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Classical Music, Gen Z And The Now

A look into Classical Music’s relationship with contemporary pop culture.

Classical music has found a new place on social media. Credit: Shutterstock/Stokkete

Regardless of your thoughts on classical music, most can appreciate both the skill and value of the art form. It is by far one of society’s most recognisable genres and has been celebrated and championed for hundreds of years.

But, where does it stand with Gen Z at the moment? Obviously, it is impossible to cover the entirety of this question in a short opinion piece. So, here’s a look at certain ideas from the viewpoint of someone who appreciates the genre but is not a classical musician.

What is Classical Music?

Classical music is one of those phrases whose meaning has constantly fluctuated. For instance, nowadays it is often used as an umbrella term for any music that uses instruments associated with the genre. These include string instruments (such as violins), wind instruments (such as a flute or oboe), and brass (such as a trumpet). Combinations of these instruments often make an ‘orchestral’ sound akin to the sound world of composers like Mozart.

However, classical music arguably only refers to music written from the mid-1700s until the early to mid-1800s. This encompasses famous composers like the aforementioned Mozart or Beethoven. This being said, this article is predominantly going to look at works inspired by and influenced by classical music.

Classical Music and Social Media

As with most musical genres, Classical music has found its place on social media and more specifically, TikTok. Plenty of classical musicians are using it as a creative outlet which subsequently boosts the profile of the genre. In many ways, these people are like classical music influencers.

Anna Lapwood is an English organist and choral director with just under 20 million likes on TikTok. She regularly posts content of her playing the organ which is well received by many fans. This has led to her performing with people like Raye (but more on that later). Likewise, oboe student Kirsten Haddox has over 2 million likes on TikTok and also uses the platform to showcase the routines and life of a professional classical musician.

Raye performing with The Heritage Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall.

As shown, TikTok is proving to be a very successful promotional tool for the genre. For example, comedians Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan recently conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra. This publicity stunt was then widely advertised online and then also broadcast on Sky Max. While the video is very entertaining, integrating pop culture, social media, and classical music is good at boosting the appeal of the genre.

The Classical Pop Crossover

Classical music has long been used in pop music. For example, The Beatles famously used orchestras and strings in their music, and recently the ‘Bridgerton’ soundtracks featured extensive ‘classical’ reworkings of famous contemporary pop tunes. In many ways, classical music was the pop music of its day, and even now, the influence the two genres can have on one another is hard to ignore.

Take Ed Sheeran’s latest album ‘Autumn Variations’. A collection of 14 songs, each dedicated to a different friend or loved one in his life. Sheeran took this idea from the great composer Edward Elgar who wrote his ‘Enigma Variations‘ based on the same concept. Music (like all art) has to derive from somewhere, so the notion that both genres can work in tandem makes sense.

There are even some orchestras that are fully dedicated to playing more popular styles of music, such as Holland’s ‘Metropole Orkest‘ or ‘The Heritage Orchestra‘. The latter recently played with Raye at a very successful show in the Royal Albert Hall. The live recording was actually released today and the show gathered huge acclaim both online and from the fans present.

Listening to it live

If you only take one thing away from this read, it should be that classical music and orchestras are alive. It’s also fairly easy to see it live, too. For example, you can get £8 Promming tickets to see the BBC Proms, the biggest classical music festival in the world. Likewise, orchestras tour, so look out for that! Recently a video went viral of the Oxford Symphony Orchestra playing at ‘Truck Festival’ while the crowd was moshing.

While this is, of course, funny, it does show the appreciation classical music receives and demonstrates that it is still fully relevant!

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