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Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Classical Elvis

Blog in DM has a post which refers to a review of Elvis Costello's recent classical debut, and then comments that some Jewish Musicians fall prey to the same syndrome. I find this interesting on many levels.
First, I'm a huge Elvis Costello fan, but have been somewhat disappointed in his recent releases, where he's gotten away from punk/soul and embraced more dissonent styles, using odd instruments like tubas on his albums. Interesting but doesn't sound too good. Second, I heard one of Costello's classical pieces and thought "eh." I think Squeeze did a much better job with this on East Side Story (listen to Vanity Fair, it's gorgeous). And that was 23 years ago. The Beatles did this sort of thing in the sixties. It's not much of a novelty anymore. Third, as a composer, I appreciate the need to "stretch" and prove that you're capable of more than just spitting out the same formulaic stuff over and over. But I think what composers need to understand is that it's that formulaic stuff which endeared the artists to their fans in the first place. I think if we want to hear classical music, we'll go to a Mozart recital. When I go to see Elvis Costello, I want Punk Rock.
With regards to "Classical" Jewish Music, I think back to an album that I recorded for a Chassidic Rebbe. We did that one with just an acoustic guitar accompanying the Rebbe, and it sounded wonderful. Later, a more established arranger redid those songs in a classical style, but I was disappointed to hear that the new arrangements sounded more like a "Looney Tunes" version, with stereotypical flourishes that didn't always fit the mood of the piece.

5 comments:

velvel said...

I'd be interested to hear that Chassid + acoustic guitar version.

PsychoToddler said...

Look here:
http://www.bethjehudah.org/music.htm#tmormt1

velvel said...

Is there a version that isn't "enriched with background music by professional musicians?"

velvel said...

Right on. Musical explorations by established artists are sometimes interesting, but never good.

PsychoToddler said...

The "professional"ism of the "enriching" "musicians" has been greatly exagerrated. It's pretty raw stuff. Me likee.