On April 21 and 22, 1999, an interesting phenomenon occurred in the world of music. A deep rift was brought to light when the hard rock band Metallica joined up with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra to perform and record two concerts.

“I didn’t know whether to wear a black t-shirt or a black tie,” said one concertgoer.

He wasn’t alone in his confusion, as many of the orchestra’s season ticket holders arrived only to leave soon after in disgust. Most Metallica fans, however, stayed to bask in what they considered to be the best performance ever by the band. What is the reason for this schism?

The idea of ranking art forms based on genre is firmly established in our society. A painting by Monet is held in higher esteem than the cartoon in a Sunday paper. The words of Shakespeare are more revered than those of John Grisham. When it comes to the music world, the standards for excellence are still based on outdated tradition.

Classical music is deeply rooted in a tradition of combining itself with so-called “lower forms of music.” Whether it was Dvorak using Native American themes in his Ninth Symphony, Hindemith using Ragtime in his Suite “1922” or Mahler combing children’s songs in his Third Sympony, the concept of combining musical genres is not a new one.

More recent examples of crossing genres included such marriages as The Who and the London Symphony Orchestra to record the rock opera “Tommy” in 1969, or Pink Floyd, Aerosmith or Led Zeppelin recording with live orchestras.

Some would think that this combination of musical genres would jeopardize the integrity of both. In truth, you have a dialectic in which the combination forms a greater bond between genres. This union between musical genres is one that we should greet with open arms.

If one were to look at a cross section of the symphony orchestra audience, he or she might notice a generational gap with underrepresentation of the youth and young adult populations. Conversely, a pop music concert may be rich with “teeny-boppers,” with its only adults acting as chaperones.

The issue at hand is one of traditions. Classical music tradition, although pressed from many angles, is about as open to change as the Catholic Church. Just look at how much difficulty major orchestras have programming new and avante-garde music.

At the other end of the spectrum is rock, which lives through revolution. While there are many great genres of music, the fact that they all are music ? an art form ? still stands. There is no basis to consider classical music, as we know it, a “higher” form.

So, the next time you enter any kind of concert arena, check your preconceived notions at the door ? going in with an open mind is the first step to a rewarding music experience.

May is Campus Times Staff and can be reached at kmay@campustimes.org.

Pascaretti can be reached at mpascaretti@campustimes.org.



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