Monday, January 5, 2009

Classical and Pop?

From the Guardian UK:

I'll admit it, I'm a traitor. A musical turncoat. I can no longer swear allegiance to the dusty old flag of classical music. After years of piano lessons, orchestras, dots on paper and a music degree, last year I did the unthinkable and went ahead and made a pop album, Everything/Everything.

Hundreds of hours of training down the drain? A belated act of petulant rebellion? Well, nothing that dramatic. In fact, it all happened quite naturally.

Although my first love was contemporary classical music, I grew up listening to and appreciating everything else as well. The radio, TV, my friends' record collections of pop, rock and dance music; all these things are unavoidable to anyone who hasn't been living in a cave.

I eventually studied classical composition, but I never felt committed to that tradition. These days I'm just as likely to write songs for my band (as Simon Bookish) as I am to score a piece for a choir or put together an arrangement for a string orchestra. Actually, I don't really see much division in the approaches I take to these different things.

I'm not claiming to be a radical musical innovator. There's a strong tradition of musicians who hover between what used to be called "high" and "low": John Cale, for instance, with his connections to both experimental composer LaMonte Young and the Velvet Underground. Not to mention the bona fide pop stars who studied music at college (Elton John, anyone?).

What excites me most is that there is a new generation of artists who fluctuate between genres. Mika Levi, for instance, a "classical" composer who also has an exuberant band, Micachu and the Shapes; Serafina Steer, a classical harpist increasingly known for her sweeping songwriting; astonishing band the Irrepressibles, who are in essence a chamber orchestra; and there's Owen Pallett, who has been working on commissions for contemporary music festivals alongside his pop career as Final Fantasy.

Musical training used to fuel the fires of condescension (from both sides) and genre was to be worn like a badge of authenticity; "I am rock, you are classical and never the twain shall meet". Personally, I am looking forward to a future characterised by unclassifiable, adaptable musicians, for whom style and training are mere tools. We all need their open ears and skill to reflect our varied, vibrant age.

So what do you think?

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