Some further thoughts on yesterday's piece.
First: It's impossible to include everyone -- indeed, writing this article made me realize just how prevalent this movement, or spirit, is -- but I neglected to mention one of the pioneers of alt-classical, the cellist Matt Haimovitz, who happens to be performing his latest project, Figment, at the Iota Club and Café in Arlington on Sunday afternoon. Figment examines the melting-pot traditions of the United States and Canada, where Haimovitz is based (and where he is one of the music programmers for the newly-launched alt-classical club eXcentris in Montreal.)
Second: I am particularly encouraged by the way "alt-classical" thinking informs the tradition repertory. Take ECCO, the East Coast Chamber Orchestra, the 17 whiz-kid string players I mentioned in the piece who take time from their solo careers and orchestra jobs a couple of times a year to go on musical retreats together. The idea was born in what Nick Kendall, one of the founders, calls the idealistic environment of Marlboro. "The way it works," Kendall says, "is I find a beautiful place to rehearse; everybody pays their way; [there's] no clock, no leader; we rotate leadership; and everybody contributes [for groceries]."
(read more after the jump)
The repertory is standard all the way: ECCO's Kennedy Center program in February features Purcell, Elgar, Britten, Villa-Lobos and Tchaikovsky. The difference from conventional classical institutions lies in the approach. "All of us have played the Tchaikovsky serenade in gigs with orchestra where we just plow through," Kendall says. But with ECCO, "we really think about, do I play an accelerando here? ...We’re really juiced about it." The group makes very little money; whatever they earn in their few concerts each year is divided up to recoup the costs of the groceries.
ECCO epitomizes the project-based thinking of younger musicians. It's not uncommon for many of them, like Kendall, to have a number of different groups, and to conceive even of standard repertory in terms of projects rather than simply individual gigs. "I'm not looking to just do 100 dates of the Tchaikovsky concerto," says Kendall.
Then there's the Chiara Quartet, taking Beethoven into bars. The players are so excited by their experiences so far that they are commissioning a series of pieces from prominent young composers – Nico Muhly, Gabriela Frank, and others – that are designed to be played in clubs, with the composer acting as a kind of DJ.
In his e-mail to me Greg Beaver, the Chiara's cellist, wrote, "That visceral connection to the music and to the artists is something we strive for on all levels even more than we did before playing in clubs."
And he added, "Knowing that this music absolutely positively works for people who prefer folk music, for people who prefer indie rock, even for people who prefer rap or country music has given us new confidence in both our future and the future of the string quartet as a vibrant, living contemporary music."
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