Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Pop-Classical fusion: Trend or Gimmick

There's an interesting article in the Ottawa Citizen about the various styles of conductors in the region. John Keillor writes, "the Victoria Symphony's conductor Tania Miller eyes that line between pop and classical." He then goes on to talk about Kent Nagano, of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, and the more avant-garde music in their programmes. Ottawa's Musical director Pinchas Zukerman is more of a classical persuasion, cautious of gimmicks sticking with pieces from Mozart to Brahms.

Ok, there are differing attitudes in Classical music; that's already known. What I found interesting about the article were the comments by the conductors. Ms Miller is quoted to say, "Music has to reflect current culture, and open itself to popular trends." Keillor suggest her "approach isn't much different from the public recital tradition of the 19th century, when concerts were often more like variety shows, shamelessly attempting to draw the biggest crowd." Mr Nagano says, "Popular culture takes what it needs at any moment," Nagano says, "which means it will also tinker with the definition of 'classical' according to its guidelines, either accurately or inaccurately," and yet he performs Ligeti who explores they way instruments make music, tearing apart classical forms on composition in attempt to create new ways to look (and listen) to sound (music). Mr Zukerman, the most traditional of the three conductors feels, "maybe you think people will listen if your hair is spiked up. That's fine, but it won't get you a wider audience." Is he speaking about modern pop hair styles of that of Mozart in his day (who loved to wear outlandish wigs).

In the end Keillor says, "These conductors all follow their own artistic vision..." which is perhaps the most important part for any musician to do - follow your vision. If other's end up seeing the same thing, then perhaps you'll be successful. If not, at least you were true to yourself. Personally, there are aspects of all of the above styles that I resonate with. Only time will tell if my own vision has any popularity.

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