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Commercialism in music: Sellout, sell-in, or move on?

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Nathan S.
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  1. Examining the context in which the work was created.
  2. The world of video game music.
  3. The world of movie composers.
  4. The main composer for the focus of this study.
  5. Corigliano's motivation.
  6. Conclusion.

It is hard to make a clear definition of what is artistic, and what is commercial in the world of musical culture. Even more confusing is the concept of ?commercial art?, or that art and music for the purpose of commercialism can actually be a genre or specification of a high art. For all intents and purposes, there are an infinite number of variations that lead to a potentially infinite grey area between ?art? and ?commercialism.? To this end, this study will examine all works on a spectrum that exists along a delineated axis. On one side is the commercial aspect, and on the other side is the artistic aspect of one's work. To be considered artistic, a work must have merit as an artistic piece without necessarily justifying itself by being a paid work. This does not mean that commissioned works cannot be artistic, but the institution and context within which that institution uses the music and the manner in which the music was intended play a central role in determining its place in the spectrum.

[...] Interestingly enough he was also commissioned for the opera The Ghost of Versailles (1992), which some may consider an artistic commission, but there has been a bit of debate on the supposed ?legitimacy? of art institutions making money off of their commissions, for example the Metropolitan Opera, which in this case bankrolled this particular work. On one hand, the genre exists within the context of a high art community, but on the other hand it is within the realm of music that was used for the purpose of making money. [...]


[...] In this world of music the primary intention of the work is to make money or at least be a success in a commercial market, and other concerns are keeping the market fresh and new. For video game composers like George Fat Sanger, the most interesting concept of new video games is appropriateness of music and interactivity of sound. A new concept, most notably seen in recent games (Sanger, p 234) is having music that dynamically shifts along with the game play in a manner that is fitting to the situational needs of the composer. [...]


[...] In this explanation of his own music, I think Corigliano explains best what I meant to explore with this paper, which was that music does not have to be commercial or artistic simply because of who bankrolled it, because of where it is being played, or the context within which any of these things occur. Music does not have to be completely programmatic or tonal or atonal, and because of this I think it is very interesting for us to take a step back and allow the music to simply be music. [...]

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