Composed in 1801, the “Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2” better known as the “Moonlight Sonata” is probably Beethoven’s most well-known piano composition. Most people today have interests in a rich and diverse range of musical styles and would instantly recognize Beethoven’s classic, and yet audiences today are listening to Classical music less than ever before.
An article in Slate magazine goes further and concludes that “Classical music in America is dead”. Mark Vanhoenacker’s article describes problems plaguing Classical music including the accepted code of silence during performances and a terminally shrinking population of concert-goers. Interestingly he quotes that eighty years ago the average age at orchestra concerts in Los Angeles was 28; which is in the sweet spot of the average age of today’s concert-goers, so it begs the question: why don’t people want to hear Classical music anymore? Classical radio has the same problem as concerts with dedicated radio stations are becoming fewer and far between.
It could be that Classical music has a marketing problem and doesn’t want to reach the people that could end up being their greatest fans. In fact last year the Chief executive of a Symphony Orchestra in the UK admitted that Classical music has an image-problem, but warned against dumbing down concerts to suit audiences with “a shorter attention span”. A possible reason for this is the perception that as Classical music is a “sublime art form” it shouldn’t reach out to the “non-elitist music fan”. So there is the Catch-22: they want people to attend concerts but don’t want to adjust their programs to spark interest and excitement – to do things differently to get people in as other concerts do.
This is where a new music project might break some middle-ground, or at least open a way for music listeners to explore Classical music where they would never have dared before. Classical Made Modern (www.classicalmademodern.com) is a collection of two music albums where famous Classical music pieces are performed in popular and contemporary styles of rock, jazz, hip hop and more. It has titles on it like “Chopin’s Prelude Op. 28, No. 20 in C minor” which may not be recognizable to most people, but the melodies might already be known to listeners from movies and other incidental music they hear.
These albums feature compositions by Beethoven, Chopin, Dvorak, Faure, JS Bach, Schubert, Schumann, Tchaikovsky and more, and the traditional orchestral instruments are replaced by electric guitars, electric pianos, drums, electric bass and more. This is where the Moonlight Sonata gets its upgrade as it is now performed with two electric guitars, electric piano, acoustic guitar, drums and electric bass. There are many other well-known pieces of Classical music on these albums that audiences will be excited to hear in a thoroughly new context.
The albums “Classical Made Modern” and now “Classical Made Modern 2” (released this month) are available on iTunes, Google Play, iHeartradio and other online music distributors. There is a web site featuring the albums at Classicalmademodern.com where you can click links to hear the albums and see if it’s the kind of music you’ve been looking for!