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Exploring Music Essay

The current established 'canon' within orchestral music

includes both composers such as Beethoven whose
prestige has never been challenged, alongside others
whose works were initially championed beyond their
time and/or place of composition, such as Mahler and
Shostakovich. Discuss this statement with reference to
selected orchestral works by each of these composers,
and if appropriate, works by their contemporaries. How
have social, cultural and technological factors, in
particular the rise of the recording industry, had an
impact on these composers' relative popularity within
the past fifty years?

The notion of the canon within western orchestral music gained cultural
validity during the 18th century. During this period there was a social shift
towards the acceptance of musics autonomy. Beethoven has been described
as the pro-typical canonic composer of the European tradition1 an opinion
that is still widely recognised. Beethovens compositional innovation, as the
father of romanticism paved the way for composers such as Mahler and
Shostakovich whose works initially caused controversy, and only in hindsight,
through contextual understanding has an appreciation and understanding of
their works existed. The western canon has been described as an
ideological construct designed to reinforce and perpetuate a social hierarchy
dominated by white men 2 The musical canon has been defined by
ethnomusicologists as a body of notated works, disregarding other mediums
with which we consume classical music such as recordings and it this fact that
has caused the decaoninzation of classical music. Unlike the canons that exist
within literature and art, the classical music canon has been effected largely
by technology and cultural consensus. Throughout the 20th century,
historical events, influenced composers to a large extent, and this widely
recognised culturally constructed idea of the musical canon dissipated largely.
Beethoven, Shosta and Mahlers works

The rise of the recording industry and the shift from the investment
in music to the consuming nature of music has played a large role in

the increasing popularity of Shostakovich, Mahler and Beethoven.

The recording industry has increased the accessibility and allowed a
larger audience to consume classical music. The unethical nature
of the recording industry in the 21st century, has many concerned
about the lasting nature of classical recording labels such as Sony
and EMI. Despite the consuming nature of the recording industry it
has played a large role in the increasing popularity of these
composers. Throughout the 20th century, recordings served multiple
purposes. For popular artists recordings provided income, however,
many used recordings for promotional resources and prestige. 3 Tom
Service in the Guardian discusses whether the accessibility of music
in the 21st Century, is largely suited to the culture of classical music.

All music was new music once. The way that we in a modern generation respond to
the works of these esteemed composers is a direct reflection of our experience
socially and technologically. With the modern age, many people have questioned the
relevance of these composers. We consume these works and we are more aware of
their position in the canon. The canon is merely a concept constructed like the
literature canon. The innovative nature of Shostakovitch and Mahler has attracted
audiences to The canon that exists within orchestral music has been influenced largely
by the social, cultural and political factors of the times.