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MemberOctober 1, 2021 at 2:45 pm
(the French artist known mononymously as Chris, frontwoman of the band Christine and the Queens) how commissions work in the classical world. Does she have an endless list of pieces she is expected to write, based on which orchestras have called her name? To a degree, yes — the clients of her in-progress works include both the Lyric Opera of Chicago and a major pop star she’s not yet allowed to name. But Let the Soil is a window into the kind of creative pace she’d like to experience again.
“I have this little slice of stuff that I want to do for myself,” she says. “It’s just this folder and a bunch of Trello notes of songs and album ideas.” She says she wants to keep working with any musicians who inspire her, but she’s interested in getting further away from the world of formal composing. The artists from whom she draws the most inspiration — FKA twigs, Moses Sumney, Anne Carson, the choreographer Crystal Pite — are like her: of specific creative backgrounds, but forging relatively isolated paths to privilege their work over its categorization.
In some ways, the music industry has finally caught up with Shaw. Listeners are freer than ever from genre, thanks to the hungry and indiscriminate pace of streaming services that have made irrelevant the categories that once organized record stores. But what this means for the musicians themselves, still frequently pigeonholed by race, nationality and style, is unresolved. And the genre trap has, for generations, puzzled the classical community, where its pressures take on curiously high stakes. For artists to reach beyond traditional audiences and influences is also to take a step back from the institutions that brought them up — music conservatories, orchestras and opera companies, the legacies of a handful of composers — and move toward a hyped, fast-moving mainstream.