Game of Genres Week 2 – Classical vs Punk Rock

Does Cambridge prefer classical or punk rock? Cast your vote now!

Classical daniel lewis debussey Debussy game of genres Game of Thrones genres king blues Music Punk Punk Rock reggae

Last week we saw Indie-Pop brutally dismember Jazz and Reggae and progress through as the first semi-finalist with 50% of the votes. We have had plenty of submissions for the genres people would love to see fight it out, but we decided to explore just 2 genres this week that we feel couldn’t be more polarised. This week we see Classical up against Punk Rock.

Who will sit on the Iron Throne this May Week?

CLASSICAL – Daniel Lewis

“Classical music is tight, yo”. So tweeted the inimitable Kanye West in 2010 in an admirable attempt to revive the withering body that is classical music appreciation. Although Mr West’s albums show little obvious trace of his enthusiasm, we, nevertheless, appreciate the sentiment.

Of course, Ye is correct: classical music is tight. But I wonder, is classical music too tight—so tight that there’s no smooth way in, except for those with Grade 8 ‘cello (and some ‘helicopter parents’ to boot)?

The issue is that classical music does not seem accessible because it is just so utterly uncool. But, for me, this is what makes it one of the best and least restrictive ‘genres’ around. It is virtually fangirl-free, what’s hot cannot be dictated by how much flesh a star is able to bare on the Daily Mail’s sidebar of shame and your airwaves are not subject to the relentless grind of the media machine. Necessary evils, for sure, but they all come with an expiry date. When the fifteen minutes of fame is up, classical music hasn’t even warmed up.

Alongside her louder, more popular, and, by all accounts, sexier sibling, it is easy for classical music to seem like the ugly sister that doesn’t get out enough. But the truth is that she just doesn’t need to boast as much. She plays, not a better, but a different game: subtle, slow—I like things to last longer than 2 minutes and 42 seconds—and often surprising. For pop, a picture may speak a thousands words but some things are better left unsaid. For the most part, unplugged, classical music suggests, it doesn’t shout.

Now, this might not be the best place to start but one composer I can’t get over is Claude Debussy (1862-1918). French, Anglophile, socialiser, womaniser, genius, his unique sound world and colourful harmony influenced numerous other important composers, the ‘cool jazz’ of Miles Davis and John Coltrane and…er…Disclosure (genuinely). Just listen, it’s lush:


‘Nirvana’ is often defined as a freedom from pain, suffering and the external world – this is my definition of punk rock. Despite Nirvana’s critical acclaim for redefining the contemporary popular music scene through the immortalisation of grunge, they also created with it a sense of apathy and social alienation, whereas punk rock stood centre-stage and fought to free its patrons.

Punk rock is there for you when the whole world pushes you down. It’s the kid in the playground that picks you up after you’ve been shoved over. It’s the mate that drags you to the pub after your ex sleeps with your best mate after only 2 weeks. It’s there for you when you’ve had too much, when you want to give in, when you want to wallow in filth – it’s the beating heart of defiance that never dies.

It is this ability for punk rock to allow you to fight that makes it so important. The same fight that the Sex Pistols brought with ‘Anarchy in the UK’; addressing the economic frustration and social alienation felt by a repressed British youth in the 1970s. The same fight that courses through the Ramones when they play ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’, opening with the rally cry ‘Hey! Ho! Let’s go!’. And it’s the same fight that every teenager feels when they first discover Green Day’s Dookie and use it as their anthem of struggle at understanding being a teenager. It’s even the fight you need to get you through these 8 weeks of hell.

There is no doubt of the one song that embodies everything punk rock stands for. ‘What if Punk Never Happened’ was the last song of the King Blues’ second album released in 2008, and with this song they managed to bottle up everything important about punk rock into six and a half minutes that I challenge anyone to listen to and not feel inspired to get up and change the world.


So there you have it. Remember to vote for your favourite genre, and let us know which genres you would want to see next week. Peace.