time to change the way we view music and the arts

One cannot exist without the other…

Integration, progression, evolution, adaptation…yes, yes, I’ve said these things before.

I want all of these things to happen and sometimes I want them to happen a lot faster. That said, today is one of those days where I properly acknowledge that the “old ways” of classical music are likely never to fade and I acknowledge this happily. Surprised? Read on.

Last week, a news segment aired on a major broadcaster’s channel in my area, that featured a live, in-studio performance by one Lindsey Stirling. This multi-talented performer has penetrated several markets and audience demographics with the combined offering she presents to listeners and live concert goers. A beautiful violin performance, an edgy and confident look, uncommon and high energy dance moves whilst playing and repertoire than spans the more aurally classical to the pop-culturally current like themes from video games such as Skyrim and the Legend of Zelda. Putting forth fully developed music videos as well, Stirling seems to have mastered an all-around package for herself as a string player in the spotlight of public fame.

One aggressive and yet aesthetically appealing video example comes from her major breakout hit, “Crystallize,” seen below:

In addition to this video, which concentrates more on a visually thematic connection than a narratively thematic one, there are other videos, like “Moon Trance,” that place much more of a story-telling aspect at the front of the viewing experience. This second example has Stirling integrated into the mix beyond herself just playing the violin. 
While considering this set of presentations displaying skill and a “fresh, young, coolness factor,” let’s look now, at another classical crossover group: Bond.
Based out of the UK, Bond is an all female quartet that started around 2000 and has its own level of impressive success and recognition. Fan stat comparisons aside, the point at hand is that they have achieved widespread exposure and travel in a similar vein to Ms. Stirling. Re-watching an older music video from 2009, put together by them and Decca Records for the piece, “Explosive” there is narrative present here too but its coexistence with the four women and the mood of the music stands in a unique third position that is unlike either that of Crystallize or Moon Trance in its intensity and method of delivery.

A route that seems common for Bond when it comes to their music video design, is to have their music seamlessly made into an important component for the video’s narrative but to have that importance established around them in a way that does not require a separated bit of non-musical context. A story or set of actions evolving around the group is exactly what occurs for Explosive. It is compelling for Bond that they can feel just as crucial to this plot line as Stirling does for Moon Trance but, for the former over the latter, no one (with the exception of everyone escaping at the end) is stepping outside of their “natural” role of string player. The end result sees Bond standing just above the line of becoming an extraneous ‘musical prop.’

There are pros and cons to each of these approaches when it comes to the crossover genre and if one were to come from an introductory listener’s standpoint, for the musician, it is not always easy to discern the exact reasons why those who don’t frequent classical repertoire have remained fans and, from where where one’s sticking power comes.


The added contemporary variables of dress, scenery, potential for outside cultural correlation…the ratio of how much a crossover artist highlights any of these elements can affect whether a non-classical listener simply likes “that one (type of) song” or if they have connected with the artist past the contemporary bells and whistles. Perhaps this is why, when it comes to traditional repertoire, performance is continually treated in such a purist fashion and why anything past formal is avoided. Original pieces and video concepts from people like Stirling can be composed to whatever style she chooses and that can include modern day, up to the minute, popular trends like dubstep beats and designer clothes.

Something like Beethoven’s 7th symphony though, (which happens to be in the news right now,) was composed outside of rapidly changing facets of 21st century pop culture and although the classical world needs to stay relevant by almost any positively received means, the existence of classically fundamentalist structure acts almost like a timeless “control” for the timbre of classical music itself and helps programmers know what makes potential audience members tick. Furthermore, if we look at a traditional classical performance as a “blank slate” for updating, experiments and gradual changes can be put in to help isolate public preference. (Do you just like it when the violin gets plugged into an amp or what?)

Without historical context and ability to repeatedly reference the foundations of classical repertoire, if a landslide of modern integration were to flood the industry tomorrow, unless the industry were to abandon older repertoire altogether, in favor of strictly new, original compositions, the overall genre and its accompanying fans would likely devolve into a disheveled conglomeration of sound and change; too fast to be kept up with or fully understood.

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