A music genre is a conventional category that identifies and classifies songs and compositions according to criteria of affinity. The music can be grouped according to their formal and stylistic conventions, the tradition in which they are inserted, the spirit of their themes, their destination or, if present, their lyrics. The indeterminacy of some of these parameters often makes the division of music into controversial and arbitrary genres. A musical genre can in turn be divided into subgenres.
A basic, but widely shared, classification of musical genres is the traditional-cultured-popular tricotomy proposed. According to this theory, the music is distinguished mainly in music of written tradition, music of oral tradition and audiotactile music (such as jazz, rock, pop …).
The latter adopt the “audiotactile principle” and are transmitted through the medium of recording and phonographic reproduction. It is also possible to categorize music by historical periods, in which some genres have their origin or popularity, on a geographical basis, according to technical aspects such as the instrumentation used or according to their social function.
A genre can then be defined by the fusion of other musical genres, such as blues rock and Latin jazz. Some examples of this type of categorization do not necessarily carry all the names of origin in the name that defines them, as in the case of crossover or fusion. To confirm the close link between music genre, reception and enjoyment, in recent decades the recording industry has often preferred, for commercial reasons, to frame performers within individual genres.
A basic distinction, commonly recognized by musicology, is that between traditional music, cultured music and popular music, seen as generic terms or macrocategories that together enclose all musical genres, forming what defined as “axiomatic triangle”.
The term “cultured music” refers mainly to classical music, including both contemporary and historicized classical music. In the West, cultured music is characterized by the written musical tradition, preserved by forms of musical notation.
Traditional or folkloric music is defined by oral transmission, i.e. it is handed down through singing, listening and sometimes dancing. It also derives from particular traditions, regions and cultures being an integral part of them.
The term popular music refers to all those musical genres accessible to a general public and widely disseminated by the mass media. Popular music can be found in the most commercial radio stations, the most popular retailers, shopping malls, TV soundtracks and many films.
Tracks are often placed on sales charts, and in addition to the singer, author or composer, it involves the role of the music producer, much more than the other two macro-genres.
Popular music, unlike cultured music, is conceived for mass distribution aimed at large and often socio-culturalally heterogeneous groups of listeners that can be sold and distributed in unwritten forms exclusively possible in an industrial monetary economy where it turns into a commodity, and in capitalist societies, subject to the law of free enterprise as it must ideally be as marketable as possible.
The distinctions between cultured and popular music often appear blurred and with many points of contact, as is the case with minimalist music. In these cases, music – like other arts – makes imprecise distinctions, comparable to the categorization that distinguishes the literary novel from the popular novel.
In recent decades the habit of labeling has developed a lot in every field including, of course, music. This growth is due to several factors among which the economic and cultural ones stand out for their importance.
From the economic point of view, organizing music by genres means being able to offer on the market certain artists and songs in a rational way and therefore monetizable with efficiency, while from the cultural point of view, music genres allow listeners to be able to label themselves, thus creating real communities of people who recognize themselves in a certain style.
The division by musical genres is therefore an instrument created and used to be able to love and know in the best way particular styles and to produce and make people love certain groups and musical artists. In addition, with the digitalization of the sale and listening to music, the classification by genre allows you to know new artists and new styles in order to expand your knowledge.
The scheme that results from the classification of music consists of genre, sub-genres and genre meetings. As an example it is possible to observe how there is Punk as a genre, Protopunk as a sub-genre and Irish Folk punk as a meeting of genres. This scheme can become very articulated and capillary and definitely stimulates the curiosity to know which and how many different or similar genres can be heard.
Fortunately this curiosity also arose a company that deals with the organization and digital recognition of music that has recently been purchased by Spotify in person. In fact this engineer in his work asks a computer to recognize, organize, choose and recommend to customers particular songs based on the music genre.
The musical genres collected so far are more than 1500 and are organized in a map that allows not only to identify them but also to notice how they relate to each other and can be organized as in a real map. By clicking on the name of the various genres will be played a song that represents that style of music and pressing again will open a further map in which will be listed the groups and musical artists related to that genre.
The thanks to the collaboration with Spotify is always updated and sufficiently complete, a perfect tool to meet new musicians and new international but also Italian music genres. Inside the map you can discover that there is Swedish indie pop or Gothic symphonic metal or you can notice that according to the organization given by the map Brazilian gospel and Anarcho-punk are not so far from each other.
The last and perhaps most important is the classification by state of animum. In fact here there would be a lot of work to do because a song that for me expresses joy or happiness, maybe for another can express disgust or sadness, based on the experience lived during that same song. So you could say that it is subjective and not objective. You should find a system on spotify or shazam that allows you to track the mood to have a database of metadata that allows you to classify songs by mood.
A similar work is the one that from the collaboration between the independent digital creative agency, a small revolution in the world of music and apps.
Classifications are sometimes also a reason for discussion, especially from a subjective point of view. Imagine when you discussed a band saying that it made that kind of music while your friend attributed another kind of music.
Other classifications cannot be discussed, such as by date or place. Classification by location also brings with it aspects of musical, environmental, social, etc. history.
In conclusion, musical classifications are in my opinion a positive resource if used for the most varied listening possible, but they could also be a negative resource if used by record companies or playlist providers to give us only certain pre-packaged music.