I spent the 90’s pretty much only interested in classical music. I quickly became a classical music snob once I got turned on to Beethoven and Rachmaninov for good. It wasn’t very difficult at that point to leave the hard rock I loved from high school behind as the 80’s degenerated into the over the top big stadium hair bands. At some point everyone seemed to reject that music as grunge and rap emerged so confidently shortly thereafter.
I did one day however, happen to see Nirvana’s video for ‘smells like teen spirit’ at a friends house, I found it quite mesmerizing. It remains one of the few pop songs from the 90’s I enjoy, and it turned out to be sung by an enduring pop icon, surely enduring for more than just the obvious reason.
I have now seen several pianists do their own interpretation of the piece on YouTube. Of all the videos I have seen I find the most interesting to be Brad Mehldau’s interpretation of it in a live recording from a concert in Vienna.
That video has sadly disappeared.
Brad Mehldau’s solo recordings are quite captivating as he jazzes up some beautiful and beloved pop songs. I can warmly recommend his cd ‘Live in Tokyo.’
Well, while you are at it, check out Eric Lewis practically destroy a grand piano slamming out his own variant of the piece.
So I thought why not try doing my own take on the classic. As I try out various songs and melodies as an improvised fugue some melodies go easily into a fugue and others I struggle with and many I give up on. The beautiful melodies from ‘smells like teen spirit’ it turned out seemed to be begging to receive a contrapuntal treatment. I especially appreciate the opportunity to get away with some parallel fifths. 🙂