In our second episode of Classical Pairings, host Nick Johnson talks music and popcorn with Matthew Kraemer, the Music Director of the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, and Carly Swift and Mandy Selke, the owners of Just Pop In!
Nick Johnson (00:01):
Hi, I’m Nick Johnson. Welcome to Classical Pairings, a podcast, exploring interactions between music and all things, food and drink.
Matthew Kraemer (00:08):
Great music, great popcorn.
Nick Johnson (00:11):
Nick Johnson (00:12):
In each episode, we pair a leader in music with a leader in the food and drink industry. We talk connections, similarities, and differences. What drives a person to become a musician or open a brewery, or start a restaurant? I’m a musicology professor at Butler, but I like to think of myself as a connoisseur of cocktails and beer. So I’m always excited to talk with people to share my combined passions. And as our name suggests, we’ll spend some time eating and drinking samples selected just for us. And I’ll try to pick classical music I think pairs well with whatever we’re sampling. You can tell me what you think of my choices by following me on Twitter @MusicologyNick. My food and beverage guests for this episode were Carly Swift and Mandy Selke, co-owners of Just Pop In!, an award-winning boutique style gourmet popcorn company in the Broadripple neighborhood, Indianapolis. My music guest was Matthew Kramer, Artistic Director of the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra. The ICO advances and promotes music composed for the small orchestra through concert performances and educational programs. We recorded this episode in the charming private event space at Just Pop In! We started by discussing the art scene in Indianapolis and how the owners of Just Pop In! come up with new and daring popcorn recipes. Let’s jump in on our discussion of the current rise of craft culture in America, when audiences are returning to handmade small batch goods. I’ve just asked what is driving this cultural movement. And we’ll start with Matthew Kramer, answering from the point of view of the music world. Later in this episode, I’ll pick pieces of music to accompany cheddar and caramel blended popcorn, and then the dark chocolate, sea salt popcorn.
Matthew Kraemer (01:43):
Just hearing both of you talk. I see so many similarities already that palates are changing. People are expecting and wanting more experiences that are new and affect them directly, that aren’t the same repeating pattern over and over again. And I can say personally with my programming that I’ve had many things that I’ve been very proud of things that worked good in theory, but didn’t quite turn out the way that I expected them. Some things just, you know, in a concert program, four pieces, I love sushi and I love pizza, but I wouldn’t eat sushi and pizza at the same time. It’s, you know, a program has worked many ways this in the same respect. So I think that, um, yeah, there is a lot of great music out there. For example, when we continue to play that, but we are, we find that the pairings with new works that are probably unfamiliar. We did a work for example, for cello and orchestra, but it was inspired by Piazzolla Tango. And it was riveting that the audience really were attracted to it because they, they recognize the type of music that it was, but they had never heard a piece like that before. So I find this with my own tastes, when I go to restaurants, when I cook at home, that I’m always looking for something a little bit different than what’s on the, the recipe in front of me, but a few experimentations here, and there are sometimes lead to really incredible results that you never expected.
Mandy Selke (02:51):
Yeah, I would have to say I’m very similarly. Um, I feel that the form, the farm to fork concept, there’s just more of a spotlight on it. And, you know, it’s, it’s been a part of these little small culture cultures but I feel that, um, people are embracing it quite a bit more. Um, for example, we get our, um, kernels from, uh, from down South here in Indiana, and they, um, have a, uh, a partnership with about 17 other smaller farms. And it there’s something that just feels really good about knowing that those 17 farms are being supported by Just Pop In!. Um, I think that there is something about supporting one another and sort of the blood and tears that go into your work and when it is on a smaller scale, um, I just think it’s, it’s… You can be creative without a glass ceiling.
Carly Swift (03:46):
And I think that it’s all about the experience. I think that people have become too. It’s just, it’s just more than food. It’s more than music it’s, it is. It’s the overall experience that makes us feel good.
Nick Johnson (04:01):
Hmm. Is there a, is there a farm to fork, movement and music?
Matthew Kraemer (04:04):
Interesting. Uh, you know, we certainly do have arguments all the time about how pieces should be played, whether it’s a historically informed, we try to make it sound like, uh, Beethoven would have heard this a hundred and some years, or 200 years ago, or if it’s more of a romanticized… Exactly. It’s so I, I certainly think that there’s, you know, opportunities for us to, to discuss, you know, the specific piece and our approach to it. Um, and I just, I’m, I’m, I’m thinking to myself, well, again, both of you for talking to, I have a six year old who’s- buttered noodles every night for dinner!
Matthew Kraemer (04:33):
And if I’m just, you know, there is so much more in the world to experience and you can’t rationalize with a six year old, while my three year old, like, is pulling chicken nuggets, you know, over while I’m- So I, I think palates, we, we allow ourselves, and we say this with classical music all the time that we allow yourself the experience, because you don’t know, maybe in your twenties, you might have a certain way of feeling about something, but when you come back in your 40s and you might be very open to this experience. So exposing people when they’re younger to foods and to culture, and to works of art might not resonate in immediately, but it makes an imprint some way or another.
