If you ask someone to tell you their favorite music genre, they can probably list one or two they’d consider favorites. Ask those same people to list as many music genres as they can think of, and they’ll probably get stumped before they get to a dozen. On this episode of Flash Past, Dan and Lyle, with special guest James Adkins of the band Big Virginia Sky discuss some of the intricacies of music genre classification. Have a listen.
Music genres are categories that identify music as belonging to a shared tradition or set of musical conventions. Form and style are not the same as genre, but they are sometimes used interchangeably. Language as it is, it’s possible that these terms will come to mean the same thing — right now they’re actually quite different.
There are a lot of ways to classify music into different genres and, being an art and subject to interpretation, not everyone will agree on which genre a particular piece of music fits. Early in the show, Lyle sets out a great truth; there are really only two genres, music that sucks and music that doesn’t. One of the standard genre sets gives a little more detail than Lyle’s categorization, breaking music down into three groups, Art, Popular, and Traditional (Folk).
Art Music refers to classic traditions. These include contemporary and classical music forms. Art music comes from all parts of the world. Its highly structured form is technical and precise.
Popular Music is any music accessible to the general public and distributed through standard means like radio and other mass media. Popular Music is created to appeal to as large an audience as possible so that it can make the most money possible through sales.
Traditional Music (Folk) is handed down through generations by singing, listening, and dancing. The oral transmission of this traditional music lends itself to the other cornerstone of this genre, culture. This music is about the region and culture where it comes from.
Some common genres you will recognize are: Jazz • Hip Hop • Rock • Folk • Soul • EDM • Blues • Classical • Reggae • Gospel • Country • Musical (Theatre) • World • Disco • Marching Band • R&B • Film Score • Latin • Children’s • Funk • Pop • New Age • TV Themes.
New genres and subgenres are popping up all the time as new ways of creating music are being discovered. There are currently more than 1200 official genres and subgenres of music.