Saturday, May 5, 2018

The Soporific to Stimulating Spectrum

This post was inspired by listening to two very different performances: the Buchberger Quartet ripping their way through some Haydn opus 54 and Beyoncé's "Sandcastles." The stereotype is that classical music is all smooth and boring while pop music is energetic and stimulating. But, y'know, that is often not the case. Here, for example are the Buchberger Quartet with the first movement of op. 54, no. 1:

That is dynamic, effervescent, punchy and unrestrained. Now let's listen to Beyoncé:

For some reason, Blogger refuses to embed either clip, so just follow the links. Here are my impressions of the Beyoncé song: first of all, I find the pompous, pretentious introduction to be so off-putting that it took a real effort to even listen to the subsequent song. Ok, so she and Jay-Z had a little stumble in their relationship, why does it need to be puffed up to something like the Clash of the Titans or the Misbehaviour of the Demigods? Honestly, who cares? Especially when it seems to have inspired nothing more than an entirely derivative pseudo-spiritual. This is maudlin, emotionally deadening drivel. Please god, let's hear some more aesthetically and emotionally authentic Haydn! Here is the Buchberger Quartet with the last movement from the same quartet:

Now, of course my examples are chosen to prove a point and there are a host of counter-examples. Sad to say there are lots of smooth soporific performances of classical music (though likely less than you might think) and there are lots of driving, dynamic pop performances. Among those, The English Beat are a personal favorite:

There are even some Beyoncé performances that were pretty dynamic before she fell into the black hole of her own ego:

But I think it is safe to say that, on the whole, you are going to find a lot more aesthetically pleasing performances by listening to a bad-ass string quartet like the Buchberger Quartet than to most pop music. Just a personal opinion, of course. Your milage may vary. Here is one more Haydn performance by the Buchbergers. This is the first movement of op. 54, no. 2:

Oh, and you can also congratulate yourself on not listening to what everyone else is listening to: this last clip had only thirteen views when I accessed it!

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