Sunday, August 29, 2010

From the Armed Man to Single Ladies

The Rambler, Tim Rutherford-Johnson, has investigated a recent Proms score by Mark-Anthony Turnage, discovering that it is, in part, an amped-up transcription of a recent pop hit  (here and, most astonishly, here).   Between this and the 800% slowed down Justin Bieber tune, noted on this page a few days ago, one starts to wonder if we are moving into a new era in which art music parodies of popular material become a central genre.  While I'm certain that there are some intellectual property thickets to cross through here, if this phenomenon establishes itself, it would seems to be placing the relationship between commercial and art music production back onto a more comfortable plain, and a plain long familiar to composers.  Just think of all those masses built around the Renaissance pop song L'Homme Armé, many of them stretching the melody or hiding it in a dense texture beyond immediate recognition, or the complexes of remembered tunes and landscape in Ives (and, to some extent, Mahler). I've long subscribed to the notion that composers compose out of their acoustical  environments, and such popular musical material is often — and unavoidably — as much a part of the environment as the bird songs, stormy weather, or traffic noises that can appear in musical works.  

4 comments:

johnsonsrambler said...

I was wondering about this today - after Bartók, Weill, etc., how many examples have there been of composers so blatantly reworking contemporary pop tunes? Examples of referencing the genre perhaps (Adès's Asyla, say) but wholesale quotation?

Samuel Vriezen said...

Have you ever heard Clarence Barlow's 'Septima de Facto', with its quite recognisable references to 'Sexy Motherfucker'?

johnsonsrambler said...

Samuel - I haven't, but thanks for the pointer. I'll try to track it down.

Samuel Vriezen said...

Not an easy find, unless you contact Clarence directly, I think.