Polica and Stargaze Credit: Maarit Kytöharju

Attracting new listeners to contemporary classical music is an ongoing struggle, but in recent years a number of music presenters, including Liquid Music in Minneapolis and Ecstatic Music in New York, have pursued a novel path of spearheading collaborations between pop groups and new music ensembles. In some ways this makes sense—plenty of musicians across the divide are fluent and interested in both, and among these various projects, there have been some successes, such as the winning joint effort between adventurous rock band Deerhoof and Chicago’s Ensemble Dal Niente. In New York, the American Contemporary Music Ensemble and the related yMusic have become go-to outfits to flesh out ambitious ambient work by the likes of Jóhann Jóhannsson and Blonde Redhead. However, the whole concept seems like a crapshoot to me, the endeavors seemingly conceived in meetings by suits as often as instigated by musicians with mutual admiration for each other’s work. Minneapolis electronic pop group Poliça just dropped Music for the Long Emergency (Totally Gross National Product), a collaborative effort with the Berlin-based new-music group Stargaze. Conducted by André de Ridder—a figure with experience in collaborations such as the superb version of Terry Riley’s In C he produced with a group of traditional Malian musicians a few years ago—Stargaze have engaged with plenty of pop musicians, including Owen Pallett and Julia Holter, and their pairing with Poliça has resulted in exquisitely crafted music. The arrangements—such as the spectral overtones that lend an eerie atmosphere to the stark ballad “How Is This Happening”—go far beyond mere orchestral lily gilding. But while Stargaze’s string parts enhance the usually austere machinations of Poliça, it all feels a bit perfunctory, and as much as it does to attract special project funding from institutions uninterested in supporting genuinely original new work, it certainly seems unlikely to build new audiences for new music.   v