The idea to fuse the sounds of classical music and rock has been around for decades and in practice has experienced some success. A new genre, BaroqueRock, was first realized in 2011 as a collaboration between two Chicago groups, the Bach and Beethoven Ensemble (BBE) and Kmang-Kmang. It has not been reproduced anywhere outside Chicago.
BaroqueRock fuses the instruments, sounds, and music of classical and rock genres. However, it is distinct from comparable projects in that it is a total fusion of the two genres, incorporating both authentic instruments and stylized playing. It brings a fresh, contemporary sound that appeals to traditional classical concert audiences and younger audiences with limited exposure to classical music. Listeners feel the pulsing rhythm of the drums alongside the driving harmonies of a harpsichord. They hear the sound of metal acoustic guitar strings played in harmony with the traditional gut strings (yes, real cow gut!) of a two hundred year old violin. What we would consider ancient music, and what was once considered the “rock” of the 16th–18th centuries, is made approachable to a modern ear and musical aesthetic, reconnecting us to our musical past.
The practice of mixing classical genres with contemporary genres has been received enthusiastically at the international level since 1969, when Jon Lord wrote Concerto for Group and Orchestra. This work led to orchestral and rock collaborations including Metallica’s album S&M (Symphony & Orchestra), Sting’s recording and concerts of John Dowland’s lute songs, and Radiohead and composer Steve Reich to name a few (1). Classical music has also become a favorite muse for DJ’s and composers of electronica, with perhaps the most influential and widely played Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings as conceived by international superstar DJ Tiesto (2). More recent collaborations have further combined classical with Bluegrass and Jazz, as envisioned by cellist Yo-Yo Ma, double bassist Edgar Meyer, mandolinist Chris Thile, and violinist Stuart Duncan in their project entitled Goat Rodeo Sessions (3).
Simultaneously, it is on of the most segregated cities in U.S., and with segregation comes inequality when it comes to resources and opportunities. The west and southern parts of the city are largely “cultural deserts,” where entertainment is limited or unaffordable. Arts programs have largely been cut from schools in these areas, as well as neighborhoods in the north and more centrally located. Access to classical music—as well as jazz, bluegrass, and other contemporary genres—is therefore severely limited to all but the most fortunate. The need for a bridge like BaroqueRock is evident to inspire future generations of artists, musicians, innovators, and leaders.