That’s a gut response, that I’ve just spent fifteen minutes trying to back up with research, and while I still think I’m right, I’m not certain it’s not prejudice, or at least a problem with the definition of the phrase ‘ of his time’.
The gut thing mostly stems from the notion not that SAW produced music of a much lower calibre, though this is true. The main kick comes from the simple fact that Mozart played for rarified circles of the rich and aristocratic. Stock Aitken Waterman made the sounds of the underground (Really? Really? Is that really true? My musicology is showing a lot of bias here, but basically, if that’s what the rave scene sounded like then, I’m glad I wasn’t involved) squeaky clear enough for the pop charts.
So audience varies widely. Though of course, both were simply following the money and the limitations of the technology (if it’s only possible to play to a relatively small number of people at a time, it’s worth making them the richest, and if you can be heard by everybody, then you can rely on shifting units).
But of course, the world was different, and comparisons are kind of impossible. In truth, I don’t know anywhere near enough about the 18th century (or, really, the eighties, I missed four of them) to make a convincing and accurate statement about how things worked then. Let alone the intricacies of the music industry.
When Mozart was around industry wasn’t even really a thing, so the notion of a music industry was miles of. Stock/Aitken/Waterman, on the other hand, were players of the game.
Even the notion of the masses has essentially shifted. So to talk about mass appeal is irrelevant. In theory, the non-aristos were all listening to folk and traditional music in public spaces. Music was socialisation (this is true of all sphere’s though, surely) as well as entertainment. But by the eighties we were looking at centralised broadcasting structures. Radios that could get music played everywhere, all day. Recordings. Make a song once and play if freely again and again. You no longer needed to afford an orchestra to hear a symphony.
There’s a general point to be made about history here. Comparisons from one period to the next are somewhat dangerous, especially if poorly researched. It’s so hard to concentrate on all the possible differences between two periods. It’s so hard to focus on the reality of just how much has changed. Most of the elements and structures of the world we see around us are taken for granted, despite being utterly impossible and incomprehensible from the point of view of the past.
It’s hard to apply old thoughts to new realities. This is one of the reasons everyone these days is so bloody confused.
And I’ve not even touched on the aesthetics. It strikes me as dangerous territory.
I mean nobody ever gets rick-rolled with Ode to Joy, do they?
Illustration by Billy.