Great Music, but Hardly a “Revolutionary” Collaboration

Last Thursday night, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra played with local indie rock band Wye Oak. The evening began with the BSO’s performance of John Luther Adams’s “Become River,” wbich conductor Nicholas Hersh aptly described as “landscape music.” Next Wye Oak played a very nice set, first as a duo, then expanding to a quartet.

The real highlight of the evening came when Wye Oak and the BSO played together on four pieces arranged by William Brittelle:

The music throughout the night was really quite impressive. All involved, musicians and audience alike, were clearly thrilled by the collaboration taking place. Unfortunately, the MC felt compelled to constantly remind us that this, the latest in the Pulse series hosted by WTMD and the BSO, was “A Revolutionary Concert.”

Despite these repeated claims, it is hardly revolutionary for a rock band to employ symphonic backing. In fact, it was once standard practice, especially from ’60s British pop musicians as diverse as Petula Clark . . .

. . . and Scott Walker:

Yes, those songs were recorded before most of this audience was born, an audience that actually gasped when Jen Wasner referred to one of her pieces as a “pop song,” but more recent indie bands such as Tindersticks and The National (both of whom owe more than a bit to Walker) have also employed symphonic backing.

If only the self-congratulating MC had just let the glorious music speak for itself.


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