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Opus 4: Episode 3 – Rock ’n’ Roll Never Dies

In the third episode of Opus 4 of The Counterpoint Club, Rock ’n’ Roll Never Dies, the Skyros Quartet examines how the spirit of originality and pushing boundaries found in rock music has its roots in classical art music. In the history segment, Sarah looks at Beethoven and his Grosse Fuge Op. 133, revealing how he broke rules and pushed the envelope with this masterpiece. Next, Brandon walks us through the democratic rehearsal process and how collaborative composition is used in art music and rock bands alike. Justin and Sarah are joined by our special guest, Jesse McCheane Vredenburgh, a versatile and multifaceted musician who has enjoyed amazing success in classical music as well as rock, blues, world and popular genres. In our talk, he shares his thoughts on the parallels and interconnectedness between classical art music and other genres. In the chat, Skyros shares some of their favorite non-classical music and how it has influenced their lives and artistry.History Segment
In the history lesson, Sarah discusses the Große Fuge, Op. 133, by Ludwig van Beethoven and the avant garde nature of this iconic piece of chamber music. Here is one of Sarah’s favorite video recordings of the entire Große Fuge:

If you’d like to read more about the Grosse Fugue, check out this blog post by the Brentano Quartet, as mentioned by Sarah in the segment.

Technique Lesson
In the technique portion of this episode, Brandon discusses collaborative composition in non-classical musical ensembles. Many ensembles that play genres like rock or folk compose their own music and arrangements on the spot, during rehearsal. This process is called collaborative composition, and it is both highly satisfying and requires a lot of humility and mutual respect among the members of the ensemble.

Brandon discusses a few things he’s learned over the years of working as a collaborative composer with bands like Alchymeia. Alchymeia is an ensemble which creates original arrangements of folk music from Eastern Europe and the British Isles (with some other popular music influences tossed into the mix). The founding members are Brandon, who has a background in Scottish fiddling, and Nadia Tarnawsky, who is a Ukrainian folk singer and bandura player (traditional Ukrainian harp-like instrument). Alchymeia blends their various expertise to create innovative arrangements and original compositions that speak to the common cultural and musical threads that weave through seemingly disparate cultures and experiences.

Here are a few things that Brandon shares from his experience with collaborative composition:

  1. Listen. Usually one person brings the seed of an idea or composition to the table. Make sure they get a chance to fully state their idea.
  2. Limitations. Discuss the limitations of the instruments being used, and try to find the best way to achieve the intended musical effect.
  3. Complementary ideas. If there is something about the original idea that inspires someone else, allow that seed of inspiration to also develop. This is the magical moment!
  4. Consensus. It’s important that everyone involved in the collaborative composition process is comfortable/pleased with the final result.

Brandon has composed several pieces for Skyros to play, and these same principles can be applied to quartet rehearsal, as well! As musicians who play other people’s compositions, we are also engaging in a type of collaborative composition.

Below is a link to Alchymeia’s live performance of an original arrangement of “La Folia” and traditional Ukrainian song “Shcho Sontse Zakhodyt.”

Guest Interview
Justin and Sarah share their conversation with musician Jesse McCheane Vredenburgh about the intersections in classical music and other styles, and how inspiration and techniques can be shared between them.

Jesse McCheane Vredenburgh

Jesse McCheane Vredenburgh

Jesse McCheane Vredenburgh is a classical cellist and multifaceted guitarist who has had a wonderfully successful career as a performer, educator and composer. Graduating with a masters degree in cello performance from the University of Texas at Austin Butler School of Music, he has also worked extensively with their String Project, heralded by musicians and educators throughout the world as one of the finest programs for the training of teachers and the development of young talent. Jesse also has been on the forefront of alt-rock, previously playing in the nationally touring band Culture Wars. Recently, his composition is gaining attention with a successful submission in the Westworld Scoring Competition in 2020.

His entry in the Westworld Scoring Competition 2020:

In this episode’s Skyros Chats, Sarah, Justin, Brandon, and Willie discuss their favorite non-classical musicians and music genres. Here are a few selections, as discussed in the chat.

Sarah loves a plethora of music genres and has too many favorite artists to count. Some of the artists she mentioned in the podcast were Loreena McKennitt, Bob Marley, and Måneskin.

When Brandon isn’t listening to classical music, he enjoys listening to all sorts of different genres, including classic rock, funk, and traditional celtic fiddle music. Some of Brandon’s favorite artists include Neil Young, Natalie MacMaster, and Jamiroquai.

In his spare time he loves listening to all kinds of music. Rap, rock, jazz, film, genres from around the world.

Here is the Spotify playlist Willie mentioned, featuring classic hits Skyros enjoyed on the radio (KTND, Thunder 93.5, Aspen, CO) during their summer at the Aspen Music Festival.

What are some of your favorite genres of music? Leave us a comment!

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