Classical Music Embraces Indie Ethos: Fifth House Ensemble & wild Up

Fresh-incSince writing about classical musicians as 21st Century entrepreneurs, I've been introduced to the concept of indie classical, an emerging movement of entrepreneurial classical musicians. This movement includes two classical music ensembles, Fifth House Ensemble and wild Up, who explore the possibilities for a classical repertoire that embraces music across genres and an approach to audience development that makes full use of social media.

I recently spoke with Maura Lafferty, an emerging music publicist from the Bay Area, who represents multiple clients exploring new directions in classical music. She introduced me to the concept of indie classical, a term she and others use to differentiate classical musicians bringing a high level of musicianship to their work from classical crossover which has taken on the unfortunate implication for some of classical artists reaching popular audiences with work that is not of the highest quality.

Ms. Lafferty's niche is that of conservatory trained musicians, open to a classical repertoire that can include covers of popular music performed to exacting standards, making full use of social media and often performing in alternative venues.  She is also an advocate with conservatory training who speaks from within this movement rather than as a hired gun.

Trailer for Black Violet, Performed by Fifth House Ensemble

Fifth House Ensemble aka 5HE, a chamber music group based in Chicago, explores the art of story-telling with "narrative chamber music." Such work includes Black Violet (trailer above), a live performance work recently released as an iOS app. Lafferty says this is part of a "growing international trend to pair graphic novels & anime with classical music."

5HE also created a work, In Transit, that explores social media themes and included the development of "digital personas…created and meticulously curated on Facebook and Twitter for the characters that are center to these tales." Executive Director Melissa Snoza discusses In Transit and its relationship to 5HE's own story in an interview for Technology in the Arts.

In keeping with the theme of entrepreneurship and classical music, Fifth House Ensemble has created fresh inc, a chamber music festival that works with emerging musicians on such issues as managing one's business, programming for different audiences and performing in varied venues.

wild Up Covers Black Flag's Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie

wild Up is an LA-based "24-member experimental classical/contemporary ensemble…committed to creating visceral, thought-provoking happenings." Or, as Lafferty describes them, a "noisy new music hipster chamber orchestra."

Led by Artistic Director and Conductor Christopher Rountree, wild Up has embarked upon an adventure with such projects as Ornithology, an evening about birds and flight including music composed or inspired by Olivier Messien, Charlie Parker and field recordings of birds.

Their eclectic repertoire includes the above cover of Black Flag's Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie with inspiration from the Dirty Projectors' version. Members of wild Up recently conducted a prepared piano workshop for kids using a cut up 100 year old piano.

wild Up participated in Disquiet.com's experiment in communal music making on SoundCloud Disquiet Junto.  They also waged a successful Kickstarter campaign for a vinyl release of their album The Salt of the Earth that is available for streaming or digital download via Bandcamp.

Fifth House Ensemble and wild Up represent a larger movement of entrepreneurial indie classical artists that are expanding the possibilities for classical music through experiments with repertoire, performance settings, audience development, social media and entrepreneurship. In the process, they are likely to be discovering approaches that will be of use to indie musicians across genres.

More: Classical Musicians As 21st Century Entrepreneurs

Hypebot Features Writer Clyde Smith blogs about business at Flux Research: Business & Revenue Models and maintains an audio blog at snd1.mobi. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

Share on:


  1. Just to clarify, the Fifth House app is only available for the iPad – it’s not supported on any other iOS devices.
    For more on the trend of anime & graphic novel artwork incorporated into classical music projects, check out Mini Operas, http://www.minioperas.org/, Nevada Opera, http://www.nevadaopera.org/, Vancouver Opera’s manga series, http://www.vancouveropera.ca/operalive/manga_archives.html, and this review of a recent production in the SF Bay Area: http://www.sfcv.org/reviews/west-edge-opera/superb-flute-edges-out-schikaneder

  2. I’ve arranged over 100 pop songs for orchestra over at my website. I think the natural progression of music is for things to merge. It’s been happening for hundreds of years.

Comments are closed.