I personally remember this as a seminal moment in the history of a short-lived but intensely active scene in East London. It was not long after that Gabriel and I started to talk about what a non-classical music might be, as we worked together on the Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra.
One of the goals of my doctoral research was to interrogate this idea further because I felt it closely aligned with how I was making bloom. I set out to discover whether non-classical music is a new aesthetic, style or technique. In the following section I share my findings.
The idea of non-classical music is something I inherited from Gabriel Prokofiev. However, I have adapted the use (and spelling) to reference a particular music that has its beginnings on the Nonclassical record label.
There are a limited number of what I would describe as non-classical musical texts. (I have put together a selection on a Spotify playlist here) So the music is far from integrated into music culture, the market and literature and therefore too early to explore as a technique. Is it a new aesthetic? The writer Thom Andrewes suggests ‘the Nonclassical [sic] aesthetic is all about displacement... displacing one style of music into the frame or context of another’. But he does not suggest it requires a new way of listening in the way that Steve Reich did in his description of minimalism as a gradual process.
I argue that non-classical music is a new style where the spotlight is on rhythm and texture (and for the curious reader the analysis that led me to this can be read in full in my PhD commentary. Where it gets particularly inventive (and exciting to listen to) is in the music’s shared characteristics with electronic club music. It is the very fabric of the string quartets, concertos and piano scores that I reviewed.
There is also an essential relationship with the creative and distributive processes as we saw earlier with grime: non-classical music was heard first in the club context (e.g. Prokofiev’s String Quartet No. 1 and Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra first landed at Cargo and Scala in London respectively).
Taking into consideration this brief history, my two previous articles and the music I composed for bloom, leads me to suggest that non-classical music continues the hardcore continuum. It represents a short but energizing new chapter in the history of dub and demonstrates dub’s endless ability to inspire, mutate and regenerate.
Essay by Will Dutta, October 2020. A stylistic analysis of non-classical music is adapted from The Curating Composer, which is available at the libraries of City, University of London and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and through the British Library EThOS.
Andrewes, T., 2014. We Break Strings: The Alternative Classical Scene in London. London: Hackney Classical Press.
Dutta, W., 2018. The Curating Composer. PhD. City, University of London. Available here.
Hancox, D., 2018. Inner City Pressure: The Story of Grime. London: HarperCollins.
Reich, S., 2002. Writings on Music 1965 – 2000. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Reynolds, S., 1998. Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture. London: Picador.
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