What genre is it?
Is it Contemporary Classical?
Is it Neo-Classical?
Is it New Age?
Is it Smooth Jazz?
Is it Electronic Classical?
Is it Electro-Acoustic?
So, what IS New Classical Music?
Classical Music, as most people know it, is everything from Bach to John Adams. This is not to be confused with the Classical Period/Era, which technically only includes music written between 1750 and 1820. Think of the Classical we all know, as the mother genre, for a group of sub-genres that were popular during different periods, or eras. Chronologically, they would be baroque, classical, romantic, impressionist, and 20th century.
Contemporary Classical then, by definition, must include 21st century music. But, is there really any classical music being written today? That probably depends largely on instrumentation. However, not every modern arrangement that includes orchestral instruments can be considered contemporary classical. If Lady Gaga's arrangers add a string section to one of her songs, does that make it classical? A summer Pops concert employs a full orchestra to perform pop, rock and jazz tunes. Is that classical? You hear a remix of Beethoven's Fifth set to a dance beat. Is that classical?
Perhaps we should look at history, as well as orchestration. If a new(er) piece harkens back to the sounds of that Bach-to-Adams genre, that may be one clue. If the style doesn't derive from some other established genre, like jazz, rock, dance or ethnic music, that may be clue #2. If it adds something new, or different... advancing those classical sounds, then you may have found Contemporary Classical.
Think of the evolution of classical music as a progression, like making your way across monkey bars. Each rung is a different "great master," who added something new to the advances of the predecessor. From Bach to Mozart, to Beethoven, to Brahms, to Tchaikovsky, to Debussy, to Stravinsky, to Copland, to Adams. Each of them reached for something new, while using the previous rung for support.
More than a decade into the 21st century, we may be, arguably, stuck on a rung, waiting for the next great master.
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