Carly Swift (05:03):
And the merriment of them all, and the coming together of them all. It’s, it’s a feeling I just… My sister and I just returned from New Orleans. We go to the jazz festival every year, and there is just, there is nothing like… Again, it’s, it’s art culture, food, music, spirited, people all coming together for the common sense of just of joy and happiness. And I think that that’s ultimately, I think what we’re all seeking to do, and it’s so cool that it can come from music or food and an art.
Nick Johnson (05:35):
Carly Swift (05:35):
Nick Johnson (05:38):
On the other side of that, what are the biggest challenges your groups face? Uh, either your business here, um, appealing to the modern consumers, credit marketplace, that sort of thing, or getting people to show to the concerts? What, what are, what are some of the biggest hurdles that you’re having to work with? And then maybe if you want to think about what are some of the ways you approach those?
Mandy Selke (05:57):
Sure. Um, I think for us, um, we’re a boutique popcorn company, and so, um, we feel that it’s a privilege to be able to source, um, different things like our kernels from Indiana. It’s not from a big processing center. And so things when they’re a commodity, they come with a bigger price. Um, I think that that also attracts a specific, um, genre of people. Um, so I, I would… I would venture to say that sometimes the cost of our products may not resonate with some, um, well, people, I guess, but, um, I would say that’s one of our biggest, our biggest hurdles.
Carly Swift (06:40):
Yeah. Well, like Mandy said, yes, we are boutique, but we also do, um, provide popcorn to now Targets and, and whatnot, but everything is still made here within our facility and our distribution center. Um, but yeah, it’s, it’s-
Nick Johnson (06:56):
Do we hear them making it right now?
Mandy Selke (06:56):
Yes! We’re right above them.
Matthew Kraemer (06:56):
I’m getting so hungry just sitting here…
Mandy Selke (06:56):
You’re all gonna walk out smelling like popcorn.
Carly Swift (07:04):
So, um, but yeah, I think that, um, when it, when it comes to something that is more boutique and it’s a more thoughtful process and all of the different ingredients that go into your packaging and, and partnering with other local businesses and, and also national brands, things do cost more. And I think that it, it is a specific buyer that is willing to, to purchase, opposed to buying… A brand that that may be more, um…
Nick Johnson (07:39):
Well like a grocery store brand that you could microwave at home.
Carly Swift (07:42):
Yes. Thank you. I wish I didn’t want to name anyone, but yeah.
Nick Johnson (07:45):
So how do you convince your customer or your audience that it’s worth the extra cost?
Mandy Selke (07:53):
We usually just say try it.
Carly Swift (07:55):
I think it’s, again, I think it’s the, it’s the experience. I think the experience is just such a, it’s such a, it’s such a big thing. Um, I think when people see our brand in our, in our packaging and our product, it’s, it’s special. And when you read the ingredients and you know everything that’s gone into it and everything is still hand packaged and whatnot. I think that there is an audience that deeply believes in that and that grass roots process.
Nick Johnson (08:22):
Yeah. So one question for you, Matthew, what are some of the biggest challenges the ICO faces, and then how do you approach those challenges?
Matthew Kraemer (08:28):
Very similar challenges, I would say. Uh, we are not-for-profit, in the United States, most of our funding has to come from individuals, corporations, grants, as opposed to Europe, where everything is predominantly state funded. So I’m a dreamer. I like to think big. I want to do this project, semi stage, with this number of singers, and then my executive director is going, great, where are you going to get that money from? But we do believe fervently that, uh, we have a great product that anybody that comes into the door that’s unfamiliar with our orchestra will leave with a very positive impression, not only with the way that the orchestras perform, because we have some of the best musicians in central Indiana, but we have musicians that come from Chicago and from Ohio and from Kentucky. So we have a great product. Uh, the Schrott is a beautiful state-of-the-art facility. So everything from the beginning, when you purchase your ticket online, you walk in the door, it all makes a good impression. The concert itself, you can bring your wine in and watch the orchestra perform. I always tell an audience that if there were four pieces on the program, I want two of them to resonate deeply with you. One to challenge you. And one that maybe, just allow yourself, that maybe you didn’t like right away, because art isn’t always meant to be something that you can just sit back and fall asleep to. And, you know, it’s not supposed to be soothing. Artists have always reacted to the times in which they lived, and when Beethoven, Beethoven’s Vienna was being invaded by Napoleon, he wasn’t necessarily writing music to put you to sleep. So my, my, uh, philosophy has always been to challenge the audience to, to give them a product that, uh, is always prepared at the highest possible level. And if we end up performing for 300 people as opposed to 450, then so be it, we’re going to make sure that those people that are in attendance, uh, have that great experience. And hopefully they spread the word for us. And our brand begins to expand because, you know, we, as long as the product is, is high professional level, the rest will come to you, I believe, with, with the hard work, but you have to maintain those standards.
Nick Johnson (10:17):
Uh, do you have any, uh, common trope in, in, uh, thinking about classical music is, is… Sometimes you go to a concert and it seems like maybe the average age is higher than, than maybe the population as a whole. I think that’s actually has gotten better by the way in recent years. But so what are some of the efforts you guys do to make sure that younger audiences are aware of what you’re doing and enjoy the experience?
Matthew Kraemer (10:40):
Of course, we want everybody to feel open to some concerts are more appropriate for some audiences than others. And I say that because when I hear we want a younger audience, I think to myself, great, I would love to get the 50 year olds in the door!
