Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What's Elvis Costello Doing in the Ballet Section?

There's an Elvis Costello CD in the Ballet section (Il Sogno)
There's a Sting CD in the Lute section
(Songs from the Labyrinth)
There's a Yo-Yo Ma CD in the Jazz section (Hush)

What's the world coming to?!
Have the shelvers gone mad?!
Have the catalogers gone mad?!

Absolutely not! But more and more musicians, composers and songwriters are thinking--and writing and performing--outside of the box they're associated with. So you might not find every CD featuring your favorite artist in the same section.

For example, though you'll find most of Elvis Costello's CDs in the rock section, they aren't all there. To find one of them you'll have to stroll over to the Ballet section. That's right, the Ballet section! Although truth be told, longtime Costello fans shouldn't be surprised. The man has long been a chameleon. He has written songs with "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" songwriter Burt Bacharach for the CD Painted from Memory (it's in the Popular section); he has collaborated with the Brodsky Quartet, and a couple of those songs can be heard on Best of Brodsky Quartet: Featuring Björk & Elvis Costello; and in 2000, when an Italian dance troupe contacted him about composing music for an adaption of A Midsummer Night's Dream, he took them up on the offer. The result is Il Sogno, and in the liner notes he talks about writing different types of music to accompany different kinds of characters. (Of supernatural beings, he wrote: "I thought it only appropriate that they should be swinging fairies.") While some classical compositions by rockers have been savaged by critics, The New York Times called it "a rhapsodic piece full of shifting moods, with moments of eerie delicacy and of comic pomp."

Others who have experimented with non-rock musical forms are Paul McCartney, who co-wrote Liverpool Oratorio with Carl Davis; and Billy Joel, who wrote Fantasies & Delusions: Music for Solo Piano.

If you're ever unsure of where to find a CD, please don't hesitate to ask at the Readers' Services desk on the 3rd floor. We're more than happy to help.

Have you ever checked out any of these CDs, or any other genre-busting CDs? (I've been warned against Liverpool Oratorio.) Do you enjoy Elton John's forays into musicals and movie soundtracks?


Karen Mc said...

I enjoyed both the Billy Joel classical piano experiment and Sting's lute album. I wonder if I would be saying that if I wasn't already a huge fan of both artists? Hard to say. I know I wouldn't be likely to listen to another lute album, let's put it that way! But they were certainly worth my time.

Jo said...

There's a mythology about rock musicians that they are all rebels and their music is more spontaneous than calculated. In fact, many of them have had classical educations and started their careers in musical genres other than rock. We just don't like to believe that the guy who changed his name to Elvis and wrote "Pump It Up" also likes ballet.

Heather I said...

Sometimes it goes the other way around, as well! One of my all-time favorite children's performers is Elizabeth Mitchell - her "You are My Little Bird" cd, published Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and "You Are My Sunshine" are stellar CD's for kids, filled with rock songs reinterpreted in a cool and yet gentle ways. So when I found out that the kids thing was really just a sideline for her (recordings she made for her daughter, then published), and her main gig is an "adult" group called "IDA", I rushed out downloaded all three IDA albums. BUT, whoa, MAJOR diffence. Way expriemental, cool but out of the realm of what I generally look for in music. But it did further my appreciation for her as an artist.

Anonymous said...

Joe Jackson and Warren Zevon were also classically trained (Warren - really!) and wandered out of the Rock paddock once in a while. Sometimes this is successful, sometimes not so much. It's like every film director who deeply believes they have a great science fiction film in them. Sometimes you get 2001 (Kubrick), and then on the other hand you get Mission to Mars (De Palma).

Post a Comment

Please leave your comments and suggestions here. Thanks!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.