The ‘mash-up’ and the ‘re-mix’ are now commonplace terms in the English language. Hard as it may be to believe, Classical music is not immune to such treatment, and this article is dedicated to the re-mixing of music from the Classical catalogue. Keep in mind that a re-mix means taking the work of another composer and altering it into another new piece. To some extent, this is more successful in some re-mixes than others as it is easy to distort or decontextualize a piece to such an extent that it loses all meaning.
Classical Music Remixes
1. ‘Ode To Joy’ from the 9th Symphony by Beethoven
This is one of the top re-mixes available on YouTube and takes for its inspiration, the final symphony of Beethoven. The ‘Ode to Joy’ is featured here in two contrasting versions. The first is a wordless choral mock-up that evokes the heavenly choirs. This is followed by an up-tempo lightly swinging version of the original melody. The re-mixer makes good use of orchestral string sounds as well as samples choirs that are layered over a looped drum pattern.
The conclusion is joyful indeed and combines the melodic material from each section, building into the finish. Quite a well-balanced re-mix of this well-known melody with what appears to be a genuine attempt to create something of interest.
2. ‘Rondo A La Turka’, from the A Major Piano Sonata (No.11; K.331) by WA Mozart
This re-mix has attracted over a million views. It uses the famous ‘Rondo A La Turka’ from the 1783 A major Sonata. In the original sonata, this is the third of three movements and brings a light, exuberant finish to the work. This re-mix is great fun and even uses a sample of Mozart’s manic laugh from the movie Amadeus.
Mr. Jazzek is the artist whose work this is and there is a real sense of humour present throughout. It sounds a little like a combination of Klezmer meets EDM. Structurally, it works well and even includes the coda from the original piece. The piano sound used gives the impression of an out of tune honky-tonk with some edgy little jazzy riffs added to good effect; even the opening melody is cunningly placed slightly off the beat to add to the swing of the re-mix.
3. ‘Air on a G String’ by JS Bach
This re-mix is an arrangement of an arrangement. The Air that is most commonly played is taken from the second movement of the Third Orchestral Suite by Bach. August Wilhelmj’s arrangement was made for a solo violin, strings, and organ. The arrangement changes the original key of D major down a tone to C major to enable the solo violin to make full use of the lowest string on the instrument; the G string.
David Garett is the author of this particular interpretation of the Bach original. According to the YouTube information, Garett is playing the solo violin part, which if it is true he delivers a sensitive and measured performance. Other string parts support the solo violin with a subtle organ and piano part mixed right to the background adding colour and harmony. Synth lines flow through the texture, all of which is supported by a gentle ‘trip-hop’ feel supplied by the drum loop. A re-mix even Bach himself might listen to with approval.
4. Waltz No. 2 from the Jazz Suite No. 1, By Dimitri Shostakovich
Composed in 1934, the Jazz Suite has become a concert favourite and consists of three sections that are as follows: Waltz, Polka, and Foxtrot. In many ways, the sound of this suite is not what you might anticipate from the pen of such a serious Russian composer but it is a delight from beginning to end not only in its unique scoring but also in its melodic ingenuity.
Joohyun Park is the master re-mixer in this example of a classical interpretation. The opening is a scratchy version of the composer’s original music. What happens next is effectively a layering of ideas that begins with synth bass and simple percussive accompaniment.
As the violin sings the melancholy tune the underlying beat side steps towards a Latin feel with the piano adding interesting scalic passages. By the half-way mark, two electric guitars have joined the texture adding a slightly heavier mood to the re-mix. The arrangement builds towards the coda passage during which the instruments cut out leaving just the beat and the piano to succinctly end the re-mix.
5. ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from Messiah by GF Handel
In spite of its obvious popularity now, this work was not an immediate success for Handel. He had increasingly found himself marginalized by his once adoring patrons and public and with mounting debts. Handel worked tirelessly on this oratorio and astonishingly managed to complete the entire work in twenty-four days. In early September of 1741 what would become his ticket back to centre stage was completed; Messiah.
This re-mix of this famous piece takes for its focus the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’. The makers of this re-mix claim there are five classical tunes within but the Handel dominates throughout. The re-mix is far closer to the classic model of many other re-mixes with a regularly looped drum pattern punctuated by ‘drops’ and the somewhat predictable build back to the chorus. It is an entertaining arrangement but perhaps not the most creative of the selection.
6. ‘Winter’ from The Four Seasons by Vivaldi
Perhaps appealing to re-mixers because of the simple formal structure and compelling harmonic sequences, this piece by Vivaldi has received considerable attention by contemporary artists. The style of this re-mix is heavily weighted towards trance.
Vivaldi’s original ideas are still clearly audible, layered with a degree of care upon the pounding looped beat. Strings from the Vivaldi composition are substituted for synthesizers to bring a modern timbre to the Baroque original.
Various sections of Vivaldi’s piece are cut into the texture allowing for the build to move toward the sequential section that is characteristic of so much of Vivaldi’s music. This is a re-mix that makes less sense without the video but never the less offers another interpretation of this brilliant piece.