The division between popular culture and the classical music world is perhaps greater today than ever before. With the continued disappearance of all things classical, from the reduction of symphonies to decreased attendance at concert halls, from cuts in arts funding to an alarmingly elitist composer pool, society has been relegated to mainstream culture. This mainstream culture wants little to do with the classical world, and vice versa. The concert hall is mostly inhabited by retirees while the arenas and clubs are filled with everyone else. When did this transgression take place or has it always existed and just become more prevalent with the advent of new communicative technologies? Was classical music always so detached from pop culture?
The appearance of Jay-Zs "The Black Album" led to a curious phenomenon. For the first time, the remix album became feasible. All you needed was a computer, cheap software, and an acapella, commercially available "The Black Album" to make a remix. With the launching of careers of remixers like Danger Mouse ("The Grey Album") and 9th Wonder ("Black is Back: The 9th Album") came the possibility of anyone throwing in their two cents. Tons of albums appeared, from albums that put Jay-Z on top Pavement, Weezer, and Metallica. But the classical music world, as it has in the past, went largely overlooked.
"The Classical Album", our first remix project, takes mostly 20th century classical music and attempts to find common ground with Jay-Z. And it succeeds. Not only does the concept work, but it forces entirely unique ways of listening. Structure, harmony, rhythm, form, and fundamental distinctions between the two musics begin to question themselves. How different are hip-hop and classical in actuality? There's no reason this shouldnt have been done before. The classical world needs to start listening elsewhere and mainstream culture must stop limiting its intellectualism. If more projects like "The Classical Album" are attempted, we might find ourselves bringing new collaboration between classical and popular cultures. As Ellington once said, after all, there are only two types of music: good and bad. Once society understands such, the future of music becomes all the richer.
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Jay-Z, Frank Zappa, The Beatles, The Residents, John Zorn, Notorious BIG, Leonard Bernstein, J.S. Bach, Gyorgi Ligeti