Are Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Händel, Haydn and all the others just irrelevant dead old white men? Or does classical music still have a place in the modern world? Well, supporters of Pavarotti and Joan Sutherland would say yes. But many would argue that this art form is becoming less relevant in the modern age. The Three Tenors did a lot to popularise classical music after the FIFA World Cup in 1990 in Italy.
There has always been a clash of cultures between so-called ‘high art’ (perceived as a pursuit of the haughty) and ‘low art’ (popular music that often takes the world by storm and defines cultural periods). But surely there is a link between the two? Has the one not led to the other?
Interestingly, classical music is actually a misnomer. The music that has come about as a result of the ‘classical’ period does not encompass all the music that is loosely defined as classical today. Also, many an artist has studied the classics, in order to perfect the contemporary. Pianists and guitarists study classical composers and techniques, to be able to perfect their own modern sounds. Even modern painting and modern literature have been modeled on what has past. We cannot escape our history, and it has defined our present and our future – but in a good way.
A judge at a popular battle of the bands contest stated, for example, that heavy metal has some of its roots in classical music, particularly Wagnerian opera. This makes perfect sense, if you listen to the drama of the heavy metal, with power chords, huge sounds, and climaxes that screech through the music. The head-banging and long-hair swaying of the guitar soloists and thelead singers would match that of any diva singing her dying aria.
Some people have suggested that life imitates art. In the case of music, that seems to be true. Like it or hate it, Mozart and Van Halen, and Beethoven and Bieber, have more in common than we often care to admit. It’s all music, after all, whatever taste tickles your fancy.