Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Same Bach, Different Story

It's Musical Tuesday here at The FFH. Hope you all are getting a good start to your week...

Tuesday is when I get a little wordy, so bear with me, but when it comes to music I think there's a lot to say.

Last week I described (way too briefly) the importance of the Bach Cello Suites. These pieces have been interpreted and reinterpreted for hundreds of year now.

Yesterday, though, while reading a post at Stacy Uncorked, I stumbled upon an interpretation I had never heard before.

This arrangement is by Steven Sharp Nelson, of the group The Piano Guys.

Lots of people try to spice up classical repertoire (a specialty my high school band was actually pretty proficient in!), and lots of people end up with something that sounds like a nerdy, middle school orchestra rendition of the original piece.

Not this guy. (And not my high school band either, might I add!)

This arrangement is modern and accessible. It features a heavy back-beat, which is a please-all when it comes to rhythm, and traditional harmonies with just enough dissonance to spice things up a bit...

In English: Steven has put a head bobbing,  hip hop beat behind what would normally be just a string of notes that are all the same length. This adds shape and brings a classical piece to a level where those who aren't used to digesting classical music can understand it. He also added harmonies (lots of them, as you can see) that are commonly found in movie soundtracks and other mainstream media, while also throwing in a few surprises here and there. Again, he's embellishing in such a way that non-classically trained listeners can enjoy and understand.

I'm reminded of my all time favorite music quote by Aaron Copland, an American composer in the mid-twentieth century...

“When I speak of the gifted listener, I am thinking of the nonmusician primarily, of the listener who intends to retain his amateur status. It is the thought of just such a listener that excites the composer in me.”

I think a lot of people are put off by the idea that you have to know something to enjoy classical music. 

I also think that those active in the classical soundscape sometimes enjoy making other people feel that way.

I also think that that's a really quick way to self-annihilate classical music all together. And that would be a shame.

In response to this attitude, it is my personal mission to turn as many people on to classical music as possible.

Re-imaginings of classic repertoire (defined in my previous post) like Steven's arrangement above make it easy. Some will say that it's misleading to take this approach with new listeners, I say it's a short bridge from having fun with these arrangements to appreciating the original works. A point on which I've argued with many a professional musician... (and won)

Without beginners, where will music come from?

Without foundational knowledge, where will beginners come from?

Without a friendly introduction, where will foundations come from?

Power to the amateurs!


P.S. If you've always wanted to pick up an instrument and never have, just do it. I don't care how old you are or what you think you're good at. Just get started. We need more of you beginners out there  :-)

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