Classical Music in a Modern World

Every weekend, radio stations of every genre of music count down the Top 40 songs of the past week, and Billboard Magazine publishes the Hot 100, a music industry standard record chart for singles. Songs often stay in the number one spot for a few weeks at most.

Occasionally, a particularly long-lasting song will surface; “Despacito (Remix)” by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber was at number one for 16 weeks, while Bruno Mars’s “Uptown Funk” was there for 12 weeks. According to Billboard’s website, since 1958, only 3 percent of all number one songs on the Hot 100 have led the charts for over ten weeks. Pop songs today appear to have a short shelf-life.

There are, however, some pieces of recognizable music that have had relatively long shelf-lives. Though it may not be topping any Hot 100 charts, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 has been around for 210 years. The distinctive four-note theme the symphony opens with is identifiable by almost anyone. George Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, a popular piece during the Christmas season, is 278 years old.



According to Listverse’s “Top 10 Best Known Classical Melodies,” Johann Sebastian Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, written around the beginning of the 1700s, is a theme that many unconsciously know, as the theme has been used in both the Phantom of the Opera and Disney’s Fantasia.

“A lot of these composers really were geniuses, and they wrote in such a way that their songs have lasted for generations upon generations,” said UW junior and vocal performer Juliane Woodward. “They’ve lasted for hundreds of years.”

The Decline of Popular Classical Music

Why then, despite the longevity of such pieces, are they not more popular to listen to today? When did classical music go out of style?

Woodward said that the music we currently refer to as “classical” was actually the pop music of its own time period. From the 1600s to the 1800s, it was common for people to play such music in their homes; at dinner parties, everyone would play music, both individually and in chamber settings.

McGee explained the split between classical music and popular music as an originally small fissure that arose in the 1920s with the birth of jazz. However, even until the 1930s, symphony orchestras continued to be popular. Not until the 1940s did the split between classical and popular music begin to widen, leading from jazz to rock’n’roll to disco to R&B and to rap.

“You see this continuous separation; classical music got too abstract, too weird or too old fashioned in the case of the symphonies,” said McGee.

 Unique Aspects

Despite classical music’s fall in popularity over the last 100 years, it retains a certain appeal for some. McGee noted that in big cities, symphony season ticket-holders often especially love the social aspect and the experience of listening to live music, while others might be extremely passionate about certain composers or pieces.


Classical music eras

Source: NAXOS. Time periods of various musical eras.

As classical music has changed over time, it has been categorized into eras, such as Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Contemporary and so on.

“There are so many wide, diverse genres within classical music that it’s so hard to ignore. You can listen to everything from a Baroque concerto grosso to a Classical symphony, a Haydn quartet or the Romantic era,” said Mitch Smith, a grad student in UW’s music program.

Amanda Dority, a junior and violinist in the music program, loves the experience of listening to music being played by a hundred people in an orchestra.

“It just excites me,” Dority said. “It’s a sound that’s incredible, and you can’t recreate it. I get chills when I listen to music most times.”

Smith shared another aspect of classical music that he loves:

 “A lot of modern artists aim for one emotion throughout their entire work, but a lot of composers aim for these different emotions that circle through. You listen to Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique—which yes is an hour long, maybe more. And it has all of these different themes and references in it, and each section will inspire different things. It’s incredible work.”

To Listen or Not To Listen

From listening for functionality to listening for pleasure, there are many reasons to do so when it comes to classical music today.

Amanda said that though she just loves listening to classical music, she also thinks there are many different facets of it that are beneficial; for example, it opens up a lot of areas and stimulates different parts in the brain. She believes there is a kind of classical music for everyone to listen to because not only are there different genres from certain eras, but there are a variety of groups, from strings to brass to woodwinds, to listen to.

The diversity of different eras can also be a selling point for many who do not have much experience with classical music. Smith first encountered classical music in sixth grade because he was required to take a music class. He encourages others to take a step outside their comfort zone and give classical music a try.

“You never know what you’re gonna like,” said Smith. “My story is I found it in sixth grade and just kept looking for more of this music because it was really cool. So you never know what you’re gonna like. Try it out.”


Multimedia Productions: Goals and Expectations

Starting college is daunting. Generally, you are fresh out of high school, only about 18 years old, and barely able to actually support yourself; yet, this is when you pick what you might be doing for the rest of your life. You find a field of study that interests you and then just hope that you will continue to be interested in it and pray that four long years later when you finish school, you’ll be able to find a job in that field.

As a sophomore (already!), I’m amazed at how quickly my time in college, which I thought would take so long, has actually been passing. Above all else though, I’m relieved that I when I picked journalism as my major, I didn’t simply latch onto a passing interest, but instead discovered something that I remain passionate about and fascinated by. I’m amazed by the many possibilities and job opportunities that communications and journalism skills uncover for someone in today’s society.

As soon as I read the course description for COJO 3530, I knew I wanted to take the class.

3530. Multimedia Production. Intensive introduction to reporting, writing, producing, editing, and managing content for the web. Integration of writing, photography, social media, audio, video, and blogging for both journalism and strategic communication (e.g., public relations, marketing). — University Catalog

I am anticipating learning new skills and continuing to improve using various multimedia communication techniques. I’m specifically looking forward to learning about areas that I am not well-versed in, such as audio and video storytelling. I also hope and expect to continue learning and especially to fine-tune my skills in writing copy, photography, and using and designing graphics for visualization. These are all areas which I enjoy working in and hope to focus on one day in my media career.

Overall, I would like to come away from this class with a strong portfolio of my abilities and work to show to future employers, and I would like to strengthen my ability to communicate and tell stories through writing, photography, videography, and social media outlets.

One of the things that excites me most about taking Multimedia Productions is having the opportunity to maintain a blog to hone these skills. I’m looking forward to using my blog to report what is happening in areas that I’m interested in promoting (and areas will hopefully work in one day). My biggest interests are encompassed by sports and the arts.

Baseball is my favorite sport, and I have long dreamed of working as a social media manager or a reporter for a major league team. The Cleveland Indians (my favorite MLB team as well as my dream team to work for) have a remarkable social media presence on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as well as a blog-like website with news about everything from fan festivals to game recaps to general club news.


Coors Field, Denver, CO. Source: Fantasy Labs.

With baseball season fast approaching again, I would like to report on baseball in some way, whether locally on a smaller scale, within Laramie and Wyoming or on a more “Major” scale, such as about the Colorado Rockies.


I also love both the performing and fine arts. I did ballet for ten years; consequently, I have always wanted to write about and promote not just ballet, but all forms of dance. This semester, I think it would be fun to report on and share stories about the UW dance program and their various events. In addition, Ballet Wyoming is Wyoming’s first professional ballet company, and I would love to get involved in reporting about the company in some way. However, I would like to incorporate the fine arts into my reporting as well. I know that each semester there are events happening in the art department, and I think that featuring a visiting artist or an art show would be interesting.