Matthew Kraemer (10:51):
Because, you know, we’re often so worried about, you know, that, uh, and again, for Indianapolis, there are other communities in, and in Florida, for example, where the average age is 75 to 95 at the concert. So music really should be for everybody. Of course, I want young people to be exposed to it, young professionals to come in and, you know, show them that no, your ears might not tolerate the Metallica concert that, you know, you were once able to enjoy. But then at the same time that you can enjoy all of those different things. I love all sorts of kinds of different kinds of, excuse me, different kinds of music. My wife is a Taylor Swift fan. She does not play an instrument and it has no knowledge of classical music and she’ll come to my concerts and enjoy them, but then she’ll go home and listen to something completely different. So my philosophy is again with the programming that we offer something for everybody. So you don’t necessarily want the Beethoven. You don’t want the Mozart, but you might really enjoy that silent movie concert with live orchestral accompaniment. We did a Kiss Me, Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate as a 70th anniversary semi-staged and people loved it because it’s Cole Porter’s jazz infused music, a symphony orchestra, or a chamber orchestra can play all kinds of music.
Nick Johnson (11:52):
Yeah. Well, and Cole Porter’s from Indiana, of course, a local connection.
Matthew Kraemer (11:56):
Of course, the big tie in for us there. So we’re really exploring all variety of music, not just classical, but jazz infused, Broadway, opera. We have a lot of variety in the programming and that’s, I think what the trick is to appealing to a lot of different people that you can sign up for a subscription of seven concerts, but the subscription model is really disappearing for orchestras now. People are picking and choosing what they want to do. And they often do it the week of that concert. They don’t look at six months in advance and say, yes, I’m going to go to that concert. You know, we don’t live our lives like that anymore. There’s too much to offer.
Nick Johnson (12:25):
With- I’m not sure if there’s an age discrepancy or a discrepancy with popcorn is there, do you feel like you have to try to reach audiences that are not typical…? I don’t know how to ask this question, but if you face a similar thing of like, yeah, a certain age group might be associate with your product and how do you expand?
Carly Swift (12:45):
I mean, obviously popcorn is for everybody. Um, the experiences for everybody, uh, we have, you know, a few walk-in stores and a couple of passer-by stores at the airport. And then of course we just built this building um, last September we opened. Um, but it’s, uh, yeah, it’s for all ages, but a lot of the work that we do is on the back end that people don’t see. So we do a lot of work with corporate companies and, um, hotels across the country and internationally. So it’s a, it’s, it’s a very interesting business model. It’s not the same here as it might be out at the airport. Um, we’re but it’s, it’s a very, um, it’s a robust business model, but it’s, it’s, it’s for everybody, but we’re lucky in the sense that we do have a very strong, uh, Just Pop In! following. And a lot of our business really is word of mouth. Um, you know, we’ve, we’ve done work with the PGA and TIME magazine and Sports Illustrated, and like Mandy said, uh, Ms. Dior. So when Natalie Portman had, um, she was the, the model for that product, uh, it was launched in Santa Monica and they chose Just Pop In! to be the vehicle to promote that specific perfume.
Nick Johnson (13:58):
Wow! That’s fantastic.
Carly Swift (13:59):
Thank you! But it’s-
Mandy Selke (14:01):
Popcorn and perfume, why not?
Carly Swift (14:03):
Mandy Selke (14:04):
Carly Swift (14:04):
Ha, it was not.
Carly Swift (14:08):
But again, I think that just being able to bring the arts, so they, they designed and developed the logo that they wanted and paired it with a popcorn that they thought would be wonderful with, with the perfume. And so I think everything really is, it’s just a very, we live in a very sensory, um, inspired culture and, and I don’t think that you necessarily think, well, wow, perfume, let’s, let’s, let’s pair popcorn with it. But again, it’s just an, it’s another fun avenue to promote something that is, that is cool.
Nick Johnson (14:42):
Yeah. I like this idea. The sensory inspired culture, is what you just said. I mean, I do think because there’s so much of our lives that are phone screens or other screens, that there is very little sensation other than what you see. And so there’s something very appealing about a product that you can like feel and taste that’s beautiful, or that you can hear and experience in a live concert hall as opposed to on headphones or at your house. Um, but we’ve been looking at this popcorn now for about half an hour. And so I think it’s time for us to go ahead and taste it a little bit. Um, so, uh, so you’re listening to the podcast here. If you look over on, uh, some of the images on YouTube, you’ll see, but I see three, three types of popcorn here and a couple different types of wines.
Carly Swift (15:23):
Nick Johnson (15:23):
Tell us what you’ve got here and then, so we can dig in.
Carly Swift (15:27):
So we do a popcorn and wine pairing, and then we also do a popcorn and beer pairing, but this one here is by far our most popular. It’s, um, it’s delicious. I mean, again, it’s for everybody over 21. Um, but, but we pair, this is the Sun King Bavarian Cheese and Pretzel Ale Popcorn. So my sister was mentioning that we, we did our very first collaboration with sun King several years ago, 10 years ago, I believe right when they opened, uh, with their Osiris, but this, we utilize their, uh, Cream Ale Malt. And we blended in with our customized seasoning. So it’s a Bavarian cheese and pretzel that we pair with bubbles, which is delicious, a Prosecco. And then the next one is our Pinot noir that we pair with the caramel and sharp cheddar cheese mixed together. A Pinot noir goes beautifully with caramel notes and as well as cheese. So it’s perfect. And then one of my favorites is the dark chocolate, sea salt covering caramel, and it is paired with our Cabernet. So it’s just a very decadent, rich taste, but it really is. It’s a, it’s an entire meal, but going back to going back to this sensory experience, it’s just, it’s fun. It’s interactive. Um, people get a total, they get enjoyment out of it. And, and that’s our goal.
