When I wrote my post on classical and pop performed
together, I should have noted a few places where this really happens, or almost
happens. Key among them ought to be the London Sinfonietta,
which has done concerts with Warp Records, a pop label, in which Warp artists
play on programs where the rest of the music is by serious postwar composers
like Xenakis. These concerts have been wildly
successful, attracting a large, young audience, who from what I’ve heard like
the Xenakis pieces just as much as the pop stuff.
And then there’s Zankel Hall, the
newest and hippest of Carnegie Hall’s three performance spaces. The programming
there mixes classical and pop (not to mention world music and jazz). Rarely do
these musics show up on the same concert, but one
idea afloat in all this is to brand Zankel as a place
where art music in many styles can be heard, and thus to develop an audience
for all of it.
Likewise Nonesuch Records, which long ago (as I’ve said
before) stopped being a classical music label, and instead became an art music
label, with “art music” defined as anything from Emmylou Harris to John Adams,
Steve Reich, and Richard Goode. Although again I don’t think the various styles
are likely to appear on the same CD (except maybe when dance DJs remixed Steve
Reich pieces). And I’m not sure Nonesuch needs to brand itself, with the idea
that the same people might buy all their releases. I think they simply want
their releases to sell. (With the exception, quite honorably, of some of the
classical CDs—music by Louis Andriessen, for
instance, which Nonesuch is determined to record whether anyone buys it or
And then there are arts centers, which long ago stopped
offering (or at least most of them stopped) all-classical performing arts series.
Now there’s likely to be world music and jazz, simply because classical music
won’t sell enough tickets to keep these concerts in business.
Finally, here’s an important thing I forgot, a really personal
reason why concerts might include music from many different styles—because I’d
like to go to those concerts. Not that I always mind sitting through an entire
evening of classical music—this is my first and probably my greatest musical love,
after all, and it’s also the business I’m in. But who’s going to deny that some
classical concerts go on too long? Or, which often amounts to the same thing,
that they’re not programmed skillfully enough to justify their length.
Sometimes an entire evening of an orchestra is just too much. There might be
one piece on a program that—as performed by the orchestra on stage that night—really
demands to be heard. And while it’s surely unfair (most of the time) to call
the other pieces “filler,” I often can’t help feeling that there wasn’t any
compelling need to hear them.
In such cases, why not have Radiohead playing part of the
concert instead? (Well, there are many practical obstacles, but still…they
could be worked out.) I’d certainly be interested.