Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Symphonic Riddles

What does Maurice Ravel have in common with The Kinks? Click here for the answer. Possibly the strangest and irreverently coolest mash-up I've come across. I wonder how many of the musicians involved mentally denounced this reinterpretation as they played it.

Lately, I've gotten a little back into symphonic rock, and by that I don't mean like Yes, Genesis, and Nightwish are considered symphonic rock, but actual rock songs reimagined using symphony orchestras. I've had my orchestral symphonic rock packed away for years, never listening to it, but like porn, Oreo cookies, or a rediscovered nostalgic toy, once you are reminded of it, you can't help but indulging in it for a little while before putting it away again for years to come.

I like variations on familiar themes. I actually enjoy hearing cover songs because I like to hear how other artists interpret the same music, often hindered by their own limitations, but sometimes improving upon the limitations of the original performer. To me, orchestral symphonic rock is just one more variation on the songs I'm already familiar with so I can appreciate them on their own merit, like any other cover song. When it's a good reinterpretation, I enjoy it, but when it's bad, I loathe it. If you loathe orchestral symphonic rock, then you have probably only heard the bad.

I cannot stand the composers who decide to embellish the traditional drum, guitar, bass components of rock with a small orchestral accompaniment. I don't consider that to be symphonic rock, as in rock reimagined using a symphony orchestra. It's pretty much a slight step above karaoke soundtracks. I think my absolute favorite symphonic rock composer, from what I've heard, has got to be Killing Joke's Jaz Coleman, who wrote the music for Us And Them: Symphonic Pink Floyd, Kashmir: Symphonic Led Zeppelin, Riders On The Storm: The Doors Concerto, and about half of the tracks on Who's Serious: Symphonic Music of The Who. He is one of the scant few composers I've heard who has completely removed all traces of traditional rock instrumentation and completely reimagined the songs as full classical compositions. Maybe at some point I'll dust off and post some samples of his compositions, but not today, it's not really the point of today's post, which was primarily to whimsically showcase the above-posted song.

Anyway, a Finnish band of four cellists calling itself Apocalyptica broke into the heavy metal scene some years back with an album containing Metallica songs played on four cellos. For their sophomore album, they included other bands Pantera, Faith No More, and Sepultura, and even debuted three of their own compositions. Their cover of Sepultura's "Refuse / Resist" features some of the harshest and most aggressive sounds I've ever heard come out of a cello. It impresses me, but then knowing almost nothing about how to play these instruments, it frankly doesn't take much to impress me. Question Number Two: How do you translate heavy metal growling to a cello?
Click here to find out.

np: Apocalyptica - "From Out Of Nowhere" (Faith No More cover)

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