Classical music today: Semi Songs by Drum & Lace blends classical composition and contemporary inventiveness

When you hear the words classical music your mind automatically goes to composers like Mozart Beethoven, Bach, and so on. It’s difficult to see contemporary names in a discussion about the topic if not impossible: if you’re lucky, people remember great cinema composers such as Hans Zimmer and John Williams, and that’s all. Just like jazz, classical music suffers from comparison with the masters of the past and from a sort of elitism that permeates the academies around the world and that’s focused on the alleged “superiority” of the genre. If you add the experimental vein of the few classical composers who try to make something new, you understand why the genre is not that popular today. Fortunately, there are people out there who play classical but have no fear to blend with contemporary culture and the results sometimes are extraordinary: among them one called herself Drum & Lace and dug into classical soundscape, cinema, electronic and so on, and her brand new work Semi Songs is what we deal with here.

Semi Songs album cover


  1. Outsider Complex Part 1
  2. Parhelion
  3. Gardenia
  4. Outsider Complex Part 2

Drum & Lace, real name Sofia Hultquist, is an Italian sound artist who writes music for media and films, but also original music. Her original portfolio is made out of many EPs of which Semi Songs is the latest one that came out on July 19. She’s not exclusively a classical composer, but a histrionic artist who makes her way throughout electronica, classical, film scoring and so on. It’s clear in which direction her degrees went to. On Bandcamp’s Bandcamp Daily format, she says that Semi Songs is the most personal thing she ever made: it’s not easy to go personal on music when most of the work is made on commission, and the composer took her time and space to do the things the way she wanted. The album is arranged as a chamber music quartet, two cellos, violin, and a piano, more all the electronic stuff made by D&L herself.

Sofia Hultquist, art name Drum & Lace

The first track, Outsider Complex Part 1, represents in music what feels like to be an outsider, living in a place where is difficult to get engaged with the local culture. Nervous strings play a continuous game of stop-and-goes, both in the beginning where everything relies on fast thirty-second notes and in the second part where the classic formula of question and answer dominates the piece, slowly building up towards the finale that resumes the beginning, a usual A-B-A structure. The anxiety of the intro and the outro really makes you feel uncomfortable in a good way, making you experience the feelings of outsiders.

Parhelion is the name of an optical phenomenon (also called sundog) that happens in nature due to the refraction of the sunlight on the ice crystals in the air. It’s typical of cold places and it’s spectacular to see. To help you get the track with the same name, turn the music on and watch a video of a parhelion while listening to the homonymous song: Beautiful, isn’t it? Like the illusion of the sunlight dividing into two lateral parts, the instruments go by themselves in different directions but always intersect at the right spots to hook the ear, furthermore adding odd time signatures to reach a sense of motion. The song abruptly interrupts before coming to Gardenia.

Limited edition graphic score of the record

Gardenia is the longest and most peaceful track of the record, finding its way in a mix between ambient and chamber music. It’s a song that doesn’t build up neither makes it down. It’s the same song slowly transforming into something else like the gardenia flower blossoming. There are just some spots where the music makes a little change, when a new section comes in and it’s always welcomed by a single instrument, then the others mate with it, like petals of a flower slowly and ineluctably following each other.

The album ends with Outsider Complex Part 2. Scalar melodic cells chase each other in an almost joyful mood, before falling into anxiety at half of the song, with ostinato bass notes upon which the tension is built until the final release, the thirty-second notes keep the thing prosecuting towards a glorious…power chord? And after the release, the same fast notes of the beginning, closing the circle set since the very first second of the album.

Who writes usually doesn’t deal with classical music due to the reason written above but this was too good to not write about it. D&L is mostly known for electronic stuff but this time she went personal and this gave her a better place to compose and the end result is wonderful.

Written for you by Music Pills


Previous “outsider” review: video album REAM RAM by Ben Levin


Useful links


About Drum & Lace and her Semi songs:


About Music Pills Horizons in Music:


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