BACHBOOMBOX narrows the gap between hip hop and classical music | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

BACHBOOMBOX narrows the gap between hip hop and classical music

A cellist, a human DJ, an opera singer and a handful of multidisciplinary artists set their sights on breaking down barriers between genres

Magic Organs: D.S. Kinsel and Julie Mallis
Magic Organs: D.S. Kinsel and Julie Mallis
Hip hop and classical music are genres rife with misconceptions and stereotypes. Even in contemporary pop music, where distinctions between genres are more and more diluted, these two still carry some seriously archaic baggage — hip hop as low-brow, classical as elitist. It turns out Nas’ Beethoven-sampling 2003 hit “I Can” was not enough to bury those cliches. But a Jan. 25 multidisciplinary event from the artist collective The Groove Aesthetic and Chamber Music Pittsburgh aims to help break down those barriers.

BACHBOOMBOX is an interactive exploration of the intersections between classical music and hip hop. Hosted by Magic Organs (D.S. Kinsel and Julie Mallis), the performance will feature poet Joy KMT, hip-hop artist Shad Ali, multi-instrumentalist Langston Kelly and vocalist Anqwenique Wingfield, founder of The Groove Aesthetic.

“In today’s world, with such easy access to everything, to art, to different kinds of music and everything being instant, I think that lends itself to mashing up and breaking down of barriers between different kinds of genres,” says Wingfield. “It causes us to think about how we classify music, what makes something classical, what makes it jazz, what makes it R&B.”

The organizers are mum on some of the specifics, but the program will open with cellist Rachel Smith performing one of Bach’s cello suites, on which the other artists will incorporate hip-hop styles. What happens from there is unknown, but Wingfield says that audience participation is a safe bet.

BACHBOOMBOX debuted in 2013 at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, featuring many of the same performers as this year. It’s pared down a bit in its second incarnation, this year hosted at BOOM Concepts in Garfield (the capacity for the event is around 70). It’s scaled down, but the organizers see that as a potential upside.

“We wanted to take [classical music] out of the ivory tower, out of the concert hall, out of this place where it seems to have a lot of restraints and restrictions,” says Kristen Linfante, executive director of Chamber Music Pittsburgh.

“There will be a little something for everyone and everyone will be surprised by something,” says Wingfield.

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