Brooklyn Rider: ‘A concert should be a gathering place for collective conversation and imagining’

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Brooklyn Rider: ‘A concert should be a gathering place for collective conversation and imagining’

brooklyn rider
Words by Juliette Salom

Set to play at Melbourne Recital Centre on Tuesday, February 27, American contemporary string quartet Brooklyn Rider gear up for their first string of shows to Australian audiences.

If classical music performance has never been your thing, there’s no better time – and string quartet – to start. Based in Brooklyn, New York, this group of four musicians have been compared to young rock stars of the classical music world, igniting passion and excitement with audiences as they tour their latest program, The Four Elements.

Made up of violinists Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen, cellist Michael Nicolas and violist Nicholas Cords, Brooklyn Rider will be bringing the program to Australian stages for their first time in hopes to fuel conversation and imagination through their work.

Brooklyn Rider at Melbourne Recital Centre

  • Tuesday, February 27
  • Elisabeth Murdoch Hall
  • Tickets are on sale now

Keep up with the latest music news, features, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

Speaking from Boston, Massachusetts, where he lives and teaches at New England Conservatory, Nicholas Cords talks to the powerful experience of considering the intricacies of our planet and our relationship with it through music. The Four Elements – Earth, Air, Water, Fire – is a program that Cords says will “serve as both a metaphor for the string quartet and for the stewardship of our planet.”

The pieces played throughout the show will be experiential adventures that hope to engage not just the audience with the music, but to the wider ideas and conversations provoked by these sonic explorations of the world in which we inhabit.

Cords restricts himself from deeming the program one purely about climate change, and instead speaks to the program as one that “explores some of the mysteries and beauties of our planet.” The Four Elements focuses on earth and our relationship with it, and whilst Cord says the program “doesn’t name a specific action or agenda,” the music is able to “permeate in such a way that pictures, images, and memories form.”

Even still, Cord says, “Anywhere [Brooklyn Rider] goes globally, people have a way of connecting directly to the issues surrounding climate change” – something that is front of mind when considering our existence on our planet. “Australia,” he adds, “will certainly be no exception.”

With a global reputation of creating and performing classical music in a way that demonstrates its excitement and accessibility to all audiences – even those uninitiated in the traditional form of music – Brooklyn Rider’s ability to reach beyond the concentrated audience of the classical music sphere comes down to curiosity.

Like all artists succeeding at changing the landscape within the field in which they work, it’s Brooklyn Rider’s utmost respect and comprehension of the long-loved art form that allows them to widen the scope of possibilities from the inside out, using creativity and experimentation. “If we are satisfying our curiosity,” Cord says, “we believe this will translate to audiences.” 

The way in which the quartet is able to play with the parameters of this treasured genre of music is indicative of how well schooled they are at it in the first place. “We believe we need a firm foot in both the long and great tradition of the string quartet and in the multifaceted music of our time.”

It’s the combination of tradition and history with newness and experimentation that intertwines into something wholly original and exciting, and ultimately thought-provoking.This interweaving dance between the new and the old feels both an apt summary of Brooklyn Rider’s music, as it does a summation of our connection to the earth.

When speaking about the quartet’s relationship with performing a mix of traditional and new music, Cord eloquently sums up what can be interpreted as both a statement to the group’s performances, and all of earth’s inhabitants responsibility to the home in which we live: “Part of our job is to bring a sense of newness to the old and familiar, and a sense of familiarity and navigation in the new works.” In order to create a better future, we need to first understand the past.

Cord describes the experience of live performance feeling like “a form of catalytic learning,” a way for Brooklyn Rider to connect to their audiences and share ideas and stories through nothing but sound.

“A concert should be a gathering place for collective conversation and imagining,” he says. Whilst most shows promise entertainment, it’s clear that Brooklyn Rider’s program The Four Elements will be providing much more.

Brooklyn Rider will perform at Melbourne Recital Centre on February 27. Buy tickets here.

This article was made in partnership with Melbourne Recital Centre.