generally considered to be high. Shostakovich, more than almost any other 20th century classical composer is often taught as part of Soviet social/cultural history, with his music examined not for any of its intrinsic musical values but rather as a case study in attempting to write either resistance art or skeptically conforming art in a totalitarian regime.

This is also not a useful metric for the Academic/Trash distinction because there are many works of art that are routinely studied only for their cultural/historical importance rather than their intrinsic value that we comfortably situate in non-Trash categories. An example in literature would be Uncle Tom's Cabin. This also becomes a really dicey distinction when we start discussing politically oriented art.
I still think the answerline itself doesn't determine whether something is Fine Arts or Other Academic/Trash - it's the context it is studied in which determines the clues you select. Considering Cole Porter was discussed in a class that I took titled "Mass Media and Pop Culture" I'm going to go ahead and assert that he belongs in "Other Academic/Trash" and would only use those types of clues for him. If someone wrote a tossup on Shostakovich's impact on social/cultural history, then they could put that in history if they used all history clues (and were writing for a wacky enough tournament). Kind of like I could write a trash tossup on Hitler if I wanted to and it would be trash, not history. But generally speaking, a tossup on Shostakovich will focus on the intrinsic value of his music and generally speaking a tossup on Hitler will focus on what a jerk he was and not that he is referenced in pop culture all the time.

A better example that isn't related to fine arts or history would be natural selection - you could write a tossup on it for biology if you used strictly biological clues, or you could write a philosophy tossup on it if you used philosophy clues for it. The kind of question that you would write would depend on the context in which you studied it. When applying this to arts, you could write either a trash tossup on Cole Porter using clues about stuff like Anything Goes, or you could write a Fine Art tossup on him using his musical theory. It all comes down to the context and how you frame it.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by Rococo A Go Go »

magin wrote:
Sulawesi Myzomela wrote: EDIT: One other thing I forgot to mention is that I think the history distribution may play an interesting role in this. Mike Cheyne pointed out he wrote a question on Jackie Robinson in sports history, and I think most people can attest that the study of popular culture is quite active in the history profession today. To use an example from earlier in this post, I've discussed Joe Hill in history classes, and I think topics like this might actually (in extremely small amounts) have a place in the history distribution for the time being.
In fact, I wrote a history bonus for the 2011 ACF Nationals which asked about Joe Hill, as well as a history bonus part about "The Battle Cry of Freedom." People can and do use the history distribution to ask about these sorts of things.

Yeah after I posted this I remembered that I also wrote a history bonus that mentioned Joe Hill (as a hard part, although perhaps a bit too hard for the event) for 2011 Moon Pie, and I also remembered reading the bonus you wrote when looking over 2011 ACF Nationals a few months ago.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by theMoMA »

felgon123 wrote:Anyone who studies film will study Martin Scorsese. I'm not sure it's true, though, that anyone who studies music will study The Beatles, and that's what seems to me to be the important distinction here. I don't study music, so I may be wrong about that; I'm just clarifying what the argument for newer film is.
I think, as John's characterization of Brian Wilson would indicate above, that you are wrong. I don't take issue with the tenor of your argument, to be clear, I just think there's a disconnect between what you're arguing for film and what others are saying about artists like Brian Wilson and The Beatles in this thread. It seems to me that Alien and Brian Wilson are both "pop culture" in the sense that we tend to approach them from that standpoint. But we can also approach both from a serious academic standpoint because they have independent academic merit and academics have studied them because of it.

I'm not advocating for the outright ban on pop culture-standpoint things in the film distribution (or any distribution, for that matter). I just think it's incoherent to adopt a definition of "art film" that includes what are clearly pop culture-standpoint things, while refusing to acknowledge that the same logic would apply to, say, Brian Wilson and the "other musical arts" distribution.

In short, there's a category of "things that are usually seen through the lens of pop culture, but which can also be the subject of serious academic study" in both film and music. I don't see any reason to treat those things differently in film than in music.
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Re: Fine arts/music

Post by theMoMA »

First of all, I don't think we should conflate Other Academic and Trash (especially since the latter is not permitted at ACF Nationals). To me, Other Academic is not for things that straddle the Academic/Trash boundary, but rather for things that straddle multiple academic boundaries.
I disagree (and I think reasonable minds can do so on this issue). Anything that can be the focus of serious academic inquiry is fair game for "other academic" questions, in my book. For me, that means that it has independent academic merit. (In other words, just because people have applied serious academic concepts to something that has no underlying academic merit doesn't make that thing an appropriate "other academic" topic.)
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