Sunday, March 02, 2008

Post-crossover Music?

During the past several years there are been thousands of on-line discussions about the future of classical music that cover the importance of tonality, the importance of atonality, the incorporation of "other styles" into the music that we seem to still end up calling classical. We all know that "classical" music is a lousy and essentially useless name to use for whatever it is that the relatively small number of people who read this and other "classical music" blogs play, write, and listen to. During the last thirty or forty years, "classical" musicians have been stepping out of their imaginary "box" have have incorporated popular (or once popular), ethnic (or once ethic--before elements of "it" became incorporated into the mainstream) influences into their "classical" programs in order to avoid artistic stagnation, reach new audiences, to make a lot of money, or simply to have some fun. This practice is often referred to as "crossover music."

Some people make fun of it, and some people have fun with it. It is usually disappointing when a "pop" musician makes a "classical" recording, and it sometimes seems like kind of a cheap "sellout" when a well-known classical musician makes a recording of "pop" music. Once in a while there is something really worthwhile, but the genre "crossover" is no guarantee of anything.

Somehow, maybe while some of us (like me) have been paying attention to other sides and corners of our huge musical kaleidoscope, a generation of people with far broader musical horizons than we could have even imagined having has entered the stage (as it were), and more physical technique than anyone could acquire by simply studying the major 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th-century "classical" literature, is kind of paving a path in a new direction. Of maybe it is already a group of streets, like the ones in a Monopoly game, filled in with houses and hotels. And I'm not talking about Baltic Avenue.

These are people who really know how to use the huge array of media available to market themselves well. These are people who create their own repertoire tailor-made to fit their non-traditional instrumentation; people who know that nobody else can do what they do, unless they have the same instrumentation, the same arrangements or pieces (that are often not published), and the same amount of technique. They are people who think of themselves as performers when they are in front of an audience, and people who radiate a great deal of energy from their audience's response, creating a real sense of community when they play.

So, I'm calling this phenomenon "post-crossover music." And I encountered it in spades, sharps, and flats last night when I had the privilege of playing (as a member of the viola section of an orchestra) a concert with Time for Three.

Here they are playing Czardas, and their own version of the first movement of the Bach Double. If playing like this doesn't bring young people and old people out to concerts, I don't know what will.

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