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by Seth Colter Walls

July 16, 2014

Indie Goes Classical

by Seth Colter Walls  |  July 16, 2014

Back in 2012, when we brought you Rhapsody's first "Indie Goes Classical" playlist, we noted that American alt rock and contemporary classical music have been intermingling "ever since Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore began learning their alternate tunings as part of Glenn Branca's guitar orchestra, in the early 1980s." Likewise, we observed that movement between these genres has only become more interesting and complex in the decades since.

It turns out the past few years of new classical have been especially active for the more serious crossover souls. Just this year, Wilco's Glenn Kotche, Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, and Bryce Dessner of The National have seen impressive releases from major classical imprints. And, as of this week, Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire has followed suit, with an album on Germany's storied Deutsche Grammophon imprint. Put all that together with ex-Shudder to Think vocalist Craig Wedren's appearance on a new song cycle by composer Jefferson Friedman, and we've got more than enough new work to consider.

So click play on our updated and expanded playlist, and you'll get the latest works from all these artists, and others. Take Tyondai Braxton, who was a cofounder and member of the indie rock band Battles until he just couldn't resist the call of classical music any longer and quit. Since then, he has written an electro-influenced chamber album for Warp called Central Market (see the tracks "Uffe's Woodshop" and "J. City"), and gifted a piece for marching band to the Asphalt Orchestra ("Pulse March"), Lincoln Center's street-marching band.

Meanwhile, the coleader of that band, Ken Thomson, contributed a horn arrangement to Love This Giant, the collaboration by St. Vincent and David Byrne ("The Forest Awakes"). And St. Vincent (under her given name, Annie Clark) also contributed a chamber piece to Brooklyn's yMusic ensemble ("Proven Badlands"). Will it surprise you to learn that yMusic is one of the key groups on Parry's new record? It shouldn't!

Discographical dizziness aside, what really counts is how engaged this music sounds. Making sense of multiple, complex forms without condescending to any one tradition is an awfully difficult task. Thankfully, when Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs writes pieces for the vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth ("Ansa Ya" and "Quizassa"), we don't need to think of categories or trends so much as we need to pay attention to the artfully arranged experience before us. Meanwhile, arena-rock-sized stars like Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood can leave amplification behind entirely when scoring films by Paul Thomas Anderson — or when just writing symphonic essays for their own sake. Our mix will help you uncover the surprising connections between two genres that might typically be assumed to be intellectual and cultural opposites. The list below highlights the composer of each corresponding piece on the playlist. Enjoy!

Composer Tracklist

Track 1: Jefferson Friedman/Craig Wedren, "Refuse to Die"

Track 2: Tyondai Braxton, "Uffe's Woodshop"

Track 3: Richard Reed Parry, Quartet for Heart and Breath

Track 4: David Byrne/St. Vincent, "The Forest Awakes"

Track 5: Annie Clark, "Proven Badlands"

Track 6: Bryce Dessner, "Aheym"

Track 7: Merrill Garbus, "Ansa Ya"

Tracks 8-11: Jonny Greenwood, Popcorn Superhet Receiver

Track 12: Braxton, "Pulse March"

Track 13: Friedman/Wedren, "Fight Song (Show Them the Floor)"

Tracks 14-20: Glenn Kotche, Anomaly

Track 21: Dessner, St. Carolyn by the Sea

Track 22: Garbus, "Quizassa"

Tracks 23-29: Parry, Interruptions

Track 30: Friedman/Wedren, "Famous Planets (Acoustic)"

Track 31: Dessner, Lachrimae

Track 32: Braxton, "J. City"

Track 33: Parry, Heart and Breath Sextet

Tracks 34-39: Greenwood, Suite from There Will Be Blood

Track 40: Dessner, Tour Eiffel

Track 41: Friedman/Wedren, "Glacier"

Track 42: Parry, For Heart, Breath and Orchestra

Tracks 43-51: Greenwood, 48 Responses to Polymorphia

Track 52: Dessner, Raphael

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