I’ve often said — and often told my students — that I think classical music works too much from the top down, at a time when our culture is going in the opposite direction. All the talk in popular culture these days is about people participating, creating art on their own, making mashups of existing art.
While classical music still mostly serves up the same old masterworks, in a format (the standard concert format) that encourages (if not compels) the audience to sit silently, and absorb what’s good for them.
How can we change this? Here’s an idea I thought of, when I was reading a paper by Talia Dicker, a student in my Eastman course this winter. Thanks, Talia, for getting me to think of it!
Suppose an orchestra — or an opera company, or a chamber group, or a performing arts center — had a performance coming up, and encouraged mashups and remixes, in advance of the event. Suppose it put on its website recordings of the music that would be performed. And suppose it offered software to allow for mashups.
It wouldn’t even need complete recordings. It could post just a few highlights. Along, maybe, with software, that made slicing and dicing and mixing and matching easy to do. Anyone really ambitious could even allow genuine remixes. A string quartet could post recordings of each instrumental part. So could an orchestra! And people who came to the website could remix the recording, leaving some parts out, making some more prominent, or less prominent. Whatever!
Soon we’d have some remixes — if, that is, the whole thing were promoted well. We’d have, maybe, a mashup of all the big climaxes from a Tchaikovsky symphony, overlaid on a Bach solo violin piece. The possibilities are truly endless. The results could be a lot of fun.
The organization of course would post everything that anybody did, on its website. And then would pick the best submissions, and feature them in every way possible. Highlight them on the website. Set up a kiosk at the concert hall or opera house, where people could listen. Play the best mashups at the concert! Make them downloadable. Whatever! I can’t believe this wouldn’t get people more interested in the organization, the upcoming concert, and the music itself.
And of course the mashups could continue after the event, if people were inspired to come up with something after they heard the music live.
I know there are hurdles to jump. Rights, for instance. You’d have to find recordings you could do all these things to, legally The recordings of separate parts, curiously, are less of a problem, because the musicians could either create them specially for this project (not for the entire piece, I’d think, but highlights would work just as well). Or else you could make the parts electronically, with samplers, the way TV scores often are created.
I’d love to see someone do this. I’d be happy to help get the project off the ground. And has anyone ever done anything like this? I’m thinking that they have. I’d love to know about it. If anyone knows any examples, please tell me!
(Jennifer Foster, at WDAV in North Carolina, made some terrific mashups of music played on a WDAC live performance show.
(And this idea shouldn’t be limited to arts organizations. Individual musicians could do it, too, on their websites.)