Classical music and pop music’s frenemy relationship

We’ve all seen it before: the fight between a classical music purist and a modern pop music fan who is more worried about the latest 808 rhythm and chord progression played on the most modern synth. However, these two might have more in common than they can possible see in their distinct, disparate versions of music listening.

The introduction of classical music to pop music

Big, dramatic swells of strings are no strangers to ambitious pop music ballads. While we may only think of Celine Dion or other similarly cheesy approaches to incorporating intricately composed pieces of classical instruments into a pop song, there is more to the art of combining the precious, immaculate aesthetics of classical compositions and the populist, hook-based economics of pop music; at the end of the day, both of these forms of music started as art pieces crafted for entertainment, and two things that are so rooted in such similar values cannot be too far away from each other, especially in creating new fusions and combinations between the two and trying to merge the worlds, collapsing the opinion that these two genres are enemies, or even opposite.

In truth, string compositions and complicated chord progressions that might make you cry, have been a part of pop music since its inception, and has accompanied it in all of its stages, be it through making Elvis Presley sound larger than life, making The Beatles want to experiment with more baroque textures or eventually merging itself into the confines of rap music with Kanye West’s prodigious masterpiece “Late Registration”.

The invention of new tools

The invention of other tools has also helped to restablish a sense of progression. In the 60’s and 70’s, progressive rock music made a giant leap through the invention of the mellotron, chamberlin and optigon musical instruments, which basically served as rudimentary, sample-based keyboards that could reproduce a whole orchestra with just touching a few of the keys. However, the tool had its limitations considering the short length of the samples included (which not only centered around strings but also included flute, horns, vibraphone and full choir, all professionally recorded and loaded into the instrument).

Other instruments started appearing and fixed the issue of sample length, such as the Fairlight CMI, which probably included one of the earliest modern-computer-based systems that allowed users to experiment with a myriad of classical sounds and incorporate it into their productions with enough ease, although the instrument wasn’t easily accessible for the common market.

Classical computer

Think that sample-based machines with limitations might be too much for the purists?

Well, if we’re talking about the current era, there’s not only legions of synthesizers that can replicate a classical arrangement with only limited ability, but computer software has evolved into the point of making musical notation smart enough to reproduce itself through systems such as Sibelius in order to help with the score creator’s creative process.

With that being said, we can only now understand that populist, poptimist strategies have certainly infiltrated themselves in the classical world and, very honestly, we’re all the better for it. May innovation always live between us.