Geodetic Formations in the context of Music

28 08 2007

On most weekdays (as far as this summer is concerned), I start work by checking the internet for anything new with regards to music. I’ve learned quite a bit, actually, from The Strad and Strings Magazine online – although to truly appreciate the former, you should get your hands on a copy of the magazine. I’ve also rooted through a few musician blogs, most notably those by conductor/cellist Kenneth Woods, violist Charles Noble, and harpist Helen Radice, all of whom constantly offer perspectives on music I would otherwise never have considered on my own. Today was no different, but I learned a few things that I am still mulling over.

At the Strings Magazine site, there’s an online excerpt from this month’s issue about The Section Quartet – arguably the loudest string quartet on the planet. The issue touts them as being a rock band that just happens to play on traditional string quartet instruments – albeit electrified ones.

Something in the issue struck me: with regards to why they’ve never performed with a full orchestra backing them, “Perhaps it seems a bit silly to pit four musicians who can rock against 80 who can’t.

Part of me is insulted by the statement – another is made curious. Insulted, because I don’t believe a professional orchestra is as inept as the statement implies. Curious, because I myself am exploring how an orchestra can work within the context of popular music (i.e. rock) and not lose it’s identity, and I’m trying to leave no stone unturned in my search for answers.

Maybe an orchestra isn’t supposed to play with a rock band – they’re two different entities created for music that is world’s apart, and (based on my limited experience), when they do play together, the orchestra always sounds like a third wheel – maybe a very good third wheel (making you wish you could get rid of the guitarist or even the vocalist), but a third wheel nonetheless.

On the other hand, when a good rock song meets a good arrangement, the rock song often becomes something quite inspiring, something capable of communicating on a profound level – so that when you play the song without the orchestra, it doesn’t seem to command the same power over hearts and minds.

Is this compromise? Or maybe it’s just the way things are presented – the orchestra is just used so often as expensive accompaniment that people aren’t used to paying attention to them. What if, for a change, an orchestra invited a band to accompany them.

For the time being, my stand is that let musicians play what music they want to play, and not make any hasty generalizations about them as a result: that tattoo-covered guitarist sporting a neon-green mohawk just might adore Bach and be a killer sightreader on the viola, while that nerdy-looking violinist can cop every guitar solo ever played on a Slayer album while moonlighting in a jazz quartet.

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