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Culture and Pop Culture in the Music of Thomas Adès.

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paper


Publication date1/10/2010
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Conference11th International Conference on Musical Signification
CityAcademy of Music, Krakow, Poland


Like so much contemporary music, that of the British composer Thomas Adès (b. 1971) draws on an eclectic range of sources for inspiration, both from the Western ‘art’ tradition as well as jazz and pop. In the case of the latter, this has manifested itself in the form of arrangements of pop songs (‘Cardiac Arrest’ (1995), originally by the pop group Madness) or through allusions to popular idioms, most notably in the third movement of his 1997 orchestral work Asyla, in which he drew on the rhythms and material of electronic dance music. The incorporation of topical and stylistic references to popular music into his concert works might be considered a natural consequence of Adès’s well-documented pluralistic listening habits. Nevertheless, the music on which he draws cannot be considered to be value-free, and the various patterns of integration or conflict between diverse materials brings into question issues of content and meaning. In this paper I will outline a methodological approach (derived from the work of Robert Hatten and Nicholas Cook) for interpreting the meanings that emerge from the collision of diverse musical cultures in Adès’s music, and through this consider what implications this might have for the discussion of the music’s function and value.