Musicological and sociopsychological aspects of blending classical and popular music

- PhD Dissertation by Balázs Alpár -


The collection, mixing or structural reorganization of cultural impulses derived from far-away countries, or from different periods in history, comes naturally to a creative artist socialized in the age of the Internet. While artists’ styles are often unwittingly influenced by the multicultural nature of the surrounding environment, in many cases composers intentionally choose to combine easily recognizable preexistent genre elements; this helps in the calling up of stereotypical associations and thereby the communication of distinct cultural meanings.
This dissertation examines composers’ awareness of and communication strategies behind genre mixing, while analyzing the traces of these concepts in the music itself. After the identification of different motivational types that influence the creation of crossover pieces, a model is constructed to help the systematization of these works. Music-theoretical analysis is supplemented by an exploration of the composers’ intentions (through letters, notes and interviews) and of the critical reception of their pieces.
In the historical-descriptive part examples of musical exchange between western art music and various forms of popular music are analyzed with regard to intra- and extra-musical aspects. The examination of different crossover fields within popular music focuses on jazz fusion, progressive rock, “classical crossover”, and on the latest tendencies in internet-based composing.
Detailed analyses of chosen works from U.K. band Gentle Giant, U.S. “super-group” Liquid Tension Experiment, Israeli multimedia artist Kutiman, and of internationally successful crossover adaptations of Vivaldi´s “Four Seasons” help illuminate aspects and characteristics of different sub-categories of “crossing over”. Qualitative interviews with current international genre-mixing composers expand the scope of the study.
The exploration and systematization of a wide range of crossover phenomena reveals that different types of background motivations, such as marketing concerns of record companies or the experimenting attitudes of musicians, can result in highly dissimilar pieces being labelled generally as Crossover.

Appendix: Audio Examples

Appendix: Audio Examples
A list of links to audio recordings and videos of all musical works mentioned and analyzed
in the study

Chapter 1 – Introduction
György Ligeti – Requiem
Pavarotti’s performance of Nessum Dorma at FIFA World Cup 1990
Nigel Kennedy – The Four Seasons 1989
Bobby McFerrin at the Swinging Bach concert
Don Davis & Juno Reactor – The Matrix – Reloaded OST
Enya-Prodigy mashup: Smack my Orinoco Flow

Chapter 3 – Analytical Methods
Leonard Bernstein: Prelude, Fugue and Riffs

Sting & Karamazov – Songs from the Labirynth
Jacques Loussier – Play Bach
Duke Ellington – Sugar Rum Cerry (The dance of the sugar plum fairy)
Hiromi Uehara – Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Pathetique
Maksim Mrvica – Grieg’s A-minor Piano Concerto

Chapter 4 – Historical cases and new tendencies
Claude Debussy – Colliwogg’s Cake-Walk,
Claude Debussy – The little Negro
Claude Debussy – Minstrels
Claude Debussy – General Lavine – Eccentric
Maurice Ravel – Sonata for Violin and cello
Darius Milhaud – Saudades do Brasil

Scott Joplin – Treemonisha
George Gershwin – An American in Paris
Leonard Bernstein – Chichester Psalms
Leonard Bernstein – Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
Gustav Mahler – Symphony No. 9 – 2nd movement

Béla Bartók – Concerto – 4th movement
2Cellos – Thunderstruck

Nobuo Uematsu – Final Fantasy
Karl Jenkins – Adiemus
Karl Jenkins – Stabat Mater – Sancta Mater
Stan Kenton – Quintile
Robert Graettinger – City of Glass
Snarky Puppy – Sylva – The Curtain
Gentle Giant – On Reflection
Gentle Giant – Advent of Panurge
Hooked on Classics 1
Andrea Bocelli – “Time to Say Goodbye”
Andrew Lloyd Webber – The Phantom of the Opera – Notes…/Twisted Every Way
Peter Fox – Stadtaffe – Alles Neu
Deep Forest – Sweet Lullaby
Nokia Ringtone Fugue
The Postmodern JukeBox – Welcome to the jungle

Chase Holfelder Major to Minor

John Oswald – Plexure
Peter Schikele – P. D. Q. Bach – 1712 Ouverture
Vitamin String Quartet
Eric Whitacre – Virtual Choir Project 2 – Lux Aurumque
Eric Whitacre – VC4 – Fly to Paradise
Grant Woolard – Classical Music Mashup
Eric Levi – Les Visiteurs , ERA
Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard – The Dark Knight
Douglas Pipes – Krampus

Chapter 5 – Analysis of Chosen Examples

Nigel Kennedy – The Four Seasons 1989
Nigel Kennedy – The Four Seasons – BBC Proms, 2013

Richard Clayderman – Medley of The Four Seasons
Bond – Winter

Vanessa Mae – Storm
Liquid Tension Experiment 2 – When the water breaks
Liquid Tension Experiment 2 – Live in LA
Liquid Tension Experiment 2 – Live in N.Y.C.
Kutiman – Thru You – Mother of All Funk Chords

Chapter 6 – Case Studies

Levente Gyöngyösi – Gólya Kalifa
Levente Gyöngyösi – Christmas Oratorio
Ivana Zabkar – Kuma
Ivana Zabkar – Das Begräbnis des Harald Kramer
Peter Pejtsik – Havasi project
Peter Pejtsik – After Crying
Christian Mühlbacher – Bruckner 4 Jazz
Christian Mühlbacher – Dahaam
Kutiman – Thru You
Kutiman – Thru the City

Appendix: Composer Interviews

This document includes the transcription of interviews with genre-mixing composers, realized as part of the research project and PhD dissertation Crossing Over – Musicological and socio-psychological aspects of blending classical and popular music by Balázs Alpár. (For the full pdf version of the dissertation, CLICK HERE. To order a hard cover print version, CLICK HERE.)