Almost every pop music trend inflicts itself on classical music sooner or later. Who can forget "Hooked on Classics" – seemingly unending medleys of your classical faves accompanied by a thumping disco beat? Going further back, what about prog rockers Emerson, Lake, and Palmer and their take on Pictures at an Exhibition, or, to go even farther back, B. Bumble and the Stingers and their instrumentals "Bumble Boogie" and "Nut Rocker"?
Remasterpiece is a fusion between classical music and so-called "ambient" music. Largely associated with club DJs, ambient music gives dancers and partiers an opportunity to "chill out" late in the night after dancing, alcohol, or other drugs have taken their toll. The dance beats are slowed down or omitted altogether, and the prevailing mood is one of spaciness. In some ways, it is the "New Age" music of the twenty-somethings.
Chris Coco is a DJ for BBC's Radio 1, and he as "performed" in dance clubs worldwide. (For many, the DJ is regarded as a musician as much as any instrumentalist or singer is.) Trained as a conductor in Russia, Sacha Puttnam "broke away from his classical roots" (according to www.remasterpiece.com) and became one of the founders of the rock band Bush. Remasterpiece is their collaboration: "some of the most beautiful moments in classical music" put "into a context that makes sense to a new generation of listener." For the most part, they have taken classical recordings from the EMI Classics catalogue, and added ambient gimmickry to them – perhaps the chirp of crickets or tree frogs, or an atmospheric haze of electronic effects. (Blessedly, there are no beats on Remasterpiece.) One piece drifts into the next one in what the website calls a "continuous 'turntable symphony'." Nothing is allowed to go on for a very long time, however. The Adagietto from Mahler's Fifth Symphony is reduced to 2:28, and Chopin's "Raindrop" Prelude rains itself out in 2:56. Along the way, there's music from Gabriel Yared's film score to "Betty Blue" (good music, but hardly classical), and something that sounds like like a song by Nick Hayward and the Moody Blues, had they been Italians. Some of the classical musicians whose recordings have been used in this project include Dame Moura Lympany, Nigel Kennedy, Tzimon Barto, and Daniel Adni. One hopes that they or their estates received royalties.
Remasterpiece, although it's rather like festooning Michelangelo's "The Last Supper" with colored lights, isn't awful – unless you're a purist. It's just not very interesting. (If anything, I was hoping that Coco and Puttnam would take a more interventionist approach.) Will it interest your college-aged kid in classical music, though? Doubtful. If you're interested, keep an eye out for this one in the remainder bins.
Copyright © 2005, Raymond Tuttle