Thursday, October 15, 2015

Elvis in Classical Music

How can I get away with talking about Elvis in a classical music blog? Today we are going to talk about Grammy award-winning composer Michael Daughtery’s (1954) Dead Elvis, one of his many works based on a popular American icon. While finding inspiration in composers such as Dvorak and Ives, Daughtery also enjoys writing works representing various people and places. Coming from a background in jazz and rock, Daughtery combines a modernist approach with popular music. Many of his works relate to American popular culture including Superman in his Metropolis Symphony and Jackie Onassis in Jackie O.

Dead Elvis (1993) is one of Daughtery’s works that a variety of people enjoy even outside classical music circles. Perhaps its references to popular culture make it more accessible? Dead Elvis is written for a chamber ensemble and a solo bassoonist dressed up like Elvis! It incorporates the Dies irae theme from the Mass for the Dead in varied forms reminiscent of 50s rock, Latin jazz, and Las Vegas shows—all aspects of Elvis’ career. Watch here:

What are your impressions of this piece? 

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