I am a musician. Not a very good one, but I have played more orchestral hours than many music teachers I know. That doesn’t make me an expert but it does give me some thoughts on music and pop and how they can mash up to make an engaging po-mo musical experience. I know these lists usually come in multiples of five, and if I find another to add to this collection, I will add it, but for now, here are my four favourite high/low pieces:
This is Björk and the Brodsky Quartet performing Hyperballad. Ok so it’s hard to call Björk ‘pop’ but I think it’s the Brodsky Quartet here who are using their instruments in quite a po-mo way. The bird noises in particular strike me as really questioning what the instruments are designed to do.
Here the Portland Cello Project covers All of the Lights by Kanye West. I have two little kids and I try to teach them about music by explaining how each instrument is supposed to make you feel. Strings are supposed to make you feel sad or inspired or intensely emotional when they’re played in this way. Kanye knew this too and the Portland Cello Project have amped this feeling up a level in the absence of West’s powerful (biographical?) lyrics. Reflexivity in action.
Mat Weddle of Obadiah Parker in this cover of Outkast’s Hey Ya shows the lyricism of Andre 3000’s writing by stripping back the layers. In a way he has ‘sampled’ the writing only. It’s the opposite of the value-adding that hip-hop does so well, but somehow he has exposed an essence that Andre 3000 had cleverly hidden. I am really looking forward to exploring these ideas further when my Simon Reynolds collection arrives in the post.
And finally, 2 Cellos cover cover the ultimate po-mo pop song Smells Like Teen Spirit. Again they challenge what can be done with an instrument, and ask how and why. They push the limits of the medium, using a sample of pop culture to create new art. If you have any more links to share, please go ahead. I can’t get enough of this stuff!