Beat logo

The Axiomatic Triangle

by John Marvin Scott 28 days ago in history


Welcome to TAT. I’m sure you have a bunch of questions about this, so I’ll just dive right in. The Axiomatic Triangle is a brand new series, dedicated to showing you how to broaden your musical horizons by listening to music based on 3 categories.

Where did this idea come from? The concept of a musical axiomatic triangle comes from a great musicologist makes Philip Tagg, and he talks about the topic of musical genres only being divided into 3 categories:

  1. Art music
  2. Folk music
  3. Popular music

Philip's way of categorizing music in this way really resonated with me when it comes to my own personal definitions of genres and styles of music. I wanted to take this step to the next level by using my knowledge of music and music criticism to bring together 1 piece from each category, where each piece of music compliments one another.

I want to make sure that everyone is on the same page about how we talk about the definitions that I listed above. Mainly to make sure that I have my definitions in order, and so that there is a little confusion as possible.

Art Music

Art music is what we describe as music that is considered to have a higher aesthetic value. Some might describe it as music that is constructed with "higher intellect" at work, and some might describe it as music that is created for the music itself (this last definition stretches it a bit, but hey). Some might describe it to be a little more specific, including European Art Music (Baroque, Classical, Romantic and 20th Century) and American Art Music (Jazz, Modern American Symphonic Music), Indian Art Music (Hindustani and Carnatic), Indonesian Art Music (Gamelan), etc. For myself currently, I would consider this type of music to have its roots in theoretical constructs, and usually, it has a lot of musical complexity at work.

Folk Music

Folk music is a definition that can be used synonymously with the term "regional music". This means that folk music is music that is derived from specific music cultures around the world, and it is music that is used for all sorts of different events, gatherings, etc. This music can be varying in musical complexity, but to generalize this music is mostly based around simple musical concepts, and is mostly used in social settings. This one is hard for me to define, given my Caucasian Canadian background, but I would love to know more.

Popular Music

Popular music is music that is specifically used for entertainment purposes. This dates all the way back to the Baroque era, and it is still the most popular "music genre" to date. Popular music can also have a wide variety of complexities within it, but to me, the main difference between this type of music and others is that it is aimed to be sold. Now, this might sound strange with streaming services and such today, but the music is still "sold". We still go and stream songs, go to festivals, etc. Popular music encompasses genres such as Dance, EDM, Pop, Rock, Country, Metal, etc. Why? Because these types of music are generally sold to their respective niche audiences. That is the underlying theme behind this type of music.


“Why would you want to do this John? I already like what I listen to!” Well, I’m just a huge fan of music in general. I’ve found that the classification of music throughout time and history, as well as the push of music through pop culture and the entertainment industry, has really thinned out our musical taste. This is a generalization, but most people who aren’t musicians listen to the majority of their music from either the radio, top hits playlists from specific eras, or they find music by going and experiencing it live. Those of us who are musicians tend to stick to the music we grew up with, and then slowly graduate to different genres (sometimes), usually I find people will do this if their academically trained in music, but that isn’t always the case.

I wanted to show people that there is good music wherever you look, and I will be doing this by showing you 3 pieces, all different yet very similar. The pieces will be based on Philip Tagg's idea of the classification of music, and the pieces will be available in a playlist that I will be updating every month on my Spotify profile.

I hope you can join me on this journey, and I hope that by doing so you’ll find new music you never would have found on your own. I hope I can open your mind to new music to show you ways to appreciate the music you may not have thought about.

John Marvin Scott

John Marvin Scott
John Marvin Scott
Read next: Jay Z: From Worst to Best
John Marvin Scott

Musician/Composer writing about my experiences in the world of music.

See all posts by John Marvin Scott

Find us on socal media

Miscellaneous links