Nick Johnson (16:45):
We can eat them now. Right. They’re so pretty. But like, I’ve just been looking at, I wanna try this Sun King one.
Carly Swift (16:50):
Absolutely. It is so delicious.
Nick Johnson (16:52):
All right. So this- described this one again, I’ll lean away from the microphone while I eat.
Carly Swift (16:58):
[Laughter] So that is the Sun King Bavarian Cheese and Pretzel Ale popcorn, and we utilize their Cream Ale Malt. And so we, we, uh, re mash it up and we do it with a customized blend that Just Pop In! his made, um, covering our sharp cheddar cheese. It’s stove top melted. So it’s just very, it’s, it’s very rich and delicious. It’s so good. The, um, the next one is our most popular popcorn and it is our caramel and our stovetop melted cheddar cheese. Oh yeah. Together, but they’re mixed together. And really this, this popcorn goes great with everything because it’s sweet and it’s salty. Um, it’s buttery and creamy. It’s, it’s just delicious. And it goes beautifully with our Pinot noir. And then lastly is the dark chocolate sea salt, which is one of our most popular, uh, chocolate popcorns. We partner with a local chocolatier, which is so important to us, but, um, the dark chocolate, and then it has just a hint of sea salt, which is just delightful and it makes
Mandy Selke (18:06):
Carly Swift (18:06):
Yeah, exactly. But the richness is just so lovely with the Cabernet.
Matthew Kraemer (18:12):
That is amazing. Did you say a Thai Curry popcorn yet?
Carly Swift (18:19):
A spicy ginger Curry.
Matthew Kraemer (18:21):
Mandy Selke (18:21):
It’s my very favorite. It is so good.
Matthew Kraemer (18:23):
So how did you get exactly the recipe? I mean, is it trial and error? You just, how much is it?
Mandy Selke (18:28):
Yeah, so we, we wanted, uh, to try a Mediterranean inspired popcorn. And so we, it, it takes a long time to develop, um, because of the texture, but also the quantity of each spice that goes into it. It just has to be just the right spice. Um, yeah. So with our spicy ginger Curry, we have, um, coconut and cinnamon and some sugar, um, different blends of peppers. Um, Curry of course. Um, there’s just several different ingredients. And then finally we’re like, okay, these are the measurements and we put it on there. We’re like, that’s the one!
Matthew Kraemer (19:07):
That’s awesome. I’d take some of this home for my buttered noodles son and if I’d feel like I’d give him the ginger Curry, and be like here, try this and he’d be like, something’s not right.
Mandy Selke (19:14):
Let’s tell your, tell your son that we do have buttered noodles here at the cafe. I’m just saying, because our kids are the same.
Matthew Kraemer (19:22):
I can usually get him to try something. But then it’s like, do I want to break that trust with them? Like jalapeño pepper…
Carly Swift (19:28):
Don’t break the circle of trust with the popcorn!
Nick Johnson (19:34):
All right. So I think I have a couple choices here, so I’m going to play them for you. And then you’ll be able to hear these, these at home also if you’re listening or following along online. Um, and you can tell me if I’m ridiculous, what I’m trying to do, and you’ve already done some pairing here. We’ve taken some wine and we paired it with popcorn and popcorn flavors that I would’ve never thought of. Um, I can’t believe I had gone this many years of my life and never had beer cheese popcorn. My life is my life is significantly better, so much so that I’m intimidated. And I didn’t actually pick that one for the pairing because I don’t, you know, you can’t, how do you compare something so heavenly and wonderful, but… So I’ve gone with the other ones. And so we’re going to listen to a couple pieces of music, but I think in some way reflect the character of what we’re eating and drinking here. Um, so I’ll, I’ll, I’ll play my choices. You can tell me if I’m ridiculous and if I’m ridiculous, that’s fine. Um, this is supposed to be kind of fun. Uh, so for the first one, the Indy style popcorn, the one that’s the mix of cheese and caramel, I think I’m going to go with, because we’re taught our topic today is film. So I wanted to pick a nice piece of, uh, of a film composer. And I think one of the most important, um, well probably one of the most important American composers period is Aaron Copeland. And I wanted to choose one of his film pieces, there, are of course, many fantastic composers of film music. But, um, I don’t know something about, because in a way this is the most classic or it’s something that it, I don’t know, we were talking earlier about how it sort of Indy style or relates to a Chicago style. It just feels very American, very home. So we’re going to do a Copeland piece and I’ve chosen the, Our Town Suite. Um, well, it’s a music that he wrote for Our Town that is then usually performed Our Town was a movie in 1940, usually performed as a suite. Um, it’s a gorgeous piece of music in which Copeland is able to use this language to, to paint this as a sort of beautiful picture of the American countryside and the American kind of small town experience. Um, and so I think maybe it pairs well, uh, with this popcorn, with the wine. So let’s listen to just a, a minute of this and then, uh, we can, you can kind of share your, share your thoughts. Tell me if, uh, if this is silly or not. So here is, um, Aaron Copeland’s Our Town’s Suite.
