Crossing the Classical/Rock Divide

Ever since the Beatles garnished some of their tunes with string quartets and Baroque trumpets, classically trained musicians have tried to enforce shotgun weddings between classical and rock music.  Despite conscientious attempts by rockers like Elvis Costello, Roger Waters, Joe Jackson and Paul McCartney, the results have generally been disappointing.  Still, art music types like Michael Daugherty, John Zorn, David Byrne, the Kronos Quartet and the late great Penguin Cafe Orchestra show that "chamber rock" can produce an original, compelling sound.  On Nov. 3, the WOW Hall hosts two of today's most successful examples of classical-rock fusion: Invert and Rachel's.

Invert is a New York based string quartet (but with two cellos rather than dueling violins) that uses the propulsive energy of rock rhythms and the melodic potential of classical strings to powerful effect, sort of like a slightly less jazzy Turtle Island String Quartet. TISQ
and Kronos fans should definitely check out this fab foursome, which can cover an impressive range of moods and styles, including their sometimes bustling, sometimes haunting original compositions as well as covers like Bernard Herrmann's Psycho score and John Lennon's psychedelic classic "Tomorrow Never Knows."

Rachel's, based in Louisville, KY, similarly transgresses genre boundaries, drawing audiences from punks to classical types. Their audience-friendly music can be so atmospheric that it sometimes veers near ambient, then it might suddenly unleash vigorous percussion, piano, or voice (live and sampled). Fans of classical, post-classical, art rock and anyone who likes sounds that cross borders between musical genres should turn out for what looks to be one of the most interesting concerts of the year. The sellout crowds for cellist Matt Haimovitz's shows at Sam Bond's a couple years back proved that classical types are willing to venture beyond the traditional "classical" venues.

Just as the musicians of Invert and Rachel's are willing to take chances, admirers of thoughtful new music should support the WOW Hall's commendable effort to create a space outside the expensive, often stodgy concert venues for music that refuses to be pigeonholed, and that embraces the best aspects of old and new sounds.

Brett Campbell