Wednesday, March 01, 2006


I was sucked in to reading an article in the Daily Telegraph this morning by this headline: "Karaoke crooners hijack classical music." I was fooled into thinking it was a complaint about the recent phenomenon of Boccelli, Groban and an unknown number of other singers who croon opera arias. This is brought on by the overwhelming success of Pavarotti's rendition of "Nessun dorma" in the Three Tenors concerts. Now everyone wants to sing it, imagining themselves capable of achieving Luciano's heights of expression. 

But no. It turns out to be a diatribe against crossover in general. Soon the distinction between classical and pop will be so blurry we won't be able to tell the difference at all. Hand wringing! Viewing with alarm! So guess what it turns out he is actually writing on and on for paragraph after paragraph about? . . . . . 


Osvaldo Golijov. If you guessed this, you get three points. Some of the singers, though certainly not all, in the passion concert could be mistaken for karaoke singers. Only the coloratura soprano had a classical technique. 

I will give one of my lectures here. The fundamental difference between classical and pop music is that classical arose in a hierarchical society where one preferred sharp distinctions between the upper and lower classes, while pop is a democratic art form. Read how hard Mozart worked to make sure that his wardrobe reflected the class of people he wanted to associate with. He wasn't poor, he was just not as rich as the members of the upper class who paid his bills. With the passage of time the desire to form into rigid social classes is fading.

Golijov is classical only in the complexity of his music. The Buena Vista Social Club is not this dissonant. If classical means difficult while pop means easy, he's classical. In his list of influences, a long list including virtually all of world music, he doesn't include Mozart or Beethoven.

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