Why Classical Music is Still Relevant
April 17, 2017
In a digital age where new streaming services and musical platforms are sprouting up seemingly on the daily, where every artist and genre compete with each other for ear time, where marketing teams work endlessly to push their respective auditory products to the public, how do traditional sounds keep up? If the cultural pillars of societies’ past don’t offer the technical entertainment of popular present, can they even survive? What we’re observing now isn’t something new; it’s a process that has occurred since the moment the first humanoid painted a picture or created a harmonic note: creative evolution.
No strangers to this ongoing survival of the relevant are Miami’s own chamber orchestra, Nu Deco Ensemble and its two founders: Sam Hyken and Jacomo Bairos. Their biggest obstacle? “Relevancy” said Bairos. “How does one become relevant to the modern 21st century human? I think it’s cultural overall; how to create a compelling story to tell to our audiences, which is not simply universal, but sparks the soul, stirs emotions, and creates a transformational experience for someone.” Much of the genre-bending ensemble’s rising popularity in the city relies heavily on the empowering support the two have for each other, all the more strengthening when constantly fighting to remain current among the vast expanse of instant gratification that comes to the masses through more popular music. So why even keep trying? Why is anything from the past still relevant?
For one thing, old genres like classical music are playing a crusading role in preserving a part of cultural history. At their more traditional, symphonies that stick to the standards are playing songs that were composed hundreds of years ago–a constant portal straight to the past. But it’s the contemporary composers that are actively working to expand the sounds encapsulated in the genre as their works give away inspirations from modern movements like jazz and rock. This fusion of sound is essential in order to grow, and have fun exploring along the way. “By placing Hindemith and Radiohead in the same collective experience and honoring all of the art with the same reverence, it breaks down some of the preconceived barriers about the genre,” said Hyken. “Music is the universal language and one of the few elements in the world that can connect everyone, no matter age, race or cultural.”
On another hand, aside from the actual music being played, it’s the entire experience of a classical concert that shows not just the genre’s colossal influence, but its immeasurable energy. We’re talking about one of the greatest Western genres of music being performed by a multitude of exceptionally skilled artists, their talents and respective instrumental mastery blending together to re-enact an auditory attempt to perfecting beauty–and many times, they actually get there. Bairos and Hyken have performed around the world, in massive concert halls and theatrical stages, but it’s the intimacy of their home at The Light Box that lends itself to their crusade toward “breaking barriers, presenting and performing all genres of music with equal respect and reverence” as Hyken puts it. “Performing in a space where I can literally feel the tapping of feet on the floor while we play because they’re into the music, creates an environment that allows us to connect on profound levels,” Bairos said.
As is the issue with many haute-niche genres like jazz or fine art, classical music needs to work even harder to break down the barriers of exclusivity and class that once surrounded their existence, and their residency at The Light Box is a strong player in that. It’s not just the location but Nu Deco’s impeccable selection of music that lights the fire of curiosity within even the most questioning of music-lovers. Daft Punk at a classical concert? Is that an electric bass? Did the trombonist just stand up and deliver his solo with as much soul as the swampiest of New Orleans players? Those are all things you can expect at one of their concerts and, I’m speaking from personal experience here, it’s ear-opening.
We need the foundations of art to stay alive so that our present and future remain strong, innovative, and exploratory. When looking at the state of a civilization in its current form, we have to learn its past roots and observe the choices and movements that brought it to where it is today. Classical music is a living musical fossil whose heartbeat still rings loudly even among the cacophony of modern sounds. For the final concert of their nearly sold out second season, Nu Deco Ensemble has partnered with NYC’s DecaDanceTheatre for the perfect example of bridging new with old: 4, a modern reimagining of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” with a live hip hop dance performance to boot. There’s no better example of why this genre stands a chance in today’s world, than this concert on April 28th, so get your tickets.