Brooklyn Rider isn’t your average string quartet. After a few seasons in New York, working extensively with the famed Silk Road Ensemble music collective led by the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the occasionally exotic, adventurous quartet has been pushing boundaries and bridging the gaping chasm between classical and indie rock. Over the phone from his home in – yup, you guessed it – Brooklyn, the quartet’s founder and violinist Johnny Gandelsman spoke with Time Out about how Mozart, gypsies and Texans are a match made in heaven.
What was the idea of Brooklyn Rider?
The cool thing about a string quartet to us is that it’s so flexible. Besides the fact that there’s some incredible history of music for string quartets, it can also sound like a village band or a rock band. We wanted to play music we love – be it Mozart or music of the gypsies, or from Mali. We didn’t want to exclude any genre. We definitely didn’t want to be a quartet that does only classical or new or world music. We want to be open and allow things to influence us.
You’ve developed quite a following, with people seeing you as an act that crosses over the classical-indie rock divide.
Fans are incredible listeners. Whether they’re listening to indie rock or folk or classical music, I think they can pick out if there is a real musicianship going on.
Are you eager to explore music from Asia?
On the Silk Road album Off the Map (2009), one of the pieces we did was by a Peruvian composer of Chinese heritage, Gabriela Lena Frank – this piece had [the instruments] sheng and pipa. I feel that the Eastern connection is there, but we would love to do more.
Playing Mozart to Zorn, how do you determine such a programme?
[In] A perfect Brooklyn Rider programme, you have a Mozart quartet, Phillip Glass, a piece written for us by our violinist, Colin [Jacobsen], a John Zorn piece, who is this mythic figure in the downtown New York avant-garde scene, and then a Beethoven quartet. On paper, it may look like it doesn’t make sense, but we trust our audience to make the connections.
Dominant Curve, Brooklyn Rider, In a Circle Records (CD), R1,005. For MP3 downloads, $9.99 (about R530) on iTunes, or $5 (about R265) on Amazon.
By Mark Tjhung on January 05 2012 6.30pm