Bach and Lady Gaga: how and what pop artists borrowed from classical music

In the public mind, many musical styles almost contradict each other.

To appreciate some is synonymous with high intelligence and cultural sophistication, to love others is a sign of bad taste. Nevertheless, in music, as in many other areas of creativity (literature, art, even cinema), styles and genres, sometimes as different as possible, often borrow from each other many techniques - from general harmonic constructions to direct references to whole works. .

Today we will begin to talk about borrowing in music (some, however, turn out to be a real plagiarism, but from the point of view of the listener this is no less interesting). Our first material is about what pop music owes to classical composers.

Photo by Dennis Skley CC

A bit of history

Many musical principles and well-established patterns that modern pop singers use are obliged precisely to classical composers - thus, which are often contrasted to contemporary pop singers. In the 17th and 18th centuries, music in Europe, freeing itself from the domination of the church, was rapidly developing - new genres, forms and styles appeared. Bach became one of the most virtuosic composers in the whole musical history. Mozart, who came after him, struck with music, which was completely different from the complex harmonic constructions of Bach - it (not always, but often) seems (just “it seems”) to be simpler for perception.

Like Haydn and, for example, Gluck, in Mozart's music, the main stages of the harmony are often taken as the basis: tonic, dominant and subdominant, and triads built from them. By the same principle a lot of classic ... rock and roll is written. And most pop songs line up around the same melodious chord sequences that became popular in the late 18th century. Borrowing classical music may look different - modern performers and composers are inspired by the harmonic design, use a similar structure of chords, or even make direct references.

We talk about several different cases of the existence of classical music in the popular.

I Can't Help Falling In Love With You Elvis Presley and Martini's “Joy of Love”

In 1784, the composer Jean-Paul Aigid Martini wrote the romance “Plaisir d'amour” (“The Joy of Love”) to the poems of the French writer Jean-Pierre Clari de Florian. In 1858, Hector Berlioz arranged for orchestra. This romance interested a variety of performers.

For example, Bridget Bardo ( audio ). Or Anita Carter ( audio ). This tune inspired Elvis Presley to create one of his most recognizable compositions:

Go West Pet Shop Boys and Canon in D Major by Johann Pachelbel

“Canon in D Major” by Johann Pachelbel is the most famous work of the German composer for three violins and general bass. It is unknown when he wrote this music - most likely somewhere between 1680 and 1706. Interestingly, this composition, being quite popular at one time, quickly went out of fashion and was forgotten. In 1968, the Chamber Orchestra of Jean-François Payard made the arrangement for this melody, returning its popularity.

The melodic construction of the “Canon” became very popular in the 1970s: it was often used in instrumental arrangements, turned into pop music, and then - even in compositions for funerals and weddings. Pachelbel used a strict polyphonic form, where three voices play the same melody (unite into a canon) and the fourth voice, the general-bass, plays a separate theme - a constantly repeating push-pull line.

Here is the traditional baroque sound of Pachel's Canon (on the instruments of that era):

But the song Pet Shop Boys Go West, where there is the same chord sequence:

Alejandro Lady Gaga and Csárdás Vittorio Monti ...

Not all artists are inspired or “borrow” ideas from the classics - some directly refer to them using a composition with minimal changes or even “as is”.

For example, Lady Gaga does this in her introduction to the song Alejandro, where she refers to the chardash of Italian violinist and composer Vittorio Monti, a composition based on traditional Hungarian dance music, for violin and piano.

... Bad Romance by Lady Gaga and Bach's "The Well-Tempered Clavier"

Another interesting borrowing from classics by Lady Gaga (there are actually quite a few of them) is the entry of the clavichord from the cycle of keyboard works by Johann Sebastian Bach into Bad Romance.

... and I Can Nasa and Beethoven's "Eliza"

It would seem that rap and classical music can not be further from each other. However, rapper Nas proved the opposite - he made a reference to Beethoven’s classic composition “To Elise”:

David Shire's Night On Disco Mountain and Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain"

Sometimes musical borrowing solves ironic problems. For example, the arrangement of the symphonic poem by M. P. Mussorgsky “Night on Bald Mountain” in the disco style.

David Shire wrote this orchestra arrangement in 1977 for the cult movie with John Travolta Saturday Night Fever. Interestingly, Mussorgsky's work remained virtually untouched - Shire only changed the rhythm and added drums and guitars.

Borrowing from the classics is a rich topic. The question of how much music, once written by someone, really "belongs" to its author, existed even before the adoption of copyright laws. Composers constantly borrowed ideas from each other, from folk music and other compositions - we will describe other similar cases in the following material.

Even more interesting about sound and music in our “World Hi-Fi”:


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