Music Plays (21:38):
[Aaron Copeland’s “Our Town’s Suite”]
Nick Johnson (22:38):
So I hear in this work, there’s this sort of this… Rustic homeliness. It’s- Copeland is so good at making kind of aural nostalgia. Like it makes you miss something that you didn’t even know that you missed. Um, and Copeland could do that through so many of his compositions. And I don’t know, I feel like there’s, there’s sort of like, there’s a comfort with the, with the, the sweetness and the saltiness here. It’s sort of, um… It’s kind of everything all in one it’s just very comfortable. Um, there’s the sort of like what we were talking about earlier, this sort of like sensory experience of both at once. So I don’t know. I feel like if you’re eating this popcorn and listening to this music, it’s just perfect.
Carly Swift (23:16):
I would be crying all over the popcorn.
Carly Swift (23:19):
Music makes me cry.
Nick Johnson (23:20):
Carly Swift (23:20):
I love, I just-
Nick Johnson (23:22):
It just makes it saltier, right?
Carly Swift (23:22):
Saltier, exactly! But, um, I’m speechless, but, uh, what a beautiful… Tie in, I just, would’ve never envisioned that. And then you could just see it. It’s just so beautiful. It makes me want to cry.
Nick Johnson (23:38):
Mandy Selke (23:39):
It’s sweet and endearing. And like you described, um, the All-American piece about home and the, um, that it’s sweet and savory, and it’s just a little bit of everything. Um, I am, I’m into that.
Nick Johnson (23:56):
So I have convinced you, I’ve convinced the popcorn makers? Okay.
Carly Swift (23:59):
We’re convinced, yeah.
Mandy Selke (24:02):
There’s something sweet, nostalgic. And when we think- we’re twins, but I feel when we think of something sweet, nostalgic, we think of our family and just the timeframe, just looking at the 1936 through 1948, that, that piece just during that time reminds us so much of our grandparents, just really, um, a really beautiful connection.
Nick Johnson (24:24):
All right. What do you think, from our musical guest, Matthew?
Matthew Kraemer (24:25):
I think it’s a perfect pick. It’s such an introspective piece. So quiet throughout most of it. It would make me eat softly and slowly.
Matthew Kraemer (24:36):
Truly appreciate that, that complexity and the flavors too, instead of just, you know, dumping fistfuls of popcorn and it’s really- to savor it. And I think that’s something that is certainly appropriate when we’re trying food and drink to just take a moment and just appreciate it at the moment that you’re eating it and not for mass consumption. It’s, there’s, there’s so many intricacies and so many layers there. Uh, I think it’s a great pick.
Nick Johnson (24:57):
Wow. Well, thank you. All right.
Mandy Selke (24:59):
Nick Johnson (25:00):
If you had a, if you would disagree with me, that’d be fine. All right. So I’m going to do, I’m gonna do one more, because we have three types of popcorn here. Um, and so we’re going to do with, with this, this, uh, the dark chocolate sea salt, which I’m gonna need another piece of here real quick.Oh, this is, this is fantastic.
Carly Swift (25:15):
Nick Johnson (25:16):
Here we go. So this one. It’s um, it’s so sweet. It’s so delightful. And, but yet there’s a maturity and a little bit of a complexity to it. Cause it’s, maybe it’s because of the dark chocolate. I don’t know. I don’t, I’m not a popcorn maker clearly.
Carly Swift (25:32):
It is a more mature popcorn.
Nick Johnson (25:32):
Okay, well good. I’m glad I got them all right. I can make a decent cocktail, but that’s about it. That’s, that’s what I do with the kitchen. But anyway, um, so I wanted to pick a piece of music that not a film necessarily for a theme of the day, but I guess film, film of the, of the classical era, which would, which would be opera. So I wanted to think of an overture and to me, because this, this popcorn is just so outstandingly delicious. I just immediately thought of probably one of my favorite compositions of all time, which is Wolfgang Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. Um, and specifically the overture to that piece, because it’s just, um, well I think maybe we can just listen to, I mean, it’s, it’s hard to say something about Mozart that hasn’t been said before, right. And so I think let’s let the music speak for itself just a little bit, so, all right. I’m going to eat more of this dark chocolate popcorn and let’s listen to just a little bit of the Figaro Overture
Music Plays (26:27):
[Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro: Overture]
Nick Johnson (27:40):
So I think that there’s just something so celebratory about this piece, because at that the- I’m not sure how, how, if you’re super familiar with the opera, but what’s about to happen is you’re about to see Figaro and his fiancé Susana, they’re measuring out, uh, figuring out where to put the bed because they’re about to get married. And so it’s the big, this opera starts with just such a joy and such an opulence. And they’re so excited. And of course, immediately things go bad. And then there’s three hours of trying to resolve, uh, the misdeeds of accounts that we don’t need to get into right now. But at the, but at that opening moment, there’s just so much joy. There’s so much happiness as Figuro’s measuring out… And, and so in some weird way, like this is the sort of popcorn, I feel like you, you eat it for the joy of eating it. It’s not one that I it’s because it’s just so, uh, rich in its flavors and the salt makes the, the chocolate even sweeter, and the sweetness makes the salt bite even more. Um, and there’s something just very, kind of rich about that experience. So anyway, that’s why, that’s why I chose this. What are your general thoughts on this pairing? We can start maybe with you, if you want to tell us, um, matching your popcorn with Mozart, that’s a bit of a compliment, right?
