Nikola Komatović

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The interplay between classical and popular music has been a well-documented phenomenon. The British rock band The Who initially embarked on their musical journey in the 1960s as part of the "British Invasion" without many distinctive elements that set them apart. However, a transformation began as the decade drew to a close, and they achieved commercial acclaim.

This paper delves into The Who's second and third stages of their career (1970s and 1980s), marked by the creation of pioneering rock operas like "Tommy" and "Quadrophenia." While the term "opera" in the context of popular music may not align with classical opera conventions, it becomes evident that classical music elements found their way into The Who's repertoire.

Examining their harmonic structure reveals a fusion of classical influences, albeit in an altered form, enriching their sound. Additionally, The Who's compositions exhibit a nuanced understanding of musical form, further blurring the lines between classical and popular music.

Furthermore, this exploration extends beyond classical music to encompass modern and postmodern elements in The Who's oeuvre, notably the subtle hints of minimalism. This paper aims to shed light on the intricate relationship between classical and popular music, using The Who's evolution as a prime example of how a rock band can draw from classical traditions while incorporating elements of contemporary music, ultimately redefining the boundaries of musical genres.



The Who, rock music, rock opera, harmony, minimalism

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Adorno, T. W., (1998), On Popular Music, Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader (ed. John Storey), The University of Georgia Press, Athens.

Вукосављевић, Ј., (2023), На раскршћу између популарне и уметничке музике: Пинк Флојд и концептуални албум “The Dark Side of the Moon” (1973), необјављени Мастер рад под менторством доц. др Биљане Лековић, одбрањен 25.9.2023, Факултет музичке уметности (Vukosavljević, J. [2023], At the Crossroads between Popular and Art Music: Pink Floyd and the Conceptual Album "The Dark Side of the Moon" [1973], unpublished Master's Thesis under the mentorship of Assoc. Prof. Dr. Biljana Leković, defended on September 25, 2023, Faculty of Music, Belgrade)

Wicke, P., (1987), Rock Music: Culture, Aesthetics, Sociology (translated by Rachel Fogg), Cambridge University Press, New York.

Websites and media sources

Kinks – “The Hard Way” (audio). Accessed December 21, 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLdyVmIzeug.

The Who – “A Quick One (While He’s Away)” (video). Accessed December 21, 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJv2-_--EY4.

The Who – “Baba O’Riley (Shepperton Studios / 1978)” (video). Accessed December 21, 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gu9HhYv0C7E.

The Who – “Emminence Front” (audio). Accessed December 21, 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xODK_OwxpHM.

The Who – “Guitar And Pen” (audio). Accessed December 21, 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LraRTcSY7eU.

The Who – “Quadrophenia – Full Album” (playlist, audio). Accessed December 21, 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyN7WUKRicw&list=PL705A234F43DA0E34.

The Who – “Sister Disco” (audio). Accessed December 21, 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTTY6Z51mO0.

The Who – “Tommy (1969) 1990 MFSL Remaster (Full Album)” (audio). Accessed December 21, 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txA_FXWX7Po.

The Who – “Who Are You” (video). Accessed December 21, 2023.


DOI: https://doi.org/10.22190/FUVAM231222010K


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Print ISSN: 2466-2887
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