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Classical Music

5 Pieces Of Classical Music, Reborn

“Heroes” has been “Reborn”. So has this classical music!

Jack Coleman as Noah Bennett in Heroes Reborn
Courtesy of
Jack Coleman as Noah Bennett in Heroes Reborn

We've all noticed it, haven't we? It's the era of reboots, remakes, and decades-old sequels. Within the past five years there have been remakes/reboots of Footloose, RoboCop, Red Dawn, Star Trek, Total Recall, Godzilla, Spider-Man, True Grit, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Equalizer, Hawaii Five-O, Dallas, Heroes... and SO many more!

This process is not restricted to film and television, however, as there are a number of pieces of music that could also be considered "remakes" in a sense. In the past several centuries of classical music development, a number of techniques and styles have come and gone, and modern composers have found ways to reconcile works of an older tradition with contemporary methods, while maintaining the general essence of the original piece.

In honor of the recent release of NBC’s Heroes Reborn, their reboot of their 2006-10 show, Heroes, here are five such examples (with some honorable mentions) of classical music that’s been “reborn”:

Igor Stravinsky – Pulcinella

In the 1920s, Russian composer Igor Stravinsky began what many musicians call his "neoclassical" period. In a sense, neoclassicism is a reboot of the musical aesthetic that predominated the 18th and early 19th centuries, and as such its stylistic features focus on order, restraint, and a general sense of clarity. This was all in reaction to the fluid, emotional, and opulent quality of music in the 19th century. Stravinsky's foray into this new style began with the ballet Pulcinella, which is based on an 18th-century play. He appropriated music from various 18th-century composers like Giovanni Pergolesi, Domenico Gallo, and Carl Ignazio Monza, and inflected it with his personal style. If you compare the ballet music with its predecessors, the general skeleton of the older music is still there, but with new instrumental colors, rhythmic changes, and altered harmonies that fit Stravinsky's techniques.

Leif Inge – 9 Beet Stretch

Sometimes you might come across a piece of music that is so long and not interesting enough so that it feels like it lasts all day. And then there are pieces that literally last all day, like Leif Inge's 9 Beet Stretch, a sound installation from the early 2000s that consists of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony stretched out to last an entire 24 hours. The piece is available for streaming here 24/7. There is no distortion or pitch shifting, so the music sounds just like it would normally, only if it was played excruciatingly slowly. The normally quick punches of the scherzo's opening become long, laborious musical lines (usually around 4:08 PM central time), and the overall sound is almost a little eerie with the attack and decay of each note overlapping into the surrounding notes.

Michael Gordon – Rewriting Beethoven's Seventh Symphony

This Beethoven entry is a little more traditional and listener-friendly, as you can hear all of it in just under half an hour. In "rewriting" this famous symphony, Michael Gordon chose one distinctive element of each movement in Beethoven's original piece, using them as his primary material for his work's four sections. From the first movement, he focuses on the big opening chords; from the second, the main theme and chord progression; from the third, the accompaniment figures; and from the fourth, the noodly thematic material. This postmodernist approach retains a bit of the familiar Beethoven, but is largely its own work with its own distinct character.

Stevie Wishart and Guy Sigsworth – Music of Hildegard von Bingen

This entry really encompasses an entire album. Hildegard (Hildegard Von Bingen), released on the Decca label in 2012, was put together by composer Stevie Wishart and her former schoolmate, producer Guy Sigsworth. This album features works by the German medieval composer Hildegard Von Bingen, as well as new works that use some materials from Hildegard's original pieces and add some modern instrumental components that take the old music into a completely different world.

Max Richter – Vivaldi, The Four Seasons – Recomposed

This is one of many CDs that are part of Deutsche Grammophon's Recomposed series, which takes classical pieces and reinterprets them in the hands of modern artists. Max Richter's approach to Vivaldi is informed by his minimalist background, and like Michael Gordon's treatment of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, the new version uses fragments of the old and spins them out into a contemporary music tapestry, with some added instrumental sounds beyond the string orchestra and basso continuo of the original concerti. Likewise, the familiar aspects of The Four Seasons remain intact, but the end product really is its own piece of music.

Honorable Mentions:

These two honorable mentions are notable in that they take music from popular musicians and turn them into contemporary classical works.

Philip Glass – Symphony No. 4, "Heroes"

This work is the second of Philip Glass' homages to David Bowie, the first being his Symphony No. 1, subtitled "Low" for the 1977 album of the same name. Similarly, this symphony draws inspiration from the album "Heroes", which followed Low later in the same year.

Steve Reich – Radio Rewrite

The inspiration here is the music of Radiohead, which Reich had taken an interest in after Johnny Greenwood, the group's guitarist, performed Reich's Electric Counterpoint at a festival in Poland. This piece splits two songs between its five movements: "Jigsaw Falling Into Place" from In Rainbows and "Everything in Its Right Place" from Kid A.

Joshua Zinn

Joshua Zinn

Producer, Houston Matters

Joshua is a producer for Houston Matters on News 88.7 as well as the host of Encore Houston on Houston Public Media Classical. He joined Houston Public Media as a radio intern in 2014 and became a full-time announcer the following year. Now he prepares segments and occasionally records interviews...

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