Earlier this fall I had the chance to go and listen to Gunther Schuller speak about his ideas regarding the Third Stream, in a gross simplification it is simply Schuller’s idea of what to call some sort of fusion between jazz and classical music. Schuller explains it more deeply in his book Musings: The Musical Worlds of Gunther Schuller:
THIRD STREAM is a way of composing, improvising, and performing that brings musics together rather than segregating them. It is a way of making music which holds that all musics are created equal, coexisting in a beautiful brotherhood/sisterhood of musics that complement and fructify each other. It is a global concept which allows the world’s musics-written, improvised, handed-down, traditional, experimental-to come together, to learn from one another, to reflect human diversity and pluralism. It is the music of rapprochement of entent–not of competition and confrontation. And it is the logical outcome of the American melting pot: E pluribus unum.
Setting Schuller aside for a moment, I also heard later on in the semester that Mark O’Connor had spoken a bit on his idea of where music in the world was headed. Unfortunately I was not able to attend the lecture where O’Connor made these statements, so they might just be hearsay and should be taken with a grain of salt. But via my friend Joy Adams, O’Connor seemed to feel strongly that American music was going to play a very strong role in influencing the music of the world in the future. (As an aside: it hasn’t already??) Joy insisted O’Connor meant American music in general but I thought that O’Connor probably meant American folk music specifically, because that’s O’Connor’s thing. Much like Schuller writes that Third Stream is a philosophy of inclusiveness and any combination of cultural styles should be considered as such, Third Stream is widely held to represent the fusion of Avant Classical and Jazz.
What interests me about these two musician’s ideas is that they may be on to something but I believe they are a little off in which direction the fusion between contemporary classical and a “popular form” is occurring. To be clear, Third Stream (Jazz + Classical) did happen, you can hear it ranging from Schuller himself to Milhaud, but as far as the future goes, I believe that indie music and bands like Radio Head and the singer Björk are going to have a much greater impact on classical’s”fused” form rather than Jazz or folk music. Just listen to young composers of the likes of Nico Muhly, Missy Mazzoli, Corey Dargel who’s sounds cross over heavily into indie-pop pop territory. Granted much of what they do is an extension along the minimalist-post-minimalist-(whatever the hell we should call this movement) axis, but in our current version of the Third Stream, what’s wrong with a lot of cross-pollination?