Musical Genres

The following musical genres are ones that I am already quite familiar with:


As someone who learnt the piano as a child and also now plays the cello in an amateur symphony orchestra, I have had a lot of exposure to ‘Western art music’ and enjoy listening to many composers, particularly Romantic and early 20th Century (Chopin, Rachmaninov, Debussy, Ravel etc.).  This is the genre I am probably the most familiar with, and the one that I spend most time both listening to and playing.

Contemporary Classical

Other than some very famous ‘mainstream’ composers such as John Rutter (whose music I sung in choirs as a child), Karl Jenkins and John Williams, this genre is quite a recent discovery for me.  I have listened to some works as part of my background research for Composing 1 (e.g. Steve Reich and Michael Torke), and am looking forward to learning more about the development of contemporary classical music.

Early Music

As with the Classical genre, I have been exposed to Early music through my own playing, particularly of Baroque music (e.g. Bach’s cello suites), and find the historically informed interpretations very interesting.  I am less familiar with Renaissance and earlier music, but have listened to some and was quite surprised at the beauty and complexity of some 16th century madrigals.


There’s something appealing about the idea of a country having their own traditional music which is passed down orally through the generations.  I’ve recently moved to Scotland and was taught a ‘tune’ this way by a folk fiddler friend, which was a lot of fun.  It shares a common feature with jazz – that of improvisation – a skill I am yet to learn!


Jazz, like Classical, covers such a wide range of styles, and although I do like it as a genre, I feel that I am only really familiar with a very small part of the spectrum.  I have listened to and enjoyed music by famous ‘classic’ jazz musicians such as Miles Davis and Duke Ellington; I particularly love the big band type of orchestration and upbeat swing music, but also enjoy more low key, sultry jazz.

Musical Theatre

I have seen just a handful of musicals, (‘Les Miserables’ and ‘Cats’ spring to mind) – it’s not my favourite genre, possibly because I find some of the popular songs to be not very musically interesting.  At school I remember being tortured by the repetitiveness of ‘Any dream will do’ from the West End show ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’.  Possibly I would enjoy the less popular ones more!


I have been to quite a few live opera performances, including La Traviata, La Boheme, Carmen, L’elisir d’Amore and Die Zauberflote.  I’m not a particularly huge fan of the operatic style of singing or recitative, but I love the intense emotion of the arias.  Again, this genre covers a huge range of musical styles – the music of a Mozart opera is radically different from one by Puccini or Wagner.


I have never been a particular ‘follower’ of pop music, other than perhaps a very short phase as a teenager in the 90s, however it’s virtually impossible to not be exposed to it in some form or other.  As a child I used to enjoy listening to my parents’ records from the 60s and 70s (mostly The Beatles), now I don’t actively listen to it at all.  Pop music for me has an instant association with the time it was written, and I think can say a lot about the social and cultural context.


I think I first became exposed to soul music through my parents, who were teenagers in the 1960s when Motown started to become popular.  I like the ‘feel good’ style of Aretha Franklin’s and James Brown’s music, and the catchy rhythms and bass lines of songs like Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’.

To explore some of the genres I am less familiar with, I have listened to some examples of Rap, R’n’B, Rock and Techno Music.


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