Strings on Dancing with the Stars?

I don’t usually watch Dancing With The Stars, but it’s a favorite at the cast house and has been gracing our tv weekly. Tonight was Results night, where the couples are whittled down by one pending the outcome of judges’ scores and viewers’ voting. To fill time around the 5 minutes it actually takes to announce who wins, they fill the 2-hour show with more dance routines, and in this episode’s case, clips of past season’s performances from artists, dance teams, and some surprising musical ensembles who used a bunch of rockin’ string players. I was pretty impressed, not just by the players and their sound and choreography, but by the fact that live tv showed strings in a non-traditional setting NOT used as a gimmick.

One group, a platinum-selling violin duo called Nuttin’ But Stringz, performed with Tiler Peck, the lead ballerina for the NYC Ballet. This duo had a solid sound and contained choreography, nothing too outlandish or flashy. The song they performed is one of their hits, “Thunder.” Go here for a little opening clip of their song, starting at 4:16.

I also found out through some research that David Garrett has performed on DWTS as a guest artist on their classically themed night. I don’t follow Garrett as closely as some of my fiddle friends do, but I have learned that he is a) extremely talented and performs mostly pop music of his own arranging, and b) extremely good looking and constantly wears his shirts half-open. I’ve heard his interpretation of Smooth Criminal, and I have to say I enjoy it. It’s very opera-rock, definitely grandiose, while still remaining virtuosic violin-wise. I can imagine many high-school string players begging their orchestra directors for the chance to perform this as their senior solo with drum kit, rock band, everything. I think Mark Wood would give a nod to this guy’s style for sure.

Now I could get all on my high horse and say the only impressive sounding thing about David Garrett is his effects and his ability to play really high. And truthfully, that’s basically it. But from a production point of view, I enjoy how he arranged the tune. I like all the parts of all the sections: the strings filling the song out, the core line being played by a mega-flanged guitar and beaten out on a drum kit. It’s an enjoyable tune. Would I personally buy this album? No. I don’t like processed violin sounds being run through effects generators and compressed to high heaven. But I have to tip my hat to both these artists for helping bring the violin a little more into the mainstream. It’s not the ideal way I want people to get to know the instrument, but it’s a start.

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One Response to Strings on Dancing with the Stars?

  1. Señor Fahrvergnügen says:

    I went to the Nuttin But Stringz website and their music clearly involves more instruments than violins. Lies! At least they’re attempting some sort of synthesis with hip hop and I guess that’s fresh ground. It sort of makes up for the fact that their tone equals that of a very sick cat.

    On the other hand, David Garrett is just tasteless and never made anything that sounded better than the source material. He does his own muscle-memory a disservice by using it on mediocre derivative material. But inspired music isn’t really his thing. It’s way easier to play a near verbatim arrangement than work a new spin on a song. Besides, his fans don’t go to see him because they like his musical contributions. They come to see him dance around on stage because they think he’s a hunky dreamboat.

    You’d never see Mark O’Conner or Itzhak Perlman wearing ponytails and making choreographed spectacles of themselves in front of flashy lights, pyrotechnics and giant stage projectors. They would rather focus on making music that speaks for itself, whether it be a group of original works or a compelling interpretation.

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