Crossover

From a brief Q&A with soprano Andrea Gruber, in the April issue of Opera News:

All-time favorite singer: Janis Joplin.

One thing I absolutely cannot live without: My CD player, mini-speakers, and hip-hop, R&B or rap music before I go onstage.

Guilty-pleasure CD: Justified, by Justin Timberlake.

And from a longer Q&R with singer-songwriter Rufus Wainright, in the March 14 New York Times Magazine:

Hero: Verdi. This is a bust of him [pictured]. He’s my favorite composer. I’d like to follow the examples he set in his career, writing opera that was at the same time very popular and deep and very moralistic and righteous. And he wrote his best work when he was in his 70′s. There was this steady climb. And in the opera world, you have to call him Papa Verdi.

Classical music and pop — in the real world (as opposed to the classical music ghetto), they penetrate each other.

(Written as I’m assembling a pop compilation for my Juilliard class, designed to show how engaging, unexpected, and serious pop music can be, both musically and culturally. Here’s what I’ve got, working forward from the early years of rock & roll: Chuck Berry, “Memphis”; the Jaynetts, “Sally, Go ‘Round the Roses”; Sam Cooke, “A Change is Gonna Come”; Otis Redding, “Cigarettes and Coffee”; Bob Dylan, “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”; the Velvet Underground, “Heroin”; the Band, “Rockin’ Chair”; James Brown, “Get Up (Sex Machine)”; Bruce Springsteen, “Incident on 57th Street”; the Sex Pistols, “God Save the Queen”; Paul Simon, “Graceland”; Public Enemy, “Fight the Power”; the Pet Shop Boys, “Being Boring”; PJ Harvey, “Happy and Bleeding”; Radiohead, “Airbag.”

(Perfectly arbitrary, as any compilation like this will necessarily be, and of course open to major objections for everything it leaves out. What, no Beatles? Nothing from right now? My main defense: I really love these songs. And it’s fascinating to see what making a compliation teaches me. I seem to like pop that’s incantatory, and full of delicious textures, as in “Memphis,” the Band, James Brown, “Graceland,” Public Enemy, the Pet Shop Boys, and Radiohead. Or, really, all the songs. If “Heroin” isn’t a shock to the textural ear, I don’t know what is. And check out the background harmonica that runs all through “Rockin’ Chair,” exactly the kind of sonic nicety people go wild about in classical music.)

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