A little comment activity has prompted me to revive this new blog - even as I'm on vacay in NYC. Anything I say is said in the hotel bathrobe, in other words, and understand it as such.
My old pal Squidocto furthers the tradition of commenters with cred here. Aren't I spesh! The end of his comment goes like this:
While I, like you, truly enjoy thinking about questions such as "art song" vs. "pop song," you seem to actually think there might be definitions for the terms that would hold true. You can't really think that, can you? There will always always be multiple exceptions to any definition, right? I guess I need to know your answer to that question before I decide whether to hug you or smack you next time I see you. Heh.
I think in some ways this is a fair point. But as I think I've said above (it's been a while since I wrote those words - and I am somewhat partial to John Lennon's way of disowning just about everything he ever said in the past cuz it was how he felt THEN), it's not hard-fast rules I'm after (even though I do recall enumerating some rules), but rather a kind of continuum. That is to say, there are qualities that are germane to art songs, and qualities germane to pop songs, and each may spill over to the other and often does. Of course for any list of pop song or art song rules I write up, there are going to be tons of examples that break the "rules." But those are - and I ultimately love this cliche - the exceptions that prove the rule. Those are the moments of given works rubbing up against their genre and creating special interest. Can Radiohead's "Everything In Its Right Place" really be categorized as either pop song or electronics-enhanced art song? I would argue yes - it's STILL essentially a pop song, but there are certainly elements that call that categorization into question.
I think in every one of these posts I need to remind readers that I'm talking about "art song" as a rather specific genre, and that my definition of it is NOT "contains artistry," or "is art." I think ANY song, in any genre may be artistic, or be art, or lie just about anywhere on that continuum (I love continuums). So I suppose "art song" is a rather unfortunate designation, since built into the name is a sort of elitist poke at other song forms.
Lastly - and I AM trying to keep this short - I do really like thinking of these distinctions and categorizations, insomuch as they facilitate thought about what qualities define genres and make, say, two genres different from one another. I am done with saying there are no categorical distinctions between jazz song, pop song, art song, folk song, etc. I like an awful lot thinking up what the core elements of these different styles are, if only to better contemplate those musical exemplars that steadfastly refuse to be categorized - what is it that they HAVE that makes us category-librarians have such trouble shelving them?
My next post will be about the joy of being in a rock band for the first time in more than a decade. So stay tuned. And here's a shout out to frequent Sonenblog commenter Josh Newton's new blog, where he is talking about some similar kinds of issues, but staying so far on the arty side of life!