David Stubbs, at the Guardian of all places, has a lovely rant about a couple of recent examples of crossover. Lindsay Stirling I have already written about a couple of times. But the other group he excoriates I have never heard of. Let's let Mr. Stubbs introduce them:
Let's have a listen, shall we?
Well, yes. Mr. Stubbs has some odd turns of phrase ("snot bubbles"?) but he is correct that this deserves a good excoriation. However, I think that he misses the really important aesthetic point. He has an essentialist view of classical music that it is inherently "classy" like a chandelier. But I think what this song demonstrates pretty well is that violins and perky rhythms do not necessarily make for good music. This song, like Pharrel Williams' "Happy" is, from an aesthetic point of view, rather similar to Rebecca Black's "Friday":
What they share is a theme utterly one-dimensional and simplistic with a musical accompaniment that, no matter how many tricky little bits it has, is just as simplistic. Aesthetically, that is. This is yet more evidence of the profound aesthetic truth that complexity and diversity are often aesthetic faults, not virtues. Simplicity of means is often the best way of expressing something that is NOT an aesthetic cliché. One example from pop music that might illustrate this is the pretty good (if not really profound) song "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye. The means are simple, but the theme is not such a cliché:
Classical music offers some wonderful examples like this remarkably sophisticated quartet movement by Joseph Haydn that uses the simplest of means, just descending fifths in half notes:
It is hard to put into words what makes a piece of music aesthetically serious, but I think it is very evident if you have the ears to hear it. Here is another example and again, the musical material is not very complex:
It is the relentless, pointless busyness of a lot of music (not just pop music, but in all styles and genres) that often reveals its emptiness...