"Art music" is mostly used to refer to music descending from the tradition of Western classical music. Authors associated with the critical musicology movement and popular music studies, such as Philip Tagg, tend to reject the elitism associated with art music; he refers to it as one of an "axiomatic triangle consisting of 'folk', 'art' and 'popular' musics". He explains that each of these three is distinguishable from the others according to certain criteria. According to Bruno Nettl, "Western classical music" may also be synonymous with "art music", "canonic music, "cultivated music". "serious music", as well as the more flippantly used "real music" and "normal music". Musician
Catherine Schmidt-Jones defines art music as "a music which requires significantly more work by the listener to fully appreciate than is typical of popular music". In her view, "[t]his can include the more challenging types of jazz and rock music, as well as Classical".
The term may also refer to:
- The classical/art music traditions of several different cultures around the world
- Some forms of jazz, excluding most forms generally considered popular music. Jazz is generally considered popular music. (Adorno for example refers to jazz as some kind of popular music),
- Music that is highly formalized, that is, in which all or most musical elements are specified in advance, usually in written notation, as opposed to being improvised or otherwise left up to the performer's discretion.
The term "art music" refers primarily to classical traditions (including contemporary as well as historical classical music forms) that focus on formal styles, invite technical and detailed deconstruction and criticism, and demand focused attention from the listener. In strict western practice, art music is considered primarily a written musical tradition, preserved in some form of music notation, as opposed to being transmitted orally, by rote, or in recordings (like popular and traditional music).