How is it possible that I’m overwhelmed and underwhelmed by something at the same time?!?!
They want to grow the youth audience for classical music so juxtapose the music with a youth pop culture reference. OK, I get it. But I do often wonder exactly why initiatives such as these seem to want to target the kind of youth audience that watches/listens to Miley Cyrus and Rihanna. I suspect that they are too tough a market to crack. On the other hand, there are plenty of highly educated, intelligent, curious people out there who are not classical music fans but they listen to the smarter end of pop music… like, I dunno, London Grammar or Bjork or Rufus Wainright. Now, I am convinced that if classical music world learnt to effectively communicate with those people, we would increase our audience. Music videos don’t have to be so highly sexualised and vaguely exploitative to be popular. (Gotye+Kimbra anyone?)
Also, it is not only young people who are not listening to classical music. There are plenty of older folk who prefer Jimi Hendrix or The Beatles or Pink Floyd or y’know, the music of their own youth to Beethoven and Mozart. Are those people won over by classical music + soft porn? Only as far as the porn itself. I doubt they’re rushing out to buy Dvorak.
I’m in complete agreement with Sally. There is potential to attract new audiences to classical music but this seems the wrong way to go about it. They ‘showcase’ the music not with sympathetic images but distracting ones. “You’ve just listened to 3 minutes of classical music.” No, you’ve just watched 3 minutes of twerking so you didn’t mind the music. The aim should be to ignite passion, not mere tolerance.
And yes, there are large audiences interested in ‘arty’ pop and rock music, and popular musicians influenced by classical music. Math rock (from King Crimson via Don Caballero to Foals and Dutch Uncles) owes much to minimalist composers like Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Rufus Wainwright quotes Ravel’s Bolero in one piece, and has written an opera. Bjork is involved in performance art as well as pop music. It would surely be easier to entice their fans to a concert hall than your average Miley Cyrus fan.
My own way into classical music was via modern jazz (admittedly another niche area). The Bad Plus have been known to include piano trio interpretations of Stravinsky, Ligeti et al in their repertoire — which also includes works by Nirvana, David Bowie, Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd, as well as their wonderful original compositions. (Oh, and they too have attempted to fuse art music with sexy dancing, in the video for their version of Milton Babbitt’s Semi Simple Variations.)
There will always be music fans finding their own way in, and popular musicians (and film-makers) pointing the way to the concert hall. The classical music community needs to energise those connections, rather than twerking to Dvorak.