indie classical movement?


Music lovers of the world unite and take over!

So it’s a movement alright! Indie classical network meeting, the final conference session I attended during this year’s Classical Next in Rotterdam was actually the most exciting session – and this without alcohol. Led by Brendan Jan Walsh, a classy, curly moustached, friendly guy from Belgium, who travels the world to organize raves with purely classical music (no added synths or drums!) and actually gets people to dance to it too, conference room 3 was filled to the max with youngsters who want to do it differently.

The panelists came from UK, USA, Brazil, Switzerland, Brazil, the Netherlands and Belgium. Brave young men, who organize events for which a name not yet exists – or perhaps they like it that way. “Indie classical”, “Alt classical” or (actually I like this one) “post-genre” – the moniker may not have been yet materialized, but perhaps it’s easier to state what it is not. No, this is no Bach with layers of cheap synths allover it. No, this is no light, abbreviated version of Mahler to make it more accessible or user-friendly to younger ears.

Indie classical, well at least to me, is as serious as it is lighthearted (it can be deadly melancholic too, but hopefully you’ll get my point, dear reader). Indie classical is gorgeous music from ancient times to the present, presented in novel ways, by the next generation of connaisseurs (musicians, composers, deejays, organizers, producers, writers, critics), who may (or may not) have been thoroughly schooled in Academia, but who also know by heart that the mind can be a stupid thing, and music should be all about emotion, intensity and flow. Pardon my lapse into new-agery, but please stay with me now for one final moment.

Classical Next is ofcourse a splendid opportunity to meet up with kindred spirits if you work in the organization of music – be it clubs or festivals. It’s actually much better to talk in person than to try to have read all your mails in that ever expanding emailbox. Personally, what I really liked about this session is that I’ve seen so many of these conference sessions since my first WOMEX (Rotterdam, 2001, the organization behind it is actually the mother of Classical Next). And I haven’t seen them as lively as this one.

In professional world music circles, people look totally dazed and confused, after the tremendous fallout of organizations, clubs, structures and everything else from that filthy neoliberal handbook. Within pop music (I’ve attended a couple of Eurosonics in Groningen), it’s yet another story: many young white men, behaving like old ones, carefully pointing out all their personal achievements. A very macho environment, well at least so it appeared to me. Within jazz (I’ve attended a couple of Jazzaheads in Bremen), yet another image: to my utter amazement, the organization of jazz in Europe is the privilege of single old white men. What the f*ck happened? Isn’t jazz and all it stands for the ultimate, funky-as-hell black Renaissance movement? Provocation made danceable? Smelly stuff with insane performers like Charlie Mingus, Eric Dolphy or more recently Steve Coleman, Jonathan Finlayson, Jose James or Cory Henry? What went wrong with jazz in Europe?

I’m losing my point here, sorry for that! So here I am at Classical Next. In the past three days I’ve met so many young and professional people – who don’t fall into any of the above mentioned categories – but simply want to promote the idea of intelligent and tasty music. There are many as we say in Dutch ‘beren op de weg’ (clear and present dangers for those with ambition and a heart). To mention just a few: existing powerstructures (hello Live Nation!), ignorant media, funds and governments with lots of money at hand, but all sorts of crazy-ass categories within which they like to spend it.

But before I get into my cynical mode, let’s make it happen. Let’s connect and share, to organize events, clubnights, festivals, anything, to demonstrate to the world that music is an art form, not a business model. Don’t believe the neoliberal hype, y’all! Composers, musicians and critics paint on a much bigger canvas than that silly cost/profit xcelsheet.


May 19th 2017 is the next Indie classical network meeting – so let’s see if the promise of today can keep up with reality. Follow yours truly via Twitter (due to silly overuse, I’m not inside Zuckerberg’s little church anymore), or else via LinkedIn. And for all future historians: the panelists of Indie Classical Network Meeting 2016 were: B. Walsh, G. Prokofiev, E. Abelin and T. Cury (Well, at least that’s what the Classical Next app stated, correct me if I’m wrong!)

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