Alex Ross has a noteworthy post on The Rest is Noise detailing a collaboration between New York psychedelic club The Electric Circus and the pioneering early music ensemble New York Pro Musica seen above. A post On An Overgrown Path last year profiled the largely-forgotten founder of Pro Musica Noah Greenberg, who died tragically early in 1966. In the following year his early music ensemble played in an Electric Circus gig at Carnegie Hall, performing “beneath a gigantic filmed projection of a fish opening and closing its mouth” – Norman Perryman please note - and later with Circus Maximus, the club’s house rock band, in a rendition of Machaut’s Douce Dame Jolie.
That collaboration between early music and popular culture is more than a historic curiosity. In Conference of the Birds: the Story of Peter Brook in Africa John Heilpern explains how:
Disenchanted with a weak and elitist status quo, [Brook] believes it’s possible to discover the miraculous: a universal theatre. If so the élitist barriers would fall. Theatre would at last become a truly popular art: open to everyone. For a piece of theatre would make total sense, regardless of language or class, wherever in the world it played.Classical music also has a weak and elitist status quo coupled with aspirations to universality, but it has made the mistake of thinking that universality and entertainment are synonymous. Early music, which comes with less baggage than the mainstream repertoire, could just be the miraculous universal music. A psychedelic happening in 1967 may seem an unlikely pointer to the future of classical music. But remember that David Munrow’s BBC early music radio series Pied Piper, which ran for five years and 655 programmes in the 1970s, did more to bring classical music to a mass audience than all the current big new ideas put together. Is the future of classical music JSB on LSD?
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