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Matt Haimovitz: Rare Birds

By Published: March 16, 2011
AAJ: It'll be interesting to see how the classical music world responds to this project, for sure. In the past with Uccello you've performed Jimi Hendrix's version of the "Star Spangled Banner "and you've also done "Kashmir," by Led Zeppelin; do you ever find yourself on the end of criticism from purists in the classical music world for mixing such seemingly disparate genres?

MH: [laughs] It's very easy to be criticized in the classical world for anything; tradition is kind of what it's all about. Unfortunately people tend to look at traditions only in the last 20 or 30 years when if you actually go farther back this idea of arranging things and bringing vernaculars into the compositional process is something that has been going on in classical music world before Bach, and Bach was certainly the premier improviser of his time and that continued with Mozart, Beethoven all the way to Bartok. I think when I started doing this people thought that I had gone a little mad but I think they realize now that I'm really dedicated to it.

I'm not really that interested in doing a Led Zeppelin tribute album. When I made my arrangement of "Kashmir" I was so happy to find the coincidence that they had used the same mode that Bartok had used in his Rhapsody for Cello. I was making this Bartok CD so it fit perfectly in there. I like the idea of allowing my instrument to evolve and live in the time in which we exist; the power of the electric guitar, the variety of various instruments and what they can do. One of the great things about the cello is that it can recreate these sounds. It's a challenge to see how closely I can sound like that instrument or hit that groove and jam in that way. Today with iPhones and iPods and MP3 players the listening experience is just not the same as it was in the time of the LP age when you could only listen to 20 minutes at a time. You would hear Beethoven's 9th that way. I just did a program with pianist Christopher Riley and we literally went from Stravinsky to Piazzola to Janacek to Mahavishnu [Orchestra], we did an arrangement of "Dance of Maya," to solo Bach to a Radiohead song that we arranged.

For me this is ideal and totally natural. We didn't have to worry about the categories or sections of a record store like the old Tower Records where classical and jazz were in different rooms. We didn't have to do that anymore. We could do what spoke to us musically and what was meaningful. We could actually use our imaginations and live in the 21st century and celebrate the connection between music regardless of genre.

Selected Discography

Matt Haimovitz, Matteo:300 Years of an Italian Cello (Oxingale Records, 2011)
Matt Haimovitz/Uccello:A Meeting of the Spirits (Oxingale Records, 2010)
Matt Haimovitz, Figment (Oxingale Records, 2009)
Matt Haimovitz, Bach: Goldberg Variations ( Oxingale Records, 2008)
Matt Haimovitz/Geoffrey Burleson, Odd Couple (Oxingale Records, 2008)
David Sanford & the Pittsburg Collective, Live at the Knitting Factory (Oxingale Records, 2007)
Matt Haimovitz/Uccello Vinyl Cello (Oxingale Records, 2007)
Luna Pearl Wolf, Apre Moi, Le Deluge (Oxingale Records, 2006)
Matt Haimovitz, Goulash! (Oxingale Records, 2005)
Miro Quartet/Matt Haimovitz, Epilogue (Oxingale Records, 2004)
Matt Haimovitz, Anthem (Artemis Classics, 2003)
John McLaughlin, Thieves and Poets (Verve Music Group, 2003)
Matt Haimovitz, Bach: 6 Suites for Cello Solo (Oxingale Records, 2000)

Photo Credits

Page 1: Steph Mackinnon
Page 2,3; Coutersy of Oxingale Records/Matt Haimovitz
Page 4: Jazmin Filion

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