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Los Angeles youth orchestra mash-up


04-19-2016 00:10 BJT

Classical musicians may balk at the idea of blending Kanye West with Beethoven, but at least members of a Los Angeles youth orchestra are warming up to the idea!
The gap between the contemporary rap artist and the Romantic composer may seem an unbridgeable divide, but not for the 70-piece Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra.

They're blending motifs from West's 2013 album "Yeezus" with several of Beethoven's best-known compositions.

The group's musical director and conductor, Yuga Cohler, says it's the first in a series of such performances that will seek to find links between pop and classical music.

Youth orchestra mashes up Kanye West and Beethoven

Youth orchestra mashes up Kanye West and Beethoven

"The pairings that we came up with we based on musical characteristics. There are six pairs. Each pair seeks to demonstrate musical similarities in terms of elements like form, harmony, melody, arpeggios, things like that. And just by taking these rather fundamental musical elements, we're trying to show the underpinnings of both works of great music," Yuga Cohler said.

"There clearly are similarities there. It's fun to point that out. Some people are not as big fans of Kanye, the personality. I and Yuga, we're always happy to point out that many people felt the same way about Beethoven. So it's not unique," said Stephen Feigenbaum, composer.

The YMF Debut Orchestra is a pre-professional group ranging in age from 16 to 25. They typically perform about five times a season, with intense rehearsals only in the week leading up to each performance. Cohler flies in from the Boston area to work with the orchestra.

18-year-old violinist Celia Daggy is a high-school senior in Santa Monica, California. She doesn't listen to pop music and isn't exactly a fan of West. So she wasn't sure what to expect when she read through the program at the beginning of the year.

"It said 'mash-up music of Kanye West and Beethoven'. And I was like, 'that could either be really cool or really awful'. So -- I just waited throughout the year. It's amazing. I'm having such a blast. It's actually really fun," said Celia Daggy, violist.

Cohler wouldn't say what his exact plans are for future mash-ups -- but says his "Yeethoven" concert is part of a larger cultural trend.

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