Wednesday, February 29, 2012

SXSW 2012 - Stringed Instrument Highlights

By Stefan Aune

Every year the South By Southwest (SXSW) festival descends on the city of Austin, Texas, bringing a deluge of film, music, and other media. The festival is particularly noted for its affiliation with hip musical acts, many of which feature stringed instrument players. Here are some of the stringed-instrument highlights of SXSW for this coming year:

Aiana String Quartet
The Aiana String Quartet, headquartered in Austin, Texas, was recently appointed the Young Professional Quartet in Residence at the University of Texas-Austin. Composed of violinists Roseminna Watson and Hanna Hurwitz, violist Mario Andreu, and cellist Jillian Bloom, each with stunning individual resumes, the quartet is noted for their outreach concerts that have taken them to music academies in California and elementary schools in Mexico. 2012 will see the quartet working with the Redlands Chamber Music Society and the Consortium of Southern California Chamber Music Presenters. If you attend SXSW be sure to check the Aiana Stringed Quartet on March 16th at the Creekside at Hilton Garden Inn, you won't be disappointed.



Peter Gregson
Peter Gregson is a British cellist and composer working at the forefront of modern string-instrument performance. He is famous for collaborating with noted technologists such as Microsoft Labs, United Visual Artists, and the MIT Media Lab. Gregson has also premiered works by Tod Machover, Daníel Bjarnason, Joby Talbot, Gabriel Prokofiev, Max Richter, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Steve Reich, Martin Suckling, Milton Mermikides, Howard Goodall, John Metcalfe, Scott Walker, and Sally Beamish. In 2012 Gregson will perform at SXSW, The Royal Festival Hall, La Gaite Lyrique, along with East and West Coast tours of the United States. Check out his set at SXSW, and be sure to also check out one of his numerous recordings.

Peter Gregson
Todd Reynolds has been called "New York's 'daredevil' digital violinist," and he is in many ways responsible for the violin's expansion outside of the classical tradition into electronic and digital mediums. Composer Steve Reich's "violinist of choice," Reynolds can effortlessly move from classical to jazz to rock, and he has collaborated with the likes of Anthony Braxton, Uri Caine, John Cale, Steve Coleman, Joe Jackson, Dave Liebman, Yo-Yo Ma, Graham Nash, Greg Osby, Steve Reich, Marcus Roberts and Todd Rundgren. Reynolds is also the founder of the electronic strings quartet "Ethel," with whom he toured for 7 years. He released his debut solo CD in 2011, titled Outerborough, through Innova recordings. Check it out for a glimpse into the music of one of the most innovative violinists of our time.


Since we're located in Minnesota, we would be remiss to not mention the Midwest's favorite indie-violinist, Andrew Bird. A violinist since the age of four, Bird devoured classical repertoire, majoring in violin performance at Northwestern University. Combining his classical background with jazz, pop, and other styles, Bird has released 11 full length albums since 1997, beginning with his band Bowl of Fire and branching out into a solo career starting with 2003's Weather Systems. Perhaps most well known among name-checking indie rock fans, Bird's albums have garnered favorable reviews from the often scathing media website Pitchfork, famous for being the trend setting authority on indie-rock. Bird is also well known for his incredible whistling, which he discusses (and showcases) in this great video on youtube:


The music at SXSW runs the gamut from hip-hop to metal, and violins, violas, cellos and basses will be contributing to many of the performances. The four artists above are just a small sampling of what is going on at SXSW this year, so be sure to check out their work and the SXSW website for some of the most exciting musical artists active today.

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