Vail music: ‘A vibrant and living musical tradition’ |

Vail music: ‘A vibrant and living musical tradition’

Megan Norman
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado –The Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival starts Wednesday and many people typically associate classical music with weddings, upper-class society, and, sadly, boredom. Westerners are not the only ones with these misconceptions; many cultures around the world have classical music or “art music,” often associated with elite classes and usually written down in established musical forms. Although the terms “classical music” and “art music” are used to specify a difference from folk or popular music, they are all forms of entertainment and expression.

Pop, rock, and rap groups typically call their musical compositions “songs.” In classical music, composers write compositions such as symphonies (played by orchestras) and chamber music (small groups of musicians), as well as vocal works. World-class musicians perform these types of classical music at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival.

Bravo! hosts three resident orchestras this summer: the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic. Symphonies became popular during the 18th century, thanks to the works of Haydn and Mozart who both composed endlessly during this era. Orchestral works typically use different instruments such as string (violin, viola, cello and bass), brass (trumpet, trombone and tuba) woodwind (flute, clarinet, oboe and bassoon), and percussion instruments (drums and piano).

Much of the popular music you hear today uses big symphonic orchestra sounds. The music of rock groups such as Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Phish and Foo Fighters can be traced back to the works of many composers, most notably Beethoven. Beethoven’s ability to seamlessly blend the complexities of his monumental works with his more joyous themes (see Beethoven’s 9th Symphony) and melodies paved the way for artists of all genres.

Today’s rock bands are influenced by symphonic music, but similar in structure to classical chamber ensembles. Unlike symphonies, which have multiple players to a part, chamber ensembles and rock bands have one musician to a part. While performing, the musicians constantly interact with each other and work collaboratively to sound like a single unit. In chamber music, higher-pitched instruments often play the melody or “backup harmonies,” like singers and lead guitars in a rock band, and lower-pitched instruments provide the bass and rhythmic foundation. Chamber music is an integral component of the Bravo! Festival and one of the earliest forms of what we now call “classical music.”

“Chamber music is very much alive and well in the 21st century,” says Bravo!’s Associate Artistic Director Lynne Mazza.

Western art music is now appreciated by people from all over the world and from all walks of life. Organizations and patrons of the arts regularly commission musical works and support young composers. School children and college students play in orchestras and bands and sing in choirs across the country. Crossover musicians merge classical music with popular music. Those who attend classical music concerts not only help preserve the rich heritage of Western art music, but also support a vibrant and living musical tradition.

Megan Norman is Bravo’s festival internship coordinator.

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