Mandy Selke (28:55):
I have to say I loved it, first of all, because that piece was chosen just period. It reminds me so much of like my first experience with that song and Mozart was through Bugs Bunny at my grandparents’ house, like Bug’s Bunny was like doing the orchestra or, you know, conducting the orchestra and he was singing that song. Um, so that’s what it was exciting. Um, but I think it’s a perfect song for it, because like you said, it’s complex, there’s, there’s enthusiasm in it. Um, the chocolate’s so decadent, the salt kind of puts a little edge to it. Um, yeah, it’s exciting.
Carly Swift (29:36):
I would agree with my sister.
Matthew Kraemer (29:40):
And you get no argument from me, Mozart’s perfection. It’s just the popcorn of, it’s just, I mean, it’s the kind of thing that it can, it has, the layers is it’s, it’s, it’s… So sweet and the salt. I love chocolate, first of all, but Mozart is, I wouldn’t even say guilty pleasure because he’s one of the greatest composers we have, but I will always come back to Mozart when people say, who’s your favorite composer?
Nick Johnson (29:57):
Matthew Kraemer (29:57):
They throw out other names, but it always Mozart finds his way back. So no, it was great. It just, uh… The opera is terrific as you described. And there’s so much to the, the, the little personal interactions that Mozart was so good at. He was a master of character building and yeah. But, um, definitely loved it. Yeah. Great choice.
Nick Johnson (30:16):
So I’m gonna put you on the spot here. What’s your favorite Mozart work?
Matthew Kraemer (30:20):
Nick Johnson (30:20):
I should have prepped you for that.
Matthew Kraemer (30:20):
Ha, yeah, of course. How can I not say the Don Giovanni or Figaro, for example, the Piano Concerti are great. Um, I would probably have to say Don Giovanni or, uh, the Requiem. No, I mean, there’s like 12 others. So it’s hard to pick.
Nick Johnson (30:38):
I think Don Giovanni is not only my, it might be my favorite artwork of all time, actually. Like the it’s, um, the way that they, as you just mentioned, could explore character relations and then human emotions. And then in that specific opera exploring, um, great hope and love, but also great depravity and pain and the way that those come into conflict with each other. And, um, anyway, no, I, I agree. He is, uh, some of his operas. I think that the, the, the themes, even though those, those works are a couple hundred years old, those themes, like humans haven’t changed. And I think that he is able to express them, um, in a way that is still very relatable, uh, today. Do either of you happen to have a favorite Mozart piece? I hate, I maybe shouldn’t have put you on the spot.
Mandy Selke (31:21):
Well I have 10 to 12, too, so I’m just going to follow suit.
Carly Swift (31:25):
Matthew Kraemer (31:25):
It’s amazing how much Mozart we hear and just in- it’s ubiquitous everywhere from Looney Tunes from ages ago, that part of mass cultural appeal that, you know, we, we all, uh, many people have seen the movie Amadeus based on that play. And so while we could always say that wasn’t exactly historically accurate. Well, there was a lot of, that was true in there. He was mischievous. He was very youthful and liked to play jokes and just-
Nick Johnson (31:51):
And adored his wife.
Matthew Kraemer (31:52):
And adored his wife.
Nick Johnson (31:53):
Which they catch in the movie, I think, very well.
Matthew Kraemer (31:55):
I think that there’s just one of these fascinating characters who died very young and produced an amazing amount of work. And I just look around now in our day and age with all of these distractions that we have with electronics and, you know, all the things that we’re interested in, like who could have produced the mass volume of works that he did and died in his thirties. It’s astounding, great music… Great popcorn!
Nick Johnson (32:22):
I teach a, a History of Mozart Class for graduate students, um, at, at Butler sometimes. And at the beginning of the semester, there are definitely some students who think they’re not going to like it because it, because it is it’s old, um, it’s the opera, which tend to be things because some people won’t like, but, um, I think it’s fairly easy because he’s able to communicate these human interactions, especially with Ponta his librettist and this opera and a couple others. Um, that is just really, I think it has an innate gift of, of expressing what life can be like in both its joys and its pains. And so anyway, um, that’s why I maybe thought that’d be a good pairing with your popcorn that I feel like as, I mean, it might be… I think what I love about this is we might think of popcorn it’s in some parts of our culture is almost an afterthought. It’s a thing that you are maybe watching the movie and you’re eating it because you want to eat. And it’s just sort of like, that’s what they have there. And so it’s, it’s not really in like normal, not, not what you guys do, but like the stereotypical idea of popcorn is it’s just kind of a filler that you can be- so that while you sit there for two hours watching a movie, you’re still consuming something, which, um… But I think that doing it in this way, to show off all these different nuances of flavors, I think is really exciting. To make something that is almost a backdrop, uh, into something that can really grab our attention and give us the sensory experience that we’ve been talking about all along. I don’t know. Do you have any thoughts on that or?
