The future of music

Two posts on music and genres caught my eye. One is rather snobbish piece by Tristan Jakob-Hoff bemoaning the increasing popularity of “Crossover”.

The word “crossover” is enough to send chills down the spines of even the most resilient of music lovers, implying as it does the debasement of a beloved musical genre for the benefit of a wider population incapable of appreciating it in its pure form. The worst offender against taste and decency is, of course, classical crossover, which takes the most life-enhancing of all art forms and repackages it as a bunch of otiose orchestral arrangements fronted by toothsome poppets selling out their much vaunted “classical training” to cringingly vulgar renditions of My Heart Will Go On and O Sole Mio.

In complete contrast, Brian Micklethwait considers the rigid divide between “classical” and “popular” music to be a historical aberration, caused by the invention of recording technology. During the 20th century, “Popular” music explored the potential of recording and electronics, while “classical” spent it’s time creating recordings of the musical canon of previous centuries. But that’s now coming to an end because, as Mickelthwait says:

The classical recording enterprise is now basically concluded. Oh, there are still occasional gems to be found in among the dross at the battle of the barrel. But, the great works are now recorded, and re-recording them again and again cannot count for as much now as making similar recordings did fifty years ago when classical fans were still hungry to hear their core repertoire. “Classical” musicians must now look to create new repertoire of a sort that can earn them a living, the inverted commas there being because a lot of them won’t really be “classical” musicians anymore and are becoming a lot more like pop musicians, from whom they have much to learn. The music profession will once more be a single (if huge and sprawling) entity, full of varieties of taste and of technique, but without that cavernous gulf that divided it during the twentieth century.

I think he’s right. In the future, we’ll still have both uplifting art and mass-produced dross, they’ll be opposite ends of a continuous spectrum rather than two separate universes. Of course many rock fans have known this all along; I have to wonder if the likes of Tristan Jakob-Hoff is aware of any rock and pop other than the lowest common denominator stuff played on daytime radio. Personally I’ve always thought that future generations will consider Roger Waters to be one of the most significant composers of the 20th century.

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2 Responses to The future of music

  1. Michael Orton says:

    I agree.

    I believe that argument about the number one in the classical charts being disqualified because it was actually a pop song proved that the whole division between “classical” and “pop” is nothing but a marketing device by the record industry.

    There is “music” and there is “noise”. Both can be found under the heading “classical” and “pop”.

    I rather like the “Classic Rock” records produced by the LSO, but I’m sure they are not to everyone’s taste.

    I also like Claude Bolling’s “Crossover Jazz”, especialy his “Suite for Chamber Orchestra and Jazz Piano Trio”.

    I would also draw people’s attention to “Sky” – a group of highly proficient professional musicians who you could see were really making music together for the fun of it. Are their albums “classical” or “pop”? I don’t know and I don’t care.

    Do they think of themselves as “classical” or “pop”? I think that when you are a professional musican you generally have to take the jobs you are offered. Folk like Tristan Fry and Herbie Flowers have played on many pop recordings simply because they are very good at what they do and sometimes “pop” bands are better showmen than they are musicans.

  2. Tim Hall says:

    The other obvious one is Gilbert & Sullivan, which is considered as ‘light classical’ nowadays, but was really the pop music of it’s day.

    Genre classifications are meaningless when the most interesting stuff doesn’t fit neatly into any genre.

    I suppose you could classify Finland’s Apocalyptica as a string quartet. But if you hear them, or even more if you see them live, you can’t classify them as anything other than a rock band who happen to play cellos instead of guitars. Their version of “Hall of the Mountain King” has to be heard to be believed.