Why electronic orchestras are sweeping the nation | Features | MN2S

When you think of classical music, the last thing that comes to mind is a dancefloor. Yet recently, classical orchestras and electronic musicians have been working together on some of the most popular dance music events and recordings in recent times.

What influenced this unlikely genre clash, and why has it become so popular?

Why electronic music went classical

In 2011, the BBC reported on a German orchestra “bringing the sounds of the club to the concert halls” by playing what sounded like electronic dance music on classical instruments including a piano, a harp, a trombone, strings and percussion.

The report was framed as an “And finally…”-style curio, exploring something slightly bizarre. The reporter even has a kind of “isn’t this eccentric?” tone to his voice when asking the musicians questions. And that’s fair enough. At the time, the mixture of dance and classical was novel. But there’s one reason the Brauer Frick Ensemble didn’t come across as a bunch of misguided fools: the music they were making sounded brilliant.

What lead these German musicians to cook up such an unlikely musical brew? Actually it makes a lot of sense. The Brauer Frick Ensemble say they were simply reflecting the music they grew up hearing. Electronic dance music was all around them throughout their youth, and they were simply taking these influences and combining them with the classical techniques they had learned.

Fast forward to November 2016 and dance music stalwart Pete Tong has his first number one album. Unsurprisingly to those who have followed his long career, the album is a house compilation. But Classic House, as it is called, is no ordinary house compilation. The credited artist is not Pete Tong alone, but Pete Tong with the Heritage Orchestra conducted by Jules Buckley.

In five short years, classical-dance mashups have gone from oddball news to the top of the charts. Now, you’d be hard pressed to avoid classical-dance combinations as a music fan, as several live acts and recordings alike join the trend.

Hacienda Classical, who opened Glastonbury this year, is a wildly successful collaboration between two of the Hacienda club’s biggest DJs — Graeme Park and Mike Pickering — and the 70 musician strong Manchester Camerata Orchestra. The group is currently on a huge tour, playing festivals and concert halls around the country with a series of guest stars including Marshall Jefferson, and raucous after-parties recapturing the heady days and nights of the Manchester acid house scene.

With sell-out tours and bestselling albums, it is clear that classical dance music has taken off in a big way, but why?

Why classical dance music struck a chord

Jules Buckley and the Heritage Orchestra have collaborated with many electronic artists and DJs other than Pete Tong. Buckley told DJ Mag that recreating dance music tracks with human players and classical instruments can be a “rewarding process” for the original artists, who get to see and hear their compositions in a new and exciting way.

The appeal is the same for the listeners. The sheer spectacle of seeing dozens of musicians on stage when they would normally see just one DJ in a booth is exhilarating. Dance music fans already relish hearing new versions of their favourite tunes, as the long history of successful remixes in house music makes clear. Perhaps remaking dance music with a classical orchestra is the ultimate remix.

There is more to classical/dance music’s appeal, though. Also speaking to DJ Mag, Graeme Park of Hacienda Classical suggested the maturing of acid house’s original fans is a big factor. These fans still love the music they grew up with, but they are now raising children and keeping regular sleep schedules — they can’t rave until 5am as often as they used to. Park suggests these classical events allow them to keep listening to the music they love, without having to leave their kids at home alone.

When classical house acts are playing in concert halls, this is definitely the case. But as we have seen at festivals this year, orchestral dance music can still be the soundtrack to wild partying. There, again, lies one of its strengths. Fans can sit back and appreciate this music on a cultural level, the same way they would if they were at a performance of Bach or Beethoven. Or if they prefer, they can close their eyes and picture themselves back in the Hacienda.

Main image is Orchestra of the Music Makers via CC BY 3.0, Link

Be the first to know

Be the first to know about our newest signings, tours, talent availability by signing up today! We only email you updates that matter most to you and vow to never share your email address with anyone else.
Sign up here
* Please fill out this field
* Please fill out this field
* Please fill out this field
* Please fill out this field

Atleast one genre is required

STEP 01 of 03