This is the piece (and performance) which Craig mentioned in a comment on my recent post about the young composer Caroline Shaw. It's a setting of a few sentences from Psalm 84. I was not able to figure out exactly which translation she uses, but another performance includes the text as:
How beloved is your dwelling place,
o lord of hosts,
my soul yearns, faints,
my heart and my flesh cry out.
The sparrow found a house,
and the swallow her nest,
where she may raise her young.
They pass through the Valley of Bakka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn also covers it with pools.
I suggest that you listen to the other performance as well. It has a smaller choir and the parts are more distinct. Also it seems to have been assembled from pieces recorded separately during Covidtide.
And here is a very different sort of work, "Other Song."
Are either of these classical music? We can be literal and say that a genuine classic by definition cannot be very new, because the definition includes having stood the test of time: "instant classic" is just a way of expressing enthusiasm. Obviously Shaw's pieces are not that. Being less literal and referring to a tradition, we have to say that they, the second piece especially, are certainly not Bach or Brahms. And not Schoenberg or Stravinsky or even Copland. The first piece "sounds" more classical: it's performed by a trained choir, and its basic sonority of massed voices is not essentially different from Renaissance church music. "Other Song," on the, um, other hand includes elements associated with pop music--not only the percussion itself, but the rhythms used by it. The composition however takes strange turns not often found in pop music, and I don't think even the better pop singers would be able to handle certain parts of the vocal line with the same precision and clarity.
So "contemporary classical music" is almost a contradiction in terms by the test-of-time standard, and often decidedly un-classical in composition or instrumentation or both, a tendency that has been going on for some decades now, at least since the Kronos Quartet recorded "Purple Haze" in the 1980s, and no doubt before. I think I vaguely recollect hearing of such things in the late '60s. I was mildly surprised when I read in Alex Ross's The Rest Is Noise that Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead was a composition student at some university in California before the Dead got started. And the debate about whether the term still has meaning or not (apart from its historical reference) has been going on for at least as long.
Let's just say that this is music written and performed by people trained in, and making use of, the techniques of the Western classical tradition, and not be too concerned about categorizing it. I think of the remark made apparently on more than one occasion by Duke Ellington: "If it sounds good, it is good." (Peter Schickele used that as a sort of motto for his very enjoyable and very eclectic radio program "Schickele Mix.") I always imagined Ellington's words as a response to the listener who might say something like "Well, yes, it sounds nice, it has a certain surface appeal, but is it good?" It's not an unreasonable consideration, really. But in the long run Ellington is right, and in the long run the superficial will be sorted out from the solid. And I think Caroline Shaw's music is very good.
Philosophically, she is apparently in the contemporary mainstream, which is not really a good thing, but hardly a surprise, and her heart is in the right place. A note on that second performance says of "And the Swallow" that it "has to do with finding a home and celebrating the sense of safety." There's nothing wrong with that, but it leaves out most of the psalm and its most important sense. And the video for "Other Song," according to Nonesuch Records, "was shot at Rise and Root Farm, a five-acre farm in New York’s Hudson Valley that is rooted in social justice and run cooperatively by four owners who are women, intergenerational, multi-racial, and LGBTQ." Well, I salute their willingness to plow and plant, anyway.
"Intergenerational" is an odd thing to be proud of as a social justice accomplishment. In the natural order of things, most groups of people are. Families, for instance.