Redefining Classical

13 Apr

Complete the following:  ________________ is to classical music as Louis Armstrong is to jazz,

Madonna is to pop, and Tim McGraw is to country.

Having a little trouble?

You are not alone.

Classical music is characterized by the work of Beethoven, Haydn, and Mozart,

all of which have been rotting in their graves for over a century.

And is anyone waiting in the wings to succeed them?

Succeed Beethoven?  The very concept is blasphemous: At its very core, classical music is nostalgic, a genre composed of musical covers-a system of constant recycling, repetition, and imitation.

The genre’s works are timeless and lack the “ephemeral” quality of popular music.

Sound a little elitist?

That’s the point.

By its very definition classical music is not meant to be popular: It is designed to appeal to a niche demographic, normally characterized by their “developed musical taste.”  And classical music lovers relish their exclusivity.

But as this elite group continues to dwindle in size and interest, those driving the genre must decide between death and revolution.

Most die-hards would rather the genre face martyrdom than deviate from tradition.  The masses, who have no affinity or value for the work, would advocate for the death of the genre altogether.

I propose a compromise between the two.

Just as a company divides itself into mini companies to appeal to different markets, I envision a classical music sub-brand that targets the masses—a, dare I say, bubblegum version of classical music.

Sweet, friendly, and approachable, this sub-genre could reintroduce the world to a classical music with crossover sound and captivating packaging.

A great example of this concept is the country star, Taylor Swift.  Through her good looks, talented voice, and airy country tunes, she changed the mainstream perception of country music.  Within a year, she brought the genre from the margins of society to the mainstream.   For many, she was the introduction to the wonderful world of country.  For others, she simply served as a reminder that country music can be cool.

Classical music needs a Taylor Swift, a sex idol or icon, who couples musical influences from the genre with popular appeal, to become the face of the genre.

In fact, classical music already gained a bit of crossover appeal ten years ago with the emergence of beautiful electric string quartet, Bond.  The talented women, heralded by many as “hot chicks that play the violin” shook up the classical world when they posed nude for the cover to their 2000 record.

The cover was never released.

Apparently, “record company executives at Universal Decca did not think the raunchy shot of the classically trained foursome was in keeping with their music. . . ‘We were very concerned about Bond projecting such a sensational image, which is why we took steps for the picture never to see the light of day,’ Decca managing director Bill Holland said.”

Wait: There’s more.

The same BBC article states that “the string quartet’s album Born was banned from the classical charts for sounding too much like pop.”

The article continues “the Chart Information Network ruled that their music fell outside the “classical idiom” because of the use of dance beats, and so they were excluded from the classical chart.”

One Bond member, Haylie Eckerd commented, “In a modern world it is disappointing that the classical élite cannot embrace change.”

Does one really want to attract audiences from popular culture to this exclusive world?  Wouldn’t that simply erode its overall value?

If the purpose of classical music’s existence is to exclude others, then, yes, attracting the masses to the genre would be disastrous.

However, if the purpose of the genre is to spread a love of the musicality, majesty, and beauty of its music, the existence and promotion of this sub-culture create the savior that classical music so desperately needs.

And while this sensationalized classical music could never replace the original, it will create a comfortable middle ground, a fun purgatory to introduce the mainstream to the genre.

Ideally, after a couple of years, the newbies will outgrow bubblegum classical music and develop a taste for the real thing.


________________ is to classical music as Louis Armstrong is to jazz, Madonna is to pop, and Tim McGraw is to country.  If classical music is to survive, this blank must be filled.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: