I just came across this lovely interview with mandolin super-hero Chris Thile. Thile came to fame as a Bluegrass player but in recent years has played jazz and classical – his recording of Bach’s violin sonatas and partitas is one of my favourites, and when I interviewed him once he told me how he practises the Barber and Beethoven violin concertos for fun.
So it’s unsurprising to hear him talk about how he doesn’t see any essential difference between genres – it’s all the same material, with different aesthetics. Playing some of Bach’s Brandenburg no.3 he says, ‘You can’t tell me that’s staid in comparison with Radiohead.’ Nor does he think that classical musicians are reserved – rather it’s the audiences who are: he recalls being shushed for getting excited in Mahler’s Ninth Symphony at Carnegie Hall.
Thile’s manifesto is clear: ‘It’s important that people who profess to be interested in music expose themselves to the width and breadth of the great music that’s available in this day and age.’
And his prediction is an exciting one, which I agree with (on Sunday I watched Tom Jones perform Delilah in flamenco-style): ‘You’ll see so much genre-hopping in the near future that it’ll cease to be genre-hopping. The walls will be so worn that you don’t need to hop, you’ll just casually step over them.’
Watch the video, anyway – it’s worth it just to hear the way Thile casually ambles between Bluegrass, Bach, Radiohead and back again.
The only proviso I’d add is for all this genre-hopping to be done as well as Thile does it – therein lies the challenge.
What do you think? Are the walls falling down?