In music, there is a thing called covers, where musicians perform their own interpretations of pieces. Often, these are songs, by different artists other than the original ones, and in the same genre, so rock covers are still rock. However, covers could involve instrumental pieces like classical, jazz, or other wordless compositions. They could be by the same artists later in their career. But for me, the most interesting and fun covers, whether I like them or not, are ones in different genres. For fun, I’d like to share some examples from a Switched on Pop podcast I recently heard on Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and wonder why such covers aren’t more prominent in literature with the classics now in the public domain. The podcast episode was the third of four, but the entire series was magnificent and I would highly recommend it!
So for starters, this is Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. You only need to listen for a few minutes if you only had that much time, to get a good gist of it for comparison to the other covers.
First out, let’s try a rock cover, even if South Korean rather than North American produced. There are many more online from all over the place.
Close to rock is metal.
And while we’re on modern, why not techno?
And jazz, with just three players here?
A version for two with cellos?
Or a version for one on just piano, as part of a set of all nine Beethoven symphony brilliantly transcribed by Franz Liszt. Yes, leave it to Franz to take on something like that, being the virtuoso that he was.
Back to the modern day cross-genre interpretations. Now try the disco version from Saturday Night Fever, called a fifth of Beethoven, and I wouldn’t disagree much with that, even though I do like it. That’s why I wondered about cross-genre writing and why it couldn’t be as fun or popular?
How’s about Beethoven’s Fifth in another dance style, salsa this time?
What about bluegrass?
There are even more such interpretations in even more genres, of course, including one of Nigerian afro-beat from the podcast episode at about 11 minutes that I couldn’t find find a link for. They were all fun and interesting to listen to, even if I didn’t care a lot for some of them. But in the same spirit of these covers, I thought why couldn’t there be more “writing covers” or “literature covers”? I’m know there are some version out there, but none have gotten any decent amount of recognition that I know of. So why is that? Have they have just been done badly? Is no one good willing to try? Or do they think even if they succeeded, it’d be consider second rate?
I chose Beethoven’s Fifth as the source for the covers, only because I wanted to log the collection for myself. That legendary piece of music, with a few hundred years of being in the public consciousness, from a genius that was arguably his most masterful piece, is a tough act to follow, so it was probably the worse example for my case. However, if you think about rock, pop, and jazz songs, there are so many covers that are better than the original. That’s an opinion for every song and very person, of course, but everybody who have listened to a decent amount of those songs would have their own list, unlike Beethoven’s Fifth where most people who know it would prefer the original… including some who didn’t like classical music.
But wouldn’t it be fun to have a version of every classic you knew, in some other genre?