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Why Classical Music is Everyone's Music



Imagem's Rosie Hill argues that brands and agencies don't need to fear the finer stuff

Why Classical Music is Everyone's Music

I was scouring YouTube comments for some music soundbites and delved straight in at the deep end by peering into the sizeable digi-tome of feedback on the Lloyds TSB ‘For the Journey’ campaign, featuring music by Imagem/Boosey & Hawkes’ wonder composer, Elena Kats-Chernin. Whilst there are, of course, the usual misspelt, mixed-metaphor, unfathomably incongruous comments about nothing in particular, I was fascinated by how many users had taken time to give positive, thoughtful appraisals of the music. Especially because it is, gulp, ‘Classical’ music.

We all know this piece (you may have inadvertently reached those beautiful, dizzying, top notes if you have ever mistakenly stepped on an up-turned plug/ hedgehog), but perhaps what you don’t know is where this piece of music came from. The excerpt in question ‘Eliza Aria’, is a movement from a full-length ballet, ‘Wild Swans’ composed in 2002 by Kats-Chernin. The fact that casual online commentators felt moved to pass comment on the music – with words such as ‘Haunting’ ‘Fantastical’ ‘Beautiful’ - fills me with joy, a) because it means the music is a success and b) it means people are discussing Classical music. Out there. In public. On one of the most popular platforms in the world.

Nobody needs expertise to enjoy and appreciate sounds. Put in the right context, everyone should feel free to enjoy and appraise any music. And forums like YouTube encourage this (thwarted occasionally by those abhorrently snotty killjoy twerps who pull people up on using incorrect terminology or not knowing the name of a composer). Classical Music in visual media has always been a great catalyst for driving people to discover and enjoy classical music without feeling threatened or out of their depth. Exactly the way it should be. Getting it out there in the first place, however, is another matter. That’s where we come in…

Obviously we work with clients across the advertising, film and game industries who have an in-depth knowledge of Classical music, however it’s fair to say this is a minority group. What’s heartening, is the much bigger group of clients we have who - despite not having that prior  knowledge - now appreciate it, enjoy it and even wave flags at the Proms at it.  We’ve worked incredibly hard over the years to make sure that people without classical backgrounds don’t run from classical music, that rather they run full throttle towards us, armed with as many questions as we can handle.  We’re here to find the right music for our clients and regardless of their genre of preference. Directors, creatives, producers know what they want  and why it works – that’s why they do what they do brilliantly and we support them by giving them access to what they need, no matter whether that’s from our classical, pop or musical theatre catalogues.

Pulling out sync friendly excerpts is a help to opening up our enormous classical catalogue– our clients don’t have time to listen to 40 minutes of music (as is often the case with the lengthier classical works) to find that 60 second piece of sync heaven. Although when they do have the time, we can recommend 40 minutes suited to whatever mood – romance, euphoria, sleigh riding, warmongering, that sort of thing.

What’s key, also, is that for most people classical music has no context. That may seem like an odd conclusion to draw, however in an age where it only takes 140 characters for ‘new’ phenomena - musical, visual, dramatic, scandalous - to get out there and become old ‘non-phenomena’, being distanced from contemporary social scenes, trends or fashions is actually a bonus. Not only does it mean classical music does not ‘date’, but also, it gives a special sense of both gravitas and freshness to a campaign, because it’s actually new to most people and unlike anything they hear in their everyday lives.

The point is, don’t worry what it’s called: classical, orchestral, chamber music, really, no-one should be worrying about labels. If it matches beautifully to the visuals, then so be it. It shouldn’t matter if it’s Prokofiev or Prodigy  - or if it’s a mix of the two (and you should check out  Peter Foxe’s ‘Alles Neu’ featuring a stonking Shostakovich sample which soundtracks Nike’s ‘We are The Rules’ campaign, for an example of classical and contemporary ‘consciously coupling’ for full-on, rabble-rousing,  primal effect ).

In a nutshell, we couldn’t give a fiddler’s f**k how much you know about the genre, we’re not going to test you, we just want to find the right music for you. As someone who worked their way up through the arena of classical music as a child, to later study at university, and who was never perceived or fully accepted as being the Classical Music ‘type’, nothing gives me greater pleasure than making it more accessible to others, be that through play-listing amazing usages of classical music in popular film (Moonrise Kingdom, The Shining) , pointing out which contemporary artists are influenced by classically composers (Radiohead and Steve Reich) or just grabbing a non-stuffy beer at a non-stuffy venue (Union Chapel, XOYO) and proving that Classical music isn’t stuffy elitist music at all. It’s just music. And we’re here to make it your music.

 Rosie Hill

Head of UK Creative Services, Imagem

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Genres: Music & Sound Design

Concord Music Publishing, Tue, 09 Sep 2014 17:17:08 GMT