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In music theory and music criticism, the term eclecticism refers to use of diverse music genres. A musician might be described as eclectic if output can be ascribed to different genres such as 'country'; 'rock'; 'progressive', 'classical' or 'ambient'.

Eclectic musicians may also use historical references in their work. A song can reference historical forms and methods through its composition, arrangement or production.

The Beatles “Honey Pie”

The Beatles' output is characterised by its eclecticism.

The 1968 song Honey Pie is a useful example of these eclectic methods of music writing.

In the song's introduction, for example, Paul McCartney's vocals are EQ-ed to resemble a 1930s-style radio announcement, with additional vinyl crackles ('Now she's hit the big time!').

The song is also historicised by its arrangement. The accompanying jazz wind ensemble resembles the ragtime, vaudeville and music hall styles popular in early 20th century Britain.

Classical theory

The term can be used to describe the music of composers who combine multiple styles of composition; an example would be a composer using a whole tone scale variant of a folk song in a pentatonic scale over a chromatic counterpoint, or a tertian arpeggiating melody over quartal or secundal harmonies.

Eclecticism can also occur through quotations, whether of a style,[n 1] direct quotations of folk songs/variations of them—for example, in Mahler's Symphony No. 1—or direct quotations of other composers, for example in Berio's Sinfonia.[1]

See also


  1. ^ For example, Shostakovich's Symphony No. 9 calls back to Haydnesque classicism.


  1. ^ Cope 1997, pp. 230–33