“Main Street Sessions” footnote

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 not).

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.

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