Indie Art Music – the Alien Love Child of Classical and Popular Music?

The more time I spend writing this blog, the more I become fascinated with the convergence between classical and popular music. While browsing the blogosphere, I’ve come across classical artists doing rock music (Renée Fleming’s Dark Hope) and pop artists going classical (Sting’s Symphonicities). Then there are the classical performers who take their music into non-traditional venues, like the Chicago Q Ensemble, and the group from The Cleveland Orchestra who perform in a local jazz club. Today, I came across articles from NPR and The Huffington Post which examine artists from an emerging genre which can be considered “indie classical “or “indie art music”.

In a piece entitled “The Year in Music: Indie Classical Blossoms on Small Labels” on NPR’s blog deceptive cadence, Thomas Huizenga asserts that:

Labels such as classical, post-rock, hard rock, chamber music and jazz mean less and less these days, thanks in part to an assortment of young, smart musicians who feel equally at home playing in trendy nightclubs or swanky concert halls.

Huizenga sites all-female quintet Victoire as an example.

The Huffington Post’s Daniel J. Kushner sings a similar tune in his post, “The Top 10 Alternative Art Songs of 2001-2010”:

No matter what you call it, the world of pop music and classical music have undeniably collided, and this interaction is perhaps most evident when listening to the contemporary art songs of the past decade, which saw more and more “indie” musicians delving into territory once reserved for the “serious” classical music crowd.

Kushner lists works by artists such as Joanna Newsom (“Cosmia“, from a song cycle/5-movement double concerto for voice, harp, and orchestra); Sigur Rós (“Untitled 8“), and my personal favorite, Gabriel Kahane (Craigslistlieder). Kahane set actual Craigslist ads to music and arranged them as a song cycle:

The lines of distinction between musical genres have been gradually diminishing, especially with the growing influence of easily accessible music through the Internet. It’ll be fascinating to see where the next decade will take us. I, for one, am looking forward to the ride.

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