Natural Blend

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Last weekend I had the pleasure of recording an in-studio performance by composer Van Dyke Parks, which will broadcast on my WNYC show Spinning On Air this Sunday evening at 8 pm. My first exposure to Parks's work was when I heard The Beach Boys song “Heroes and Villains” on the radio while a kid back in the 1960s. Parks wrote the lyrics for that song, and subsequently worked on The Beach Boys’ “Smile” and his own 1968 album “Song Cycle,” and many projects since. Back when I first heard his music I knew it was new, exciting, and different, but I probably didn’t recognize that it was such an effective, natural blend of folk, pop, and classical influences.

Watch the 67-year-old Parks perform two pieces in the WNYC Studio, and hear how comfortably “Heroes and Villains” adapts to a chamber music arrangement, and how the ghost of Charles Ives seems to smile through Park’s solo performance of “The All Golden."

One sometimes hears of “crossover” attempts to create a commercially successful hybrid of classical and pop, but Van Dyke Parks’ music is something quite different: a natural, unselfconscious melding of influences. What music do you know and enjoy that provides a similarly natural blend?