Introduction to Class #3: Popularity Versus Quality

WHAT’S IN THIS VIDEO: Why does one piece of music become popular and find a place in the repertoire and another doesn’t? It’s not a matter of quality. Music goes in and out of fashion. Composers go in and out of fashion. At one time, Bach’s music was forgotten. Gershwin wrote one of the most popular pieces in American music with his Rhapsody in Blue. His Second Rhapsody, which had many advantages in being introduced to the public, was forgotten. We’ve asked conductors, a composer, a critic, an artist manager, a PR maven and a singer if they know the secret sauce of popularity.



  1. This video is marked as ‘Private’ and I cannot view it. Would you please change it to ‘Public’ or is this a problem at my end. Thanks.

  2. Hi: Sorry – It’s unlocked now.

  3. Kathleen James says:

    A distinguishing characteristic of popular symphonic works, or popular music generally, touched on by Midgette and Alsop, is the anticipatory feeling the listener experiences during the performance of a well-loved, well-known piece. Positive anticipation is pleasurable and exciting, creating a sense of satisfaction when those recognized notes, sounds, melodies “hooks” as Alsop describes, come to pass. But how does something travel that trajectory, from its very first performance?

    While many listeners can appreciate melodic complexity and technical virtuosity, I think for music to become popular, it must be more than an intellectual exercise. Popular music more quickly enters memory, imprints itself both mentally and emotionally, upon the listener. When it enters memory and finds a long-term home there, chances are quite good there is a qualitative aspect to the music that cannot be denied.

  4. Tesse M says:

    Video unavailable.

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