Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Mark Spicer

Committee Members

Eliot Bates

David Grubbs

Sylvia Kahan

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Music | Musicology | Music Performance | Music Practice


mashups, classical crossover, crossover genre, sampled music, configurable culture


This dissertation is dedicated to examining the symbiosis between popular music and Western classical music in classical/popular mashups––a new style within the classical crossover genre. The research features the works of The Piano Guys, a contemporary ensemble that combines classical crossover characteristics and the techniques from modern sample-based styles to reconceptualize and reuse classical and popular works. This fusion demonstrates a new approach to presenting multi-genre works, forming a separate musical and cultural niche for this creative practice.

This dissertation consists of three chapters. The first chapter is further divided into two thematic discourses: genre and authorship. The research draws on Eric Drott’s (2013) position that contemporary genre definition is a heterogeneous product of technological and cultural shifts in creation, production and presentation of music. Following Thomas Johnson’s (2018) research on genre in post-millennial popular music, the first part of the chapter traces chronological developments of genre categorizations and attempts to place classical/popular mashups as a separate style within the contemporary genre framework. The second part investigates the transformations and the current state of authorship attributions in popular music and illustrates how group creativity and consumer participation prompt multiple authorial distributions in classical/popular mashups.

Applying Topic Theory established by Robert Hatten (1985) and Kofi Agawu (1992) and concepts of intertexuality developed by Serge Lacasse (2000, 2018) to the works of The Piano Guys and other musical works of the same style, the second chapter presents a comparative analysis, revealing a multi-layered structure of signification different from the intertextual and topical relationships found in the works of other styles.

In the third chapter the detailed exploration of three works by The Piano Guys places these methodological theories in dialogue with formal analysis to draw out a series of quantifiable technical, musical and interpretive characteristics that differentiate “classically originated” mashups from similar practices in other genres.