LPO Angry Birds: A Rant

News reached me yesterday that the London Philharmonic is releasing or has released an album of themes from video games.

My first reaction (I heard this piece on NPR) was mild shockmusement. To coin a word. Because I’m not really against the idea of “classical” orchestras playing popular music. And the London Philharmonic has a history or tradition of doing commercial work, having recorded a number of soundtracks for movies, backing rock bands and such, so an album of video game music is not so far afield for them.

I’ve also played any number of pops concerts myself, with regional orchestras here in Illinois, including a concert made up entirely of music from the Final Fantasy video game series. And I’m warm to the idea of contemporary music bringing in audiences who wouldn’t otherwise visit the “concert hall.” I remember the standing ovation given to the Final Fantasy composer (who was present in Rosemont, IL that evening) . . . when he arrived to take his seat BEFORE the performance.

But I have to say that hearing the Angry Birds theme being played by a full orchestra . . . well, when I heard some clips online, I just thought “that is really stupid.” Don’t get me wrong. I waste many a pleasurable hour at Angry Birds–I’m trying to get three stars on EVERY level. And the music is catchy and cute (although I stopped listening to the sounds and music on the game months and months ago). It’s even worth a tongue-in-cheek cover But the theme doesn’t scale well to orchestral proportions.

What I’ve heard of it, admittedly precious little, just the first few results you’ll get if you google for it, sounds terrible. The worst of orchestra meets pop music. It’s a tune (not so much a composition) for an oompah band. It doesn’t work for strings.

*sigh* Am I over-reacting?

I came across a quote in an acceptance speech made by David Harrington of the Kronos Quartet. He said this in accepting the Polar prize in September 2011: “…our goals have been simple: find the most wonderful music and play it as well as possible.”

That to me is one of the best ways to sum up what I want to do with the Chicago Bass Ensemble. All due respect to Ari Pulkkinen, but we will not be performing his piece, nor any of the cute, but trivializing pieces that the double bass gets saddled with. I want to perform music that helps people transcend the ordinary in their lives and inspire them. For me, the theme from Angry Birds doesn’t fit that definition.


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