This installment of the Consonant Classical Challenge is a little different. The primary intent of the series was to offer up living composers whose works would fit nicely in concert programs with the basic repertoire. It was my way of demonstrating to traditionalists that there was plenty of vital, engaging classical music being written that deserved to be heard, and that the stereotype of contemporary music was ugly, off-putting noise simply wasn't true.
Judd Greenstein might not quite appeal to the bluehairs -- but he definitely should to younger listeners just starting to explore classical music. Greenstein easily and naturally blends elements of jazz and rock into his music in a way that shows their origins while still sounding organic to the work.
Consider his string quartet "Four on the Floor." To my ears, it's the equivalent of Brahms taking the then hot new dance the waltz and making it a platform for his own musical expression.
Because Greenstein writes in a modern pop vernacular, his music has immediate appeal, and a surface familiarity that helps keep the listener oriented. His work "Sing Along" is aptly named -- it practically invites the listener to hum along with the ensemble!
In addition to being a composer himself, Greenstein actively encourages the development of new music through his work with the arts organization New Amsterdam Presents and its label New Amsterdam Records. As might be expected, since Greenstein works extensively with new music ensembles, most of his work is for smaller chamber groups, some with unusual instrumentation.
His chamber work "Clearing, Dawn, and Dance" is a good example. This 2010 work is composed for flute, clarinet, trumpet, violin, viola and cello. In lesser hands, the trumpet might dominate the ensemble, but not here. Greenstein combines and recombines the instruments in ways that keep the sound fresh, and the ensemble homogeneous.
Judd Greenstein's indie-classical style might not appeal to the Keepers of the Flame among the concert-going set. But for those who might be coming to classical through indie music, Greenstein will make perfect sense. Just like Brahms' waltzes did for the pop music crowd of the 1890's.
First Things First