Osvaldo Golijov: a mission of creative anarchy
By John Lewis
Composer Osvaldo Golijov is bent on breaking the rules
The Argentine Osvaldo Golijov is a "classical" composer whose work embraces a fascination with world music and electronica in a way that is similar to the artier end of pop. For pop, he firmly believes, is the most influential music these days.
"These are sad times for classical music," he explains. "Once classical musicians influenced popular culture. Duke Ellington learnt from Debussy, Miles Davis learnt from Stravinsky, the Beatles learnt from Stockhausen. Nowadays we learn from them. The music of Radiohead, or Björk, or OutKast – it is so much more relevant and meaningful. And often it is so much more interesting than what goes under the name of 'serious music'. It affects the culture in a way we don't."
We are in Chicago, where a recent concert performance of his flamenco-themed, Grammy-winning opera Ainadamar (Fountain of Tears), which will be performed in the UK next week, has received a ten-minute standing ovation. American critics have been breathless in their praise. And this endearingly nerdy maverick has become a cult idol to many of the world's biggest pop stars. David Bowie has described him as "the greatest living composer"; Jonny Greenwood, of Radiohead, is a fan; Paul Simon and David Byrne turn up to his concerts.
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