In a world where lollipop ladies use apps to monitor traffic and festival goers are buying their beers with the swish of a wristband, is there anything we can’t do without technology? As we continue to embrace all things electronic as part of everyday life, our musical preferences are veering more and more towards anything that features four-on-the-floor and/or meticulously produced sounds created by the most avant-garde decks. Even the stereotype of the singer-songwriter is being challenged as the latest wave of emerging artists (think Ella Eyre and Sia) are ditching the guitars for the synths that are becoming standard to even the most acoustic of tracks.
In light of this we can be forgiven for thinking that technology has become responsible for widening the gap between classical and popular music. As we snip the strings for the synthpad, classical music is in danger of becoming part of musical history rather than the mainstream. Despite their best efforts to appeal to the masses, even the more current classical acts – from Il Divo to Katherine Jenkins – are something you only expect to hear during afternoon tea with your grandma.
So you can imagine a few double-takes being made when last week Nicola Benedetti beat the likes of Ellie Goulding and the Arctic Monkeys to reach the number 19 spot on the UK album charts, making her the first solo violinist to reach the Top 20 in two decades. Benedetti – whose rendition of Max Bruch’s ‘Scottish Fantasy’ now sits in the charts alongside Pharrell Williams and London Grammar – is justified in crediting her achievement as not being “something a classical artist ever expects”.
Yet it would not be unreasonable to claim that this unprecedented occurrence could easily become the first of many. Certain artists have already clocked on to the potential of classical music as the latest innovation to the mainstream repertoire – most notably Clean Bandit, whose strings-laden “Rather Be” has become the unquestionable hit of the summer. Even the Pet Shop Boys – themselves responsible for pioneering and innovating electronic music back in the 80s – are jumping on the bandwagon by premiering their very first opera at this year’s BBC Proms.
Although it’s not the first time pop culture pioneers – from Johnny Greenwood to Caribou – have ventured in the world of classical composition, Benedetti’s breakthrough prompts us to ask: are we finally beginning to witness classical music and technology living in harmony? (pun intended) How long until DJs will be using their Pioneer XDJs to create their latest drum-and-bassoon hit?
Stay tuned for the inevitable classical music come-Bach…