The secret to his versatility? "I was fortunate growing up in the '60s because in England we only had one radio station," the singer said in a moderated Q&A following a screening of his latest acting project, Twin Spirits, a musical and theatrical love story about composer Robert Schumann.
"We had classical music, we had pop music, we had everything in between," he says of the station's rotation. "So I grew up thinking that music was this one thing. I mean, I appreciated the difference between classical music and pop music, but it's the same building blocks and it still has the same feeling to it. It's a common language."
Recently, the singer, 58, said that music is in a "crisis," and began a war of words with American Idol's Simon Cowell, when he called Cowell's British competition show, The X Factor, "preposterous."
He elaborated on his thoughts during the post-screening discussion.
"In this crisis, how do you create novelty in a situation that is played out?" he asked moderator Elliott Forrest of New York City's WQXR-FM. "People do discover new music, but it's very difficult. Modern music to most people sounds strange and abstract and painful to the ear, but nonetheless I think it's worth extolling. You need to discover something new. That's what human beings need: newness, novelty."
Bringing music into people's lives is a passion for Sting and wife Trudie Styler, 55, who both recently joined Music Unites, an organization that aims to join together communities through musical awareness.
Styler also stars in Twin Spirits; in the performance, she and Sting read letters between Schumann and his wife, Clara. Styler called the opportunity to work with her husband "pretty rare."
The couple also spoke of their appreciation for classical music and Sting emphasized the need to look back at the roots of music, especially in today's crowded industry.
"When I listen to composers, like, say, Bach, it's almost as though they've discovered a new continent and everything of their focus was brand new," he said. "Now everything has been discovered and covered with roads and railroads and airplanes, and you probably can't find a piece of territory that hasn't been touched before."
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