On Fri, 13 Nov 1998, jesse owsley wrote:

> I sometimes enjoy listening to Middle Eastern and Indian classical music
> and especially to Armenian classical music.  It sounds like 'folk' music to
> me. I know that a lot of Western classical music is based on folk music so
> it wouldn't be unlikely my untrained ears couldn't tell the difference if
> other classical genre were very different than folk traditions with which
> they are associated. That said, is there some kind of anti-Western bias
> labeling traditional Irish music as 'folk?'  I'm certainly not affended by
> the 'f***' word but I am curious as to the distinction.

I don't know the details of what gets called "classical" Armenian,
but to take an example I know a (very) little bit about, in most
Southeast Asian countries you can distinguish a classical from a
folk tradition.  The folk music is what folks out in the boondocks
play to dance to, or whatever.  There may be a few folks who make
their living playing this kind of music, but it's not much of a living.
If you want to play this kind of music, you learn how and you play
it.  If you're good, people will probably listen to you.

The classical music is a rigid tradition, it's the music which gets
(or got) played in the royal court, for big official functions.  There are
professional classical musicians, who go to music schools, where they
learn the rules.  The rules are likely written down somewhere.  You can't
just decide you want to be a musician and pick up classical music; you
need to enter the system and learn the art; and when you go and play,
you play it the way you were taught.  In a performance, everybody has an
assigned part, and they do what they are supposed to.  Rich people pay
these professional musicians to come and put on shows for big rich-people
events.  You could easily call this "traditional" music, there's
definitely a tradition which is adhered to, which is passed down
from generation to generation--but "folk" it ain't.

I think "classical" sometimes gets used loosely, but essentially this
the way it should be used.  (No IMHO here, if "classical" doesn't mean
this then it doesn't mean anything, it's simply an arbitrary label for
someone's taste).

Scott DeLancey