I first learned the power that music could have when I was about 12 years old. I was sitting in my middle school orchestra class, as our teacher began to teach us about the different periods of classical music. It was a lecture I’d heard a few times before, and therefore decided to daze off while my teacher rattled off dates and names of composers and concertos. However, I couldn’t help but focus in as my teacher began to tell us about a bit of illustrious musical history.
Over 100 years ago, a riot broke out in Paris’s Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. Theater-goers had arrived in drones to see the premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s widely advertised new ballet, The Rite of Spring. As the show progressed, the audience became more and more disturbed by the extreme dissonance of the piece itself. The booming nature of the choreography and the seemingly base essence of the arrangement drove audience members to physical violence against one another, the dancers, and instrumentalists. The barbarian essence of the piece is what pushed people to such manic limits.
I spent the rest of the day thinking about Stravinsky and the violence he incited. I just had to understand what kind of piece could’ve pushed the early-20th century French aristocracy to such limits. The second I got home, I looked up a recording of the ballet.
My heart almost leapt out of my throat.
My eyes were stuck on my screen for the entirety of the 30 minute runtime. I couldn’t look away as the dancers engaged in some of the most grotesque choreography I’d ever seen. I remember my heart beating faster along with the brass section all throughout their shill deliveries. I distinctly remember not being able to look away. I had been completely immobilized by this piece of art.
I had almost forgotten that sensation, until I discovered radio.string.quartet.vienna.
Looking for good study music, I stumbled across the groups Spotify page, which bolsters a small 5,000 followers. I decided to give them a quick once-over, and was immediately ensnared by their most popular hit “Nice Dream”. The curling bass line alongside the buzzing of the violin all throughout the piece give the sense that something sinister lay just over the audience’s soundscape. The at times dissonant chords work harmoniously together to keep the listener in the dark, searching frantically for some kind of grip on reality.
If “Nice Dream” startled me out of my seat, “Inception” and “Strange Fruit” paralyzed me with fear.
This is not your parent’s string quartet. They infuse jazz, electronica, funk, and rock influences to mold together a unique sound. If you enjoy heavily improvisational works, original compositions, or simply want to be scared for the first time by a piece of music, check out this group.
Notable Tracks: “Nice Dream”, “Inception”, “Strange Fruit”
Musical Strengths: Improvisation, Heavy bass lines, Disorienting arrangements, INCREDIBLE STUDY MUSIC
Recommended Album: “Radiodream”