Daily Bow: The Links Between Pop and Classical

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 Pop Artists and Musical Borrowing

It’s hard to get by in music without a little help from those around you. Whether it’s your teacher working with you in your weekly lessons or your friends listening to you play your audition repertoire, it’s always helpful to have a second set of ears. Composers are especially dependent on collaboration. In order to have their music played, they must find musicians to perform and meet people who can promote their music. Music is seldom made alone, even if only one person’s name is in boldface on the program.

In the case of pop music, there’s actually a hefty amount of borrowing going on, more so than the average listener might expect. In fact, as shown in a recent article by Zachary Lewis of Cleveland.com, most pop music has at least a vague—sometimes obvious—relationship with a piece of classical music. Whether it’s a melody, a catchy harmonic progression, or a quote of an entire passage, modern musicians definitely have an ear for “old” composers. Consider how the rapper Nas, in his song “I Can,” uses Beethoven’s “Für Elise” in order to convey the promise of children. Or how Apollo 100’s song “Joy” in based heavily on Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” There are so many references and similarities that it would be nearly impossible to list them all. Still, here’s a handy list that you can use to impress your friends:

Apollo 100, “Joy” (Bach)

Barry Manilow, “Could It Be Magic” (Chopin)

The Beatles, “Because” (Beethoven)

Beyonce, “Ave Maria” (Schubert)

Billy Joel, “This Night” (Beethoven)

Blood, Sweat and Tears, “Variations on a Theme by Erik Satie” (Satie)

Bright Eyes, “Road to Joy” (Beethoven)

En Vogue, “Love U Crazay” (Tchaikovsky)

Eric Carmen, “All by Myself” (Rachmaninoff)

Evanescence, “Lacrymosa” (Mozart)

Janet Jackson, “Someone to Call My Lover” (Satie)

John Denver, “Annie’s Song” (Tchaikovsky)

Jem, “They” (Bach)

Kelis, “Like You” (Mozart)

Ludacris, “Coming 2 America” (Mozart)

William Orbit, “Pieces in a Modern Style” (Various)

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, “In the Hall of the Mountain King” (Grieg)

Paul Simon, “American Tune” (Bach)

Nina Simone, “Love Me or Leave Me” (Bach)

Puff Daddy, “Hate Me Now” (Orff)

Queen, “It’s a Hard Life” (Leoncavallo)

Radiohead, “Idioteque” (Wagner)

S Club 7, “Natural” (Faure)

The Shangri-Las, “Past, Present and Future” (Beethoven)

Sting, “Russians” (Prokofiev)

The Streets, “Same Old Thing” (Dvorak)

The Ventures, “Rap City” (Brahms)

The musical borrowing is interesting in itself, but it also has wider social implications. We live in a culture where classical music, according to some, is struggling. People say that young audiences have no interest in going to the symphony and that classical music as a culture is dying. I don’t think that’s true, and that’s not just because I’m a music student. The reality is that people hear classical music every day of their life. They may not know it, but they hear it and they like it. The problem is really accessibility. When a teenager hears Beethoven in a pop song, they may know its classical music, but they have no idea how to access it. They don’t know the name of the piece that was playing or even how to go about looking for it. I don’t think people are completely uninterested in classical music concerts; rather, they unsure if it would be a worthwhile investment. It’s hard to convince people to buy tickets if they’re unsure about what they’re spending their money. But if they knew how similar classical music was to pop music, or that they already listen to classical music in their everyday lives, they wouldn’t feel so intimidated. So instead of bemoaning the supposed decline classical music, let’s open it up to the public. Let’s show them how great it is and how much they already like it. A little bit of information can go a long way.


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2 Responses to Daily Bow: The Links Between Pop and Classical

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  1. References | Musical Influence in Western Society - March 7, 2014

    […] http://stringvisions.ovationpress.com/2012/07/daily-bow-the-links-between-pop-and-classical/ […]

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