Friday, February 16, 2007

Do we need a "world classical" label next?

Osvaldo Golijov's Grammy win has led to a flurry of thoughts about the new strain of music he and people like Tan Dun seem to represent. Of course there's always been light classical music - "pop classical," if you will, like the Warsaw Concerto or Concierto de Aranjuez. But Golijov (above, photo by Dawn Upshaw, yes, that Dawn Upshaw) and Dun seem like something new to me; for one thing, I get a kick out of "pop classical" but this newer stuff leaves me cold - or at least a little bored. To be fair, I've only heard samples from Ainadamar, Golijov's new opera - maybe I'll be more impressed with the whole thing, which will be produced by Opera Boston next year.

But in the meantime, the question of genre lingers. It's hard to call this stuff "world music," really, because classical has ALWAYS been "world music." There is, of course, a political - or rather virtual political (Golijov's fans wouldn't be caught dead at a protest) - component to the aesthetic, or at least to its folk and rock rhythms; indeed, by touching on both flamenco and homos (Ainadamar deals with Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca ) Golijov kind of hits a political double for the Al Gore crowd. But is this sense of crossover virtue enough to compensate for the music's lack of complexity or, well, fundamental interest? I'd argue no, but who am I tell people what to like? I only resist the pretense that Golijov and Dun should reside in the classical pantheon to which people like Ades and Carter and Bolcom aspire. But what to call this new addition to the cultural structure? "World classical"? "Crossover classical"? I'm hoping some new handle quickly appears in the ling.

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