Alt-Classical and WTJU

Greg Sandow coined the term “alt-classical.” What is it? As Sandow says, it describes a different kind of modern classical music, different than the academic musings that fails to attract the next generation of listeners.

“[It’s] another kind of new music that a young audience really does like, and that’s what Mason Bates writes, and I’d think also what Anna Clyne writes. I’ve called that style alt-classical in endless posts… pointed out that it has an audience (in New York, quite a large one), and challenged mainstream classical music institutions to wake up and start programming it.”

Jessica Duchen agrees, citing several examples in the UK (like James MacMillan) and Norman Lebrecht’s poll of living composers whose music will survive.

Talking with my colleagues in the Rock Department at WTJU, I know that there is something to this. Pierre Boulez isn’t high on their list, but Steve Reich is.

There’s this living, breathing, vital alt-classical genre bubbling just under the surface, appealing to younger, primarily non-traditional classical audiences. So where does WTJU stand with alt-classical music?

Well, I can only speak for my own program — Gamut — but with a show that “runs the gamut of music from the Middle Ages all the way up to the present day,” I think I’ve given alt-classical a fair shake.

Skimming some names from my master playlist, I’ve aired multiple works from:

John Adams
Thomas Ades
Gavin Bryers
George Crumb
Henri Dutilleux
Philip Glass
Henry Mikolai Gorecki
James MacMillan
Magnus Lindberg
Arvo Part
Einojuhani Rautavaara
Evan Zyporyn

– as well as many others living composers who skirt that alt-classical designation. And let’s not forget Bang on a Can, Kronos Quartet, Evelyn Glennie, and other artists and ensembles whose recordings sell very well outside the classical reservation.

I don’t present this music sequestered off in some corner someplace where it won’t frighten away too many listeners. Rather, I make alt-classical part of the show’s mix, rubbing shoulders with all the works from all the other sub-genres created over classical music’s two-thousand year history.

Alt-classical may still be finding its audience (at least in the concert halls), but as for WTJU? We’re alt-ready there.

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