What Makes It Pop?

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Cookouts, fireworks and a rousing pops concert. On the Fourth of July, we hold these truths to be self-evidently American, right?

Perhaps -- but getting anyone to agree on what makes orchestral pops music pop is an altogether different question. In her 2009 bibliography, Orchestral "Pops" Music: A Handbook author Lucy Manning writes, "Pops implies a great array of music genres: from country, rock, jazz and Broadway musicals to familiar classical music." For the survey, Manning collected over 2000 orchestral works by 650 composers and grouped them in 25 categories.

Keith Lockhart, music director of the Boston Pops, notes that the pops format has changed as audiences have grown more fragmented. "What we’ve noticed over this last decade or decade-and-a-half is a separation of the audience into niche markets: an audience who wants only to come to Broadway concerts, an audience who wants to come to world music or something a bit more contemporary," he said. "What seems to be falling through the cracks is this idea of the one-size-fits-all pops concert."

So are pops the domain of movies scores, video-game soundtracks and crossover opera stars? Or are they best defined by the kind of light classics championed by the late Arthur Fiedler -- Strauss waltzes, Rossini overtures, Wagner preludes, patriotic works and pictorial pieces such as The Pines of Rome? What do you think makes for a great pops concert? Please leave your comments below.