Roll over, Beethoven

8 May

I floated a number of topics for this post … including famous bagpipe solos in rock history.*

Flying V is for Violin

Flying V is for Violin

Instead I’ll focus on other non-traditional rock instruments: the ones found in the strings section. For instance, this Mazda ad caught my ear while I was sitting through previews ahead of Iron Man 3 this weekend, not because of the snazzy car but because of the head-banging cellists playing a Kinks song in the middle of the Utah salt flats.

There are a plethora of older rock songs featuring strings (“Yesterday” by the Beatles and “Touch Me” by the Doors comes to mind) and the newer examples aren’t always the folkie/country/ Mumford and Sons-ish Depression chic bands, either. As a matter of fact, I’ll be seeing the Airborne Toxic Event next week, featuring Anna Bulbrook on viola. It seems

 the sky’s the limit for a kid with a bow and a dream.

Maybe for the first time ever,  elementary school orchestra can be the first step toward rock superstardom.

This is all the more top of mind after my 11-year old daughter’s orchestra concert this week. They acquitted themselves well for 65 fifth graders who had been playing for about six months, focusing on a few simple classical standards (“Can-Can”, snippets of Mozart) as well as well-known favorites including “Over the Rainbow” and “Star Wars.”

Note that as she's rehearsing Offenbach she's wearing a Slash t-shirt ...

Note that as she’s rehearsing Offenbach she’s wearing a Slash t-shirt …

Then the special guests did a set. They were the high school’s electric strings ensemble, ABC Strings, short for “Anything but Classical.” My daughter and her friends were intrigued by the violins’ alien shapes and their hot rod paint jobs. (“You can even get the horsehair in different colors,” she told me admiringly.) With all that awesomeness at their disposal, though, I wish they had selected less pedestrian material: they went for the easy choices and played “Don’t Stop Believin'” and a Queen medley.

Yet at that point I had to wonder, when does classic rock turn into classical music?

It’s not so much that orchestral instruments are playing more rock. I think it’s the start of the inevitable evolution of musical taste and expression. I can foresee a time centuries from now when kids who want to study music seriously will begin by playing rock songs. This will not be because they’re pop songs instead of stuffy symphonies, but because this music expresses something meaningful about the human spirit that will continue to resonate for all time … even if you play it on a violin … while wearing a yellow cape.

See you on the flip side …

* By the way, the three bagpipe songs I came up with were:

1. “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll)” – AC/DC
2. “Tessie” – The Dropkick Murphys
3. “Big Country” – Big Country (uh, wait, that’s a guitar playing that solo … d’oh!)

What would you add?

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8 Responses to “Roll over, Beethoven”

  1. Roy Sexton (Reel Roy Reviews) May 8, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

    Love unexpected instruments in rock/pop songs!

    • lpon45 May 8, 2013 at 11:50 pm #

      Yep – I could do a whole column on the power of the piccolo in pop music. Thanks!

  2. Every Record Tells A Story May 9, 2013 at 1:58 am #

    Mull of Kintyre and the White Stripes song on Icky Thump also feature bagpipes. Neither beat the AC/DC song you mention though – whoever thought of a bagpipe solo in there was a genius!

    • lpon45 May 9, 2013 at 7:32 am #

      I heard that there’s a Jeff Beck song out there with bagpipes, too … I’m not as up on his stuff as I ought to be.

      Gotta wonder what that call was like from AC/DC management to the bagpipe player … “So, we’ve got a job for you …”

  3. C Moss May 10, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    Bagpipe, anything by the Dropkicks. Also Flogging Molly.
    Other instruments: Kazoo solo on Ringo’s 1974 version of ‘You’re 16,You’re Beautiful…’ Played by Paul McC, of course.

    • lpon45 May 10, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

      And if we start listing ukelele tunes George Harrison will be all over the list …

  4. Gail Nelson-Bonebrake May 11, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    Kickass cellists in that Mazda ad. Glad you pointed it out. Of course there are uilleann pipes (Irish bapipes) all over Kate Bush’s work.

    • lpon45 May 12, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

      I had no idea there were Irish as well as Scottish bagpipes. Of course if anyone would use them, Kate Bush would.

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