The Holidailies Audio Guide to modern classical music

Classical is classical, and pop is pop. And never the twain shall meet.

When I was studying music in college, that was distinction drilled into our heads. But a generation of performers and composers are blurring those lines such that rock musicians write works inspired by avant-garde composers, and composers work with international rock stars. Even when those lines were clearly marked, many composers still found inspiration outside the bubble of the European tradition.

Györgi Ligeti, Etudes, Book I: I. Désordre (Jeremy Denk, piano)

Györgi Ligeti’s piano études in the mid 80s were influenced by gamelan, African polyrhythms, Bela Bartók and jazz. This first étude from Book I certainly tests a pianist’s rhythmic mettle.

Nico Muhly, Drones and Piano: I. (Bruce Brubaker, piano; Nico Muhly, drones)

In addition to composing works for major symphonies, Nico Muhly has worked with Jónsi from Sigur Rós, Björk and Grizzly Bear. Muhly was inspired by the hum of his vacuum cleaner to compose a set of works collected as Drones.

Jonny Greenwood, Popcorn Superhet Receiver: III. (AUKSO Orchestra; Marek Mós, conductor)

Jonny Greenwood is known mostly as the guitarist for Radiohead, but at one point, he studied music composition. Popcorn Superhet Receiver is a response to Krzysztov Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima.

Aaron Roche, “Trash”

Aaron Roche released !BlurMyEyes on New Amsterdam, a label dedicated to composers and ensembles equally at home in rock bands and classical ensembles. “Trash” starts off with some strange textures before some Americana emerges.