London-based musician Simon Lasky has recently added a new skill to his set. A classically trained pianist, teacher, and composer of contemporary classical and jazz music, he’s now the driving force behind It’s All Music, a lively series of presentations about the close connections between classical and popular music.
He draws a tight line between the musical stylings of Stevie Wonder and Mozart. “Yes, one is a black soul singer from America and one is a dead German guy with a wig on, but I want to show people how they compare.” It’s All Music runs a musical arc from Mozart to Schubert to Gershwin to Jimi Hendrix to Paul Simon and on from there. It started with visits to London schools (mostly high school level) to share a universal appreciation of all musical forms. “I’m not trying to say ‘Your music is inferior,’” he says. “I care about good music, and I don’t like people thinking classical music is only for affluent, middle-class white people.”
This was his fourth visit to Banff as a composer, and he experimented with presenting It’s All Music to a few more diverse audiences, like the Canmore Seniors’ Life Long Learners, a room full of Banff Centre staff, and some indie musicians here for a recording session. He reports that they were all into it. Given his vast knowledge of centuries of music, I asked Lasky about a few tunes that are most meaningful to him.
What was the first piece of music you ever bought with your own money? It was a CD of Jacqueline du Pré playing the Elgar Cello Concerto. She was at the peak of her powers, but she knew she was sick and she didn’t have a lot of time left. I also bought Faith by George Michael. I still have it.
What’s a song that brings back a particularly significant memory for you? The live version of Shine on You Crazy Diamond by Pink Floyd. When I was 15 or 16 I was visiting my cousin in Israel, and this song seemed like the sound of what being a grown-up would be like.
Do you have a song on your iPod that’s a guilty pleasure? Anything from The Killers’ Day and Age album. It’s a really good pop record, but I think if my friends saw me listening to it they’d go ‘hmmm’.