Matthew Kraemer (33:51):
If I can just, I just want to say that this has been very eye opening for me because I mean, I knew that there was great artisanal, uh, popcorn out there, but if you can compare it, I think to like fast food and fine cuisine that if you’re not used to this, then if your conception of going to movie theater and getting a big bucket and just squirting your own butter all over it and going that’s popcorn for you, then you would never be aware of the, the richness and the diversity and the complexity and everything that you’re providing here. So I’m going home with several big bags…
Mandy Selke (34:21):
Thank you, that is such a nice compliment.
Nick Johnson (34:21):
One customer at a time, right?
Mandy Selke (34:21):
Nick Johnson (34:35):
So I actually don’t know… How did popcorn become the food of the movies? Do you guys happen to know, I’m sure maybe you’ve done some research on this?
Mandy Selke (34:40):
I know just like a little bit of history. Um, so in the 1800s, popcorn was such a mobile and easy food to cook. You didn’t have to have a kitchen. Um, it was inexpensive to make. And so the popcorn found its way around carnivals and, um, different what would have been sporting events and whatnot back in the day. Um, and then it started finding its way in front of movie theaters. And at a specific time, they were not loving the idea of popcorn because it was the sound is such a distraction when it was during the silent movies. And so until sound came, did they really entertain the idea of having popcorn. And, um, there’s something about just being able to eat with your hands and not with a fork. And it’s just such a simple, um, food to eat. It’s a shared food. Um, it’s not like the hot dog is the, is the thing that go for in the movie theater. So there’s the experience again, something shared that you can just share amongst three or four people, if you wanted to.
Nick Johnson (35:47):
Would you want your popcorn to be consumed at the movies or is it something that you’re hoping your customer is paying more attention to?
Carly Swift (35:55):
Well, it’s such a, it’s such a great question. And there are some places that do some movie theaters that do carry Just Pop In! popcorn.
Mandy Selke (36:04):
IMAX,downtown. I missed that one, for example.
Nick Johnson (36:07):
Carly Swift (36:07):
Um, but I think it’s for a consumer that just has a more, a larger palate than just the simple, plain popcorn, because, and, and the bags that we sell them in, especially some of our more decadent products… They’re not, it’s not a big, large bucket. It’s a little bag so that you don’t totally make yourself sick.
Carly Swift (36:27):
But, um, but I, but again, it’s, it’s the experience of it all. You feel like, um, when you’re eating your chocolate popcorn, I feel like you’re just, you’re biting into like a, a really delicious truffle that you wouldn’t just eat by the handfuls. It’s a, um, it’s a very thoughtful process. So I we’ve been to movie theaters where we’ve seen our popcorn and we see people eating it and we’re not going to lie. We’ll eat the bucket of popcorn. We’re, we, we are-
Mandy Selke (36:51):
Don’t judge us!
Carly Swift (36:51):
Yeah, exactly. But again, you can just eat so much of it, but when you’re buying something that is, um, just more rich and, and… Decadent, you just want, you want to be more thoughtful about it and it fills you up faster because there’s so much more goodness.
Nick Johnson (37:11):
Mhmm. More goodness… That’s a nice way to, that’s a good way to speak calories. Isn’t it?
Carly Swift (37:17):
Everything in moderation!
Nick Johnson (37:17):
Yeah, of course.
Matthew Kraemer (37:19):
All in moderation, absolutely…
Nick Johnson (37:23):
So… I want to think a little bit about film music then. Um, and how I feel like there was a time in which composers and performers would maybe have resisted, at least in America, would maybe have resisted film music as being maybe beneath them or, or something that doesn’t have the same esteem or, uh, social sophistication as like a symphony or something? I feel like maybe in the last few years that has kind of changed and a lot of major organizations like yours, for example, have really embraced film music as a way to explore musical ideas and connect with audiences. Um, so I’m wondering your thoughts. Do you think that, uh, attitudes toward film music is, is it changing amongst musicians? And if so, why?
Matthew Kraemer (38:07):
I see some change, but I see frankly, a lot, that’s been going back since the golden age of Hollywood, um, that, uh, composers, and it’s interesting that you bring this up because the chamber orchestra does open in October, uh, with our new season with a program focusing on immigrants and the golden age of Hollywood, because the composers that really created the Hollywood sound all came from Europe, uh… Erich Korngold, Max Steiner, for example, Franz Waxman, Miklós Rózsa. These were all immigrants that came to Hollywood because it was a lucrative market. Hollywood, and still does, has a checkbook that they can just issue checks for anything that a composer needs. So for a composer like Korngold, it was a masterful composer of opera and serious music. He moved to Hollywood and he was able to write film scores that actually sound like symphonies, uh, Robin hood, for example, Captain Blood, uh, The Seahawk, uh, these are, these are pivotal. Uh, this is a pivotal part in Hollywood history because in the thirties and forties talking movies were really gaining ground, obviously. And these composers were writing these huge, uh, lush film scores. And, you know, they, they continue to write serious music. Now to, to your point, yes, they, they did kind of look down on it as a way of making money while they were writing string quartets and piano concertos. But now you’ll find that John Williams obviously has long been the most well-known American film composer, but he writes serious music too. And now I think a lot of people have dabbled, uh, whether it’s permanently or just intermittently in film music, like Aaron Copeland that you played, uh, Philip Glass does film scores, but, uh, the, the, the people that are writing, uh, the big music scores now, they’re classically trained. They know orchestration as well as anybody. And it’s a very important, uh, art form. I think it is an art form because imagine the Jaws soundtrack, if the Piccolo were playing the theme, instead of like the low rumbling, it’s like… it’s amazing how music alone, separate from any dialogue can change the way you experience a film. I mean, you just changed the soundtrack to a film and all of a sudden your emotions completely shift from either sarcasm or, or sadness or any emotion can shift depending on the film score.
Nick Johnson (40:17):
Yeah. So when you program a concert that has film scores, do the, does the orchestra… Um, like did they get excited about that? Do they enjoy playing a music that is maybe more associated with film, as opposed to just the concert hall?
Matthew Kraemer (40:32):
I mean, you’d have to ask the individual musicians, I can’t make a general statement. There are certainly people who would much rather be playing Beethoven or Wagner or Brahms, but I think by and large, the musicians that I’ve worked with have embraced this because it’s such great film music. Now there’s bad field- You go back to any of the eight movies from the eighties, for example, you watch Raiders of the Lost Ark and it still holds water, but then you watch some of the stuff that, you know, it has the synthesizer and it’s terribly dated, right?
Matthew Kraemer (40:54):
Which is why a case in point that classical music and symphonic orchestras as a, as a, um, uh, the, the performing organization in a, uh, in a film. I mean, it’s, it, it stands the test of time. So many of us continue to do the live orchestral, uh, orchestral score underneath the film, whether it’s a silent film or E.T., As we were discussing earlier, I find it riveting because it’s a, a major part of music in general, and there’s a lot of great music in those scores.
Nick Johnson (41:22):
And I think there’s something a lot of it- they’re European composers often, but they’re still associated with an American art form. And in some ways it’s like a really rich of American music making, that I think is really exciting. Um… One more question about that. So thinking about, um, the concert hall itself, and you mentioned earlier that you can bring your wine in, if you go to an ICO concert. So sort of my question was should the modern concert hall feel a little more like a modern movie theater? Or, and how do those two relate? I don’t know if you have any thoughts on that.
Matthew Kraemer (41:58):
Interesting… It’s, um, I think, again, it depends on the concert because I’m not a purist by any means, but there are pieces, there are composers that really require an extra degree of consideration when you’re in, you know, you don’t want to be, you know, chomping on up some nachos and downing a beer while you’re listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, which is one of the last pieces that he wrote and, you know, it, or the cell phone distraction, it’s, I don’t treat the concert hall as a temple by any means, but it depends on the work that you’re listening to. Certainly these movie concerts with the orchestral accompaniment are meant as entertainment. So I think it depends on what, where that dial falls between entertainment and art. And certainly there’s a wide swath in between where things are enjoyable, but they’re also artful. Uh, I think, again, it depends on the program. I want people- definitely bringing drinks and doesn’t distract from anyone else around you, looking on your cell phone and the light, you know, admitting or ringers going off, or even people coughing. I know people get really upset, like what, you shouldn’t be shamed at a concert, no.
Carly Swift (42:55):
Don’t breathe. Do not breathe.
Matthew Kraemer (42:56):
No, but, you know, I have, as I’ve mentioned earlier, I have a six year old, I would take him to a family concert because he- that’s totally geared towards him. I conduct them all the time. They’re geared for young children to move and to make noise. But again, going to here, you know, a Bruckner symphony with my six year old, like you should kind of know this is probably not the right experience for them. And there are plenty of concerts tailor made for families for young people, for people who just want to have a good time. And for people who want to listen seriously, like I wouldn’t go into an art museum, you know, with a, and just look at the, you know, Monet for example, and just, you know, create a ruckus.
Matthew Kraemer (43:32):
There are ways of discovering things and to make it accessible, but at the same time, know the legacy from where we’ve come from. And there, there’s some very important pieces of art that were created by very important people that leave a lasting impression on humanity and where we’ve come from as individuals. So there, I’ll get off my pedestal now…
Mandy Selke (43:54):
Wow, thank you. So eloquently put.
Nick Johnson (43:58):
That was Matthew Kramer, of the ICO, talking about the importance of balance and classical music concerts to end our second episode of Classical Pairings. I’d like to thank my guests, Matthew Kraemer, and especially Carly Swift and Mandy Selke for also being our hosts. For this episode, we had a chance to pair two of their popcorn flavors that you need to go and check out. First, we had the cheddar and cheese, and then we paired the dark chocolate and sea salt. You can learn more about the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra by going to their website, ICOmusic.org. And you can learn more about Just Pop In! At, JustPopInPopcorn.com. I’d like to thank our sponsor, Matinee Creative, for supporting this podcast. If you like what you’ve heard today and want to hear more great classical music tune into Classical Music Indy’s syndicated broadcasts on your favorite local radio station. Go to ClassicalMusicIndy.org and click “On-Air” for schedules. You’ll find more Classical Pairings in NOTE magazine along with features on other great local artists. You can subscribe at ClassicalMusicIndy.org. Our executive producer is Anna Pranger Sleppy and our production and editing team is WFYI Productions. I’m your host, Nick Johnson, and be sure to catch all our episodes by subscribing.
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