In order to craft a comparison of popular and classical art, it would be of foremost importance to relegate a working definition to both terms. For purposes of this post, popular art refers to works created with mass consumption in mind. Classical referring to works of art with a more distinguished history, specifically many of the forms we have focused on in this class – dance, opera, symphony, etc.
The primary difference between the two forms can be drawn from the above definitions and is rooted in their respective audiences. As someone who’s history of performing art ended following f0urth grade chorus, I am speaking from a purely speculative and observatory perspective here. If you are a pop music defender, take your qualms elsewhere, but the major differences would be the target audience and main inspiration. As I mentioned before, popular music is crafted for the most part without a target audience in mind. Sure, acts have built in fan bases to worry about, but I think the idea behind popular music is that anyone should be able to get behind it if they in fact enjoy what they’re hearing.
Classical music tends to pay tribute to a particular era. This is why we see concert performances from orchestras depicting works that were crafted centuries ago. They also have a subscribed audience for the most part who enjoys that classical artists remain consistent with their output, whereas pop music tends to be more willing to try something new: incorporate a new instrument, blend genres, step outside the box. Classical seems really regimented, as if it is a wealthy country club with a strict admittance guidelines. You are either classical or you aren’t.
Maybe my ignorance is showing here and my knowledge of groundbreaking classical music is not up to par. I’m sure there are classical musicians who are thinking differently and pushing the art form in a new direction. There is plenty of room for the melding of the two forms. Pop artists have collaborated with symphonies for as long as I’ve been around (Metallica and Led Zeppelin immediately spring to mind). But it won’t be until a classical musician crosses into the pop realm that I feel any collaboration point will be reached. As stressed in my opening paragraph, pop music is for the masses and classical is not yet there and for all I know, may not ever or even be looking